Quick Pickle Fruits and Vegetables for a Healthy Snack

It's a great way to use up produce and make it last longer. And it's easy.

jars of different pickled vegetables lined up Photo: Yin Yang/iStock

The abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available in summer into early fall makes this an ideal time to preserve what you can with the quick pickling technique. This is an easier, speedier version of pickling, a word that “refers to foods that have been marinated in a brine, usually made of vinegar, salt, and sugar,” says Melanie Betz, RD, dietitian at the University of Chicago Medicine. The brine imparts a tangy flavor and helps to preserve the food. And compared with store-bought pickled veggies, homemade quick pickles can be lower in sodium and sugar.

Cucumbers are synonymous with pickles, but you can quick pickle almost any veggie, from peppers to tomatoes to carrots, and even fruit such as berries, cherries, and watermelon. It’s a great technique to use when you have too much produce from the garden or market—quick pickles will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

You should make the decision to pickle early on. Produce at its prime is your best bet for pickling; save bruised fruits and vegetables for other uses, like making sauce, smoothies, or soup.

How to Pickle

The technique can take as little as 10 minutes; all you need are a small saucepan, Mason jars, fresh vegetables or fruits, vinegar, water, and salt. Herbs, spices, and sugar are optional, but they do add flavor. A few good pairing suggestions are: cucumbers with dill and mustard seeds; string beans with red pepper flakes and garlic; and peaches or pears with cloves and cinnamon sticks. But you can use any combo you like.

More on Fruits and Vegetables

Pickled vegetables can make good stand-ins for higher-sodium ingredients like packaged salsa, salad dressings, and more. Mix them into grain or bean side dishes, or use them in or alongside a sandwich. Try adding pickled onions to tacos for a zesty twist, tossing pickled cauliflower into a standard salad, or spooning pickled peaches onto Greek yogurt. Because they pack a flavor punch, though, you may want to try them on their own. Crisp, briny pickled green beans, for example, can be a refreshing snack on warm late-summer days.

Brine Ingredients
2 cups washed sliced or trimmed vegetables or fruits
Optional fresh herbs: Dill, thyme, oregano (2-3 sprigs)
Optional spices: Garlic cloves, mustard seeds, peppercorns to taste
1 cup vinegar (white or apple cider)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

1. Wash two pint-sized (or one large) wide-mouthed Mason jars with soap and water. There’s no need to sterilize, as you would in canning.

2. Pack vegetables or fruits and herbs and/or spices (if using) tightly into the jars. Leave a ½-inch space at the top.

3. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar (if using). Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar. Remove from heat.

4. Seal the jars and rinse them under hot water. Remove lid; pour the liquid over the contents until they’re fully submerged (there may be more brine than you need).

5. Seal jars; let cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate for at least 1 hour (flavor continues to develop with age). Store the veggies or fruits in the jars with the liquid in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Rachel Meltzer Warren

Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RD, is a freelance writer based in the New York area who contributes to Consumer Reports on food and nutrition topics.