What Foods Can & Can’t Be Pickled? Full Guide

Pickles are the perfect, tangy, sweet, and crunchy food item to snack on throughout the day. They are a healthier alternative to most midnight munchies or other fast-food items. If you are an avid fan of pickles like I am, you’ve probably tried making them at home. They are pretty easy to make, but with so many options out there, I am sure you have wondered what foods can be pickled?

Almost any type of food that can be soaked in a vinegar bath and fermented with salt and water can make a perfect pickle. However, just because everything can be pickled, doesn’t mean they will all taste good. It is best to stick to popular items like cucumbers, dill, okra, carrots, and cherries. 

You might be surprised at just how many different forms of pickles there are! Each type of pickle has a certain specialty and uses slightly different techniques. I have listed several different types of pickles and how they are made in this article. With a little experience and practice, you will easily grasp which techniques suit which type of pickle.

What Foods Can Be Pickled?

Almost anything you can think of can be pickled, including:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Bacon
  • Different kinds of meat

The best bet, however, is to stick to items you know will complement the sweet-salty flavor of pickles and to use fresh produce when it comes to fruits and vegetables. 

Perhaps the most popular kind of pickles are…

  • Pickled cucumbers
  • Sauerkraut (made with shredded cabbage)
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Dill

Different cultures also make pickles differently and there is a wide variety of options to choose from.

More exotic forms can include:

  • Kimchi, which is made from fermenting cabbage
  • Achar is made from fruits and olives
  • Murabba is made from Indian mango 

Pickles can be enjoyed alone, as a snack, or as a side to any dish. Cucumber pickles are the perfect mid-day snack, whereas pickled red onions taste amazing on top of fried rice, and can even be used as an ingredient in certain recipes.

This versatility makes pickles amazing. No matter who you are, there’s a pickle for you! All that said, however, it can be slightly tricky to get the perfect pickle recipe.

Pickling is all about ratios and getting the perfect blend of ingredients that complement the star of your dish. With so many options, it can be overwhelming to get your hands into the world of pickle-making. 

Can you pickle without sugar? Learn all you need to know!

Easy Pickled Veggie Recipes to Try

If you’re a beginner, you can try these easy recipes for different types of pickles:

Cucumber Pickle

If you have never tried pickles before, it is probably best to stick to the classics. Cucumber pickles are a mass favorite with jars sold in most supermarkets. 

How to make cucumber pickles:

  1. To get started on your cucumber pickle, cut them into thin long slices, and make sure it fits in the jar you will be using (these jars from Amazon work perfectly).
  2. The vinegar bath used for pickling is called brine, and this recipe calls for a ratio of 1:1 water and vinegar. Water is usually added to dilute the ‘tangy-ness’ of the vinegar. If you like more tang, feel free to add more vinegar.
  3. For spices, add in dill seeds and some crushed garlic, for that classic flavor. If you want your pickle to be sweet you can add in sugar too!

And that’s it. You are done. Yes, it was that easy! Now, you simply leave it in the refrigerator overnight for the magic to happen! The longer you wait, the more flavor will develop. This same recipe can be used for peppers as well. 

BONUS TIP: To prevent the cucumber from becoming soggy, store them in ice for about 30 minutes before you start pickling. 

Pickled cucumbers in an open jar.

Red Onion Pickle

A red onion pickle is like caramelized onions, only better and packed with much more flavor! Add it as a topping to any dish, and it will instantly heighten its taste.

You can enjoy it with tacos, or as a filling in your classic grilled cheese sandwich, to even as a side with a melt-in-your-mouth perfect rib eye steak, these onions will give that juicy tang to just about anything. And making it is just as easy!

How to make pickled onions:

  1. To about half a cup of thinly sliced red onions, add 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, half a teaspoon of salt, and add a cup of water.
  2. To make it even better, you can spice it up and add paprika or red pepper flakes.
  3. All you have to do now is boil it until it’s soft and voila! You have got yourself the perfect side dish. 

Depending on how you plan to use it, you can choose whether to make your pickle crunchy (like with cucumbers) or softer (like the onions). Some vegetables, like okra, for example, may need to be cooked beforehand for a better taste and texture. 

Can you reuse pickled onion brine? Learn what you need to know first!

Beans and Long Green Vegetables 

Like cucumbers, another yummy option to munch on while you binge-watch your favorite show is probably long-stemmed vegetables like asparagus, and green beans.

When pickled, asparagus holds shape much better than cucumbers do and they don’t turn soggy. 

How to pickle long green vegetables:

  1. Start by cutting off the ends of your long stem veggie of choice
  2. Use a bath of about 80% or more vinegar. The excess vinegar is balanced with the addition of sugar to taste.
  3. To add a little spice, turmeric or mustard with celery can be used. This flavors the beans deeply and leaves you with a delicious sweet and sour pickle.

Kimchi (Pickled Cabbage) 

Kimchi is a widely popular Korean side dish, which is a variation of spicy, pickled cabbage. Koreans eat Kimchi with fried rice, ramen, dumplings, and pretty much anything at all. This is, however, a little harder than the other recipes and requires more ingredients. 

How to make kimchi:

  1. Once you have some cabbage sliced and washed, let it sit with a lot of salt and a little water (sprinkle the salt very generously and then splash some water over it, giving it a gentle mix).
  2. Keep the mixture covered for about an hour or two, then take it out and rub a lot more spice on the softened cabbages. 
  3. You will also need crushed garlic and ginger, sugar, fish sauce, and shrimp paste (all to taste).
  4. Stir all of the ingredients from #3 into a smooth paste, adding water and some Gochujang (which is a Korean Spice; I like this one on Amazon because it has pretty clean ingredients and tastes great!).
  5. Once you have rubbed the cabbage with the soft spice and remaining water, you leave it to ferment for about one to five days. 
Jars of pickled jalapenos, onions, and cucumbers.
Almost anything can be pickled, with very few exceptions!

Fruits Also Make Great Pickles

Pickles are not limited to vegetables, you can also pickle quite a variety of fruits. Here are some of the more popular ones…

Pickled Cherries

This is the perfect little treat to have as dessert, with a little bit of goat’s cheese.

How to pickle cherries:

  1. Boil equal parts of apple cider vinegar, and sugar with about three-quarters of a cup of water.
  2. Once boiling, add the mixture to your jar of cherries and add in a stick of cinnamon for that warm Christmas feel. 
  3. Use nutmeg, black pepper, and ginger to flavor the brine.
  4. The best part about this recipe is that it only takes 15 minutes, and it’s ready to be eaten. It will be the perfect companion to a warm cup of coffee in winter. 

Peaches, Plums, and Apricots 

Pickling has long been a form of preserving out-of-season fruits and vegetables. You can use this recipe for any summer fruit and store it to eat later. Try to use slightly under-ripe peaches, plums, or even apricots for this recipe. 

How to pickle summer fruit:

  1. Use a ratio of 2 parts sugar and 1 part apple cider vinegar to add to your chopped fruit of choice.
  2. Add a few pieces of star anise, cloves, black peppercorns, and red chili flakes (preferably bound in cheesecloth like this one on Amazon) into the pan and boil until the fruit is soft. 
  3. Eat these with salads, a cheese platter, on shortcake, or even with tea. Pair it with anything and it will complement the flavors marvelously.
  4. These will last you for about a year, and when you are done with the fruit the remaining brine syrup can be used to make even more varieties of pickles or would make for an amazing, sweet, reduced sauce.

Mango Pickle

Mango pickles are another classic, especially in the Indian subcontinent where it is known better by the name of “Achaarâ€. They can be eaten alone, with rice and beef curry, or even can be made into a tangy chicken dish called Achari Chicken. 

This method of pickling substitutes vinegar for oil and can be used to preserve summer favorites for year-round use.

How to make mango pickles:

  1. To a bowl of chopped-up mangoes, add salt and if possible, let it sun dry for an hour or so.
  2. Then, in a pan, heat some oil, and add mustard seeds and Methi Seeds.
  3. Add the mangoes, chili powder, crushed garlic, and salt into the pan.
  4. Let it sit on a low flame, and the mangoes will release moisture, and mixed with the oil will create the brine. You can add in a little sugar too at this point. 
  5. After a while take off the heat, and leave it in a jar for 24 hours.

TIP: The more it sits, the more flavor will mix in and make a scrumptious little snack. This can be stored in the fridge or even at room temperature for months unless you devour it all first! 

Pickled Meat Products 

Corned Beef

Yes, Corned Beef is in fact just beef fermented in spices and salt, and therefore a kind of pickle dish. The brine here is made with spices including mustard seeds, coriander seeds, some allspice berries, and a little peppercorn. Don’t forget to season well, and add in some cloves and bay leaves too.

How to make corned beef:

  1. Combine water, pink curing salt, and brown sugar in a bowl.
  2. The beef should sit and bathe in this brine for up to 6 days.
  3. Once cured, it can be drained with water and further slathered with spices. 
  4. This can now be used as a topping on pizza or pasta, shredded into thin pieces. I love using it to make corned beef hash browns!
Corned beef can also be served as a main dish, by cooking with a little salt and pepper and siding it with some roasted vegetables

Pickled Bacon 

Who doesn’t like bacon? As if it wasn’t tasty enough already, similar to curing beef, bacon can be pickled too!

How to pickle bacon:

  1. Combine enough water, salt, and sugar brine to cover the bacon.
  2. Soak the bacon under a heavy weight for up to five weeks for maximum flavor. 
  3. Once dried, it can be fried like regular bacon with a salty edge and delicious flavor.
  4. A delicious way to enjoy it is bacon-wrapped pickles, which are essentially bacon wrapped around dill pickle spears and baked in an oven until crispy. So good! 

Pickled Seafood 

Pickled Herring

Yes, in fact, you can pickle fish and other kinds of seafood as well. It might be best to stick to oily fish like mackerel and herring though. While certain fish may even develop a foul smell due to the fermenting process, it is considered a delicacy in some places. 

How to make pickled herring:

  1. Slice the fish into thin pieces and in a separate bowl boil 2 cups of white vinegar, and one and a half cups of water with canning salt. Once cooled, store the fish in the brine for 2-4 days.
  2. For the pickling liquid, add equal parts of vinegar and sugar to a little more than half the amount of water.
  3. Boil and add any other pickling spices you want along with mustard seeds and a cup of white wine.
  4. Strain the spices and store them until cooled.
  5. Finally, take a jar and add a couple of layers of the prepared fish.
  6. Thinly slice up some onions and add a layer on top of the fish; add the remaining spices from the pickling liquid.
  7. Keep alternating layers until the jar is full. Once full, add the pickling liquid and store it in the refrigerator. 

This makes for a delicious, restaurant-quality side dish and can be enjoyed alone or with bread, cheese, or even pasta salads. 

Pickled Crab

If you are having guests over, and want to impress them with your cooking skills, making pickled crabs is a great idea.

How to make pickled crab:

  1. Start by steaming a Dungeness crab cluster in about 2 inches of water.
  2. Once cooked (usually after about five minutes), let it cool. 
  3. You can then crack the shells and take out the crab meat and cut it into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Then, in a separate bowl, prepare the brine with one and a half spoons of apple cider vinegar, a teaspoon of sugar, half a teaspoon of mustard, and a pinch of salt.
  5. Add in the crabmeat and massage thoroughly. Finish with a dash of pepper. 
  6. The crab then needs to marinate for about 8 hours or more in the refrigerator.
  7. Once fully marinated, the crab becomes tender and tangy with slight touches of sweetness.

This can now be eaten with mayonnaise and mustard and other toppings along with a serving of bread. You can use this as a topping for seafood pizza as well. 

Which Foods Can’t Be Pickled?

As you can see, with a similar basic procedure, almost anything can be pickled. Nuts and even mushrooms also make up a variety of yummy pickles. Even squids and potatoes can be turned into pickled dishes. With the right recipe and complimentary spices, you can pretty much make a pickle out of anything. 

The only exclusion to pickling is already cooked meals such as sushi or burgers or pizza. As bizarre as that sounds, you might even think of a way to make these taste good as well. While these cannot be pickled themselves, they taste amazing with different forms of pickles. 

Red onion pickles in a jar.
Pickled red onions are a delicious addition to burgers, pizza, or salads

Japanese sushi or sashimi, for example, is often eaten with gari, which is pickled ginger. It is said to cleanse the taste buds and make the meal more enjoyable. The red onion pickles can be used as a topping for pizzas and within burgers. So, in fact, anything you can think of, there is probably a recipe to pickle it or add pickles to it!


If you are an avid pickle lover and are wondering what foods can be pickled next to satisfy your pickle craving, the answer is almost everything.

In fact, you do not even have to stick to conventional recipes, but can experiment with even more types of food. Once you have the basics down with practice, you can pretty much make any kind of pickle taste good!

Pickles make for amazing midnight snacks, can be a perfect side to any meal, and can often be incorporated into more complex recipes to add a depth of flavor. They can also be used as housewarming gifts. A handmade jar of pickles with a bow on top will make anyone happy! 

So, have fun and experiment with different types, techniques, and tricks of pickling. You might even discover a new dish. Impress your friends, family, and even yourself with delicious pickles. Happy Pickling!

Recent Posts