Did you know that pickle has Middle English origins from the word “pikel?” This word means a spicy gravy or sauce that you serve with meat or fowl, and it has direct relations to a Middle Dutch word “pekel” that means a spiced brine that you would use to preserve or flavor food. Today, there are many different types of pickles you can buy or make in the comfort of your own home with your own cucumbers, and they get preserved in a mix of vinegar, salt, and other spices.
Pickles have a history that dates back over 5,000 years, and they have ties to the ancient beauty world as it was rumored that Cleopatra used them in her beauty routine. The Romans also got them in the hopes that it would increase their strength. It was also rumored that Christopher Columbus packed cucumber pickles on the ships to help prevent diseases related with vitamin C deficiency.
Today, the different types of pickles are as popular as they ever were, and it’s common to get cravings for this salty, crunchy snack. Since it comes from cucumbers, it has a very low calorie content too. We’re going to outline 16 popular types of pickles for you, and you can decide which ones work best for your needs.
16 Types of Pickles
It may surprise you to find out that there is more than one type of pickle available, but there are many popular ones. You can even find different types of pickles if you go to your local store and look at the shelves.
1. Bread And Butter Pickles
One very popular type of pickle is bread and butter. You can get them in spears, but you’re usually going to find them in sliced form. This pickle has a more unique taste to it, and trying one will show you just why they’re so popular today. This also isn’t a difficult pickle type to make on your own because the ingredients you put in the jar will dictate what they taste like, and you can get bread and butter-specific spice mixes to dump into the jars before you seal them.
When you open the jar of homemade bread and butter pickles, you’ll see some of the ingredients floating at the top of the jar. You’ll need things like mustard seeds, white vinegar, coriander seeds, celery seeds, salt, and sugar. Also, if you choose to eat them straight from the jar, it’s common to have a few of these seeds and ingredients stuck to them. The biggest thing that sets this type of pickle apart is that it manages to be both salty and sweet in one bite.
So, it’s easy to pair this pickle with a host of other foods, and they’re going to play off each other and complement one another very well. Many people like to put these pickles on hamburgers for an additional layer of flavor. Some people also find that this pickle does very well when you pair it with fried foods to help cut through the grease and lighten the meal up a bit.
2. Candied Pickles
Candied pickles are a type of pickle that is designed to be sweeter than other types, and people tend to get very creative and unique when they make them. As the name suggests, they’re going to have a sweeter taste to them than most pickles, and it’s similar to what you’d get with bread and butter. If you choose to make this pickle at home, you can easily control how much sugar you add to make it as sweet as you want.
You typically eat candied types of pickles by themselves, or you can pair them with fried food. Since they come with a very distinct sweet taste, you want to be prepared for a stronger flavor. If it’s the first time you’re making them, it’s a good idea to cut back on the sugar to be sure that you don’t make them too sweet.
3. Cinnamon Pickles
When you think of cinnamon, you’re more likely to think of apples than you are of a type of pickle. However, cinnamon pickles are one of the sweeter options available. You’ll typically find them in stores around the holidays since most people consider them a treat. They usually come with a red appearance to them due to the candy syrup you make them with. The water, vinegar, sticks of cinnamon, sugar, and red food coloring get mixed during the cooking process.
The key ingredient in this type of pickle is the red hot candy. The candies get melted to make a syrup that you pour over the pickles when it’s still hot. Then, you leave them to sit for a few days in the jars before you serve them. This pickle type does take a fair amount of prep work, but most people find that the finished pickles are well worth the extra time and effort.
This entry onto the list isn’t exactly unique from another type. Outside of the United States, this is another name for the gherkin pickle. The best way to figure out if you’re eating one of these types of pickles is the size as they’re roughly the size of your pinky finger. You’ll also notice that this isn’t cut into pieces, and most people choose to leave a bit of the stem intact to help pick them up. You’ll remove the stem when you eat the pickle.
5. Full Sour Kosher Dill Pickles
A full sour kosher dill pickle is slightly different from traditional dill pickles. It’s relatively easy to find kosher dill pickles, and they come with a decently long history attached to them. When something is kosher, it means that a Jewish person can eat this food as it follows strict Jewish dietary laws. Jewish people who very strictly follow their religion may only eat kosher foods, and others who aren’t as strict may only keep kosher during holy times or holidays.
Due to the fact that these are kosher types of pickles, they’re very popular in the Ukraine, Russia, and Poland where they have been popular since the early 1900s. Today, you’ll find many Jewish people who like to have a pickle with their sandwiches, so they’re prominent in delis.
If you go to New York to a Jewish deli, you’ll find this type of pickle. The full sour pickles have been through a complete fermentation process for slightly longer than half-sour types. They get sold in longer speakers, and you’ll usually find them on sandwiches. You get a very strong flavor profile as the name suggests due to the long fermentation process.
6. Gherkin Pickles
It’s easy to pick out this type of pickle in the store if you look at the shelves. These pickles feature a very different cucumber type, and this is why they fall into their very own category. Gherkin pickles are usually only a few inches long at the maximum, and this makes them a great contender for the canning process. You’ll see that the manufacturers keep the whole pickle instead of cutting it into spears or slices. They’re a great option to have on sandwiches without needing to slice them, and they taste very similar to dill pickles. You may even hear them called mini dill pickles.
7. Half Sour Kosher Dill
This type of pickle is very similar to the full sour variety, and they also get sold in spear form instead of being sliced. You’ll find them in Jewish delis. As the name suggests, it goes through a shorter fermentation process to make it half as sour as the full sour kosher dill. This pickle is usually a bit more crisp and has more crunch to it, and it’s a good pick if you’re new to the whole kosher dill pickle type.
You’ll also get a very bright green coloring on this pickle because they don’t spend as much time in the jar. Overall, this pickle type is a big part of Jewish culture, and it’ll continue to be so for years to come.
8. Hungarian Pickles
If you go to Hungary, you’ll find this type of pickle all over. No matter what type of meal you have while you’re here, you’ll typically have a pickle on the side. It’s common to see people sell this pickle with fried foods or sausages to help balance out the flavors. It’s common to sell them with fried foods as the fried foods can get greasy, and the pickle will cut through it. Most of these pickles get made using a decent bit of salt, dill, and/or garlic.
One of the big things that sets this type of pickle apart is that there is a piece of bread left on the bottom and top of the mixture. Instead of closing the jars right away, they keep them open for a few days. This allows the yeast content in the bread to make the fermentation process go much quicker for this type of pickle. It’ll also give you a distinct and unique taste that is very important to Hungarian culture. You do want to be careful when you pair it up with other dishes as it’s a very sour pickle.
You may take time to get used to having pickles with ordinary dishes, but the tart flavor makes it easy to cut through greasy or heavier flavor profiles. Roast with potatoes and pickles by Andrés Gómez García / CC BY 2.0
9. Kool-Aid Pickles
Kool-Aid is something you give kids at their sleepovers, and many people wouldn’t associate it with a type of pickle. However, this is a newer invention that didn’t come to market for years. You can make it at home using pickles you bought from the store. The interesting point about these pickles is the colors they turn when you soak them. All you have to do is pour a packet of Kool-Aid into the pickle juice and let them soak.
Once you add the Kool-Aid, let your pickles soak for another week. The finished pickled will come in the color of the powder you added, and you get a very sweet tasting finished product. Since there is such a high sugar content in Kool-Aid, the pickle traps it and gives off a very sweet taste. You also want to be very careful when you eat these pickles as the juice can and will stain whatever you happen to get it on.
10. Lime Pickles
If you’ve had a chance to look at this type of pickle and wondered why it looked the way it did, it’s because they don’t have traditional cucumbers in the makeup. Instead, people make these pickles with limes, and you’re going to get an extremely strong flavor. You’ll prepare these pickles in a way very close to what you’d do with traditional ones. The outside ingredients will help determine what flavor profile you get when you finish with it.
The pickling process for lime pickles typically involves adding chili powder, salt, limes, turmeric powder, or mustard seeds. You put the limes and the ingredients in a jar, seal them, and allow them to ferment for two weeks. When you pull them out at the end of the fermentation process, they’ll look much different. You’ll get a brown color instead of a green one, and the overall lime flavor will come through very strongly. It goes well with very basic dishes, like rice.
11. Overnight Dill Pickles
Better known as cukes, you cover this type of pickle with vinegar and keep it in a brine for a maximum of one to two days. Just like you’d glean from the name, you need to store it overnight to get the full flavor profile. Ideally, you’ll put them in your refrigerator for 24 to 36 hours without disturbing them. This is the type of pickle that you usually find in a deli.
12. Polish Pickles
Polish pickles are extremely similar to kosher pickles, but this type of pickle has a fair amount of more dill. Dill is an extremely strong herb, and it’s going to have a big impact on anything you pair it with. If you see this pickle in your local grocery store, you should know that it’s going to give you a very strong dill flavor when you bite into it.
If you’re new to eating pickles and you’re starting with more basic options, it’s a good idea to go with a dill pickle over this type of pickle. Once you decide you have a taste for pickles in general, you can branch out. Most people find that they’re either a fan of sweet or sour pickles, and they tend to heavily favor one over the other. The two taste profiles are completely different, and it’s common to pick one over the other.
13. Refrigerator Pickles
This type of pickle is very easy for you to make at home. Usually, the whole pickle making process is involved and it can take you a decent amount of time because you have to soak your pickles for weeks or months for them to absorb your wanted flavor. However, if you don’t have time to wait and you’re content with a simple pickle, you can coat a cucumber in a vinegar and spice mixture and pop it into the refrigerator. This will take a maximum of 48 hours before you get the perfect complement to your food.
This is the way a lot of delis choose to make pickles for their brands. It’s a more unique option, and because of this, you can find that different places will have different flavor profiles all marketed under the refrigerator pickle category. If you find one that you prefer over the other, you can try to find out what the exact recipe is. It’s most likely something you could put together and eat at home.
Refrigerator pickles are a nice introduction to the pickling process if you’ve never done it before, and it allows you to play with spice combinations to find out which ones you like best. Homemade refrigerator pickles by sylvar / CC BY 2.0
14. Sour Pickles
If you’re someone who isn’t a huge fan of vinegar, you still have to appreciate that it adds flavor to some food. However, sour pickles don’t always have a vinegar brine. Kosher sour pickles always use vinegar, but most sour pickles use a fermentation process that has pickling salts, water, and spices.
This tends to be a very effective process for making this type of pickle, and they don’t feature that strong vinegar flavor or harsh taste that you get with more traditional brine. Instead, you’ll get something sour without any sweet traces. Depending on what type of food you want to pair it with, it could be a solid choice.
15. Sweet Pickles
As we touched on when we talked about kosher types of pickles, some can be extremely sour. If you’re not used to this taste and you’re worried that it’s going to be too strong, you can start with a sweet pickle. There are several different types you can choose from, but the process of making them is going to be relatively similar. Your sweet pickles will go through the traditional pickle making process that involves soaking them in vinegar. However, which ingredients you add to the vinegar will impact what the final flavor of your pickles will be.
When you want sweet pickles, it’s common to add mustard seed, cinnamon, or sugar to the brine. These types of ingredients will give your pickles a completely new taste, and you can easily use them on a range of different foods. Some people like snacking on them while others enjoy them on hamburgers or sandwiches.
16. Traditional Dill Pickle
The final type of pickle on the list is the traditional dill pickle, and it’s one of the most popular types on the market. If you think of a classic pickle, you’ll get this one. These pickles feature whole cucumbers with dill seeds. When you make the pickles and close the jar, you leave plenty of dill pickles floating in the brine to help give the pickles their iconic flavor. You will usually get them in longer slices that are perfect for adding to your sandwich.
The cucumber gets cut lengthwise for this type of pickle to ensure that it can fit into the jar. These dill pickles go through the traditional pickling method that you would use if you chose to make pickles in your home. The vinegar will work to cure the pickles while the dill flavors them for you. It’s a great place to start pickling if you’re brand new to the process, and it’s one of the first types of pickle many people try.
How to Make Dill Pickles
You can make dill pickles or a huge range of pickles in your home with a few simple ingredients, some tools, and a little time. To make dill pickles, you’ll need:
- 1 1/2 pounds Kirby or Persian cucumbers
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pickling salt or kosher salt
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons dill seeds
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Step One – Prepare the Jars
If you want to have pickles that are suitable for long-term storage, you’ll have to prepare your jars. You do so by bringing a large pot of boiling water to a rapid boil and using it to sterilize two wide-mouth jars with the lids. If you want to make refrigerator pickles, you can get away with washing the jars and lids with soap and water.
Step Two – Prepare the Cucumbers
Wash and dry your cucumbers before trimming away the stem or blossom end of the cucumber. This is where the enzymes are that can cause your pickles to become limp. Leave your cucumbers whole and either slice them into coins or cut them into spears.
Step Three – Add Your Spices to the Jars
Divide the dill seed, garlic, and red pepper flakes between your two pint jars. Per jar, you’ll have two smashed garlic cloves, ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon of dill seed.
Step Four – Pack the Cucumbers Into Your Jars
Gently but firmly pack your cucumbers into jars. If they stand more than ½-inch above the jar, trim the ends until they fit neatly. Pack them in as tightly as you can without accidentally smashing them.
Step Five – Bring Your Brine to a Boil
Put your water, salt, and vinegar into a small saucepan over a high heat. Allow it to heat until it reaches a rolling boil. Pour your boiling brine over your pickles until you fill the jars to ½-inch from the top. You may have brine left over.
Step Six – Remove Any Air Bubbles
Gently tap your jars against the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles. Top off the jars with more brine if you need it before tightening the lids. Put the lids over your gars and screw the rings on until they’re tight.
- Optional Step — If you want to process your pickles to store longer, you’ll put the jars into a boiling pot of water to can them. When the water reaches a boil again, set your timer for five minutes before pulling the jars out immediately. Make sure your lids pop down. If the lids don’t pop down, you’ll refrigerate them to eat them first.
Step Seven – Cool and Refrigerate
Allow the jars to sit and cool down until they reach room temperature. If you correctly processed your jars, you can store them at room temperature if they’re not open. If they’re unprocessed, you’ll have to refrigerate them. The pickles will get more flavor as they age, and you should wait a minimum of 48 hours before opening them.
Step Eight – Storing Your Pickles
Canned pickles are safe to keep on a shelf for at least a year without a problem. If you put them in the refrigerator, they’ll keep for several weeks once you open them.
We’ve gone through 16 different types of pickles, and you can try them to decide if you prefer sweet or sour pickles. Additionally, we listed the steps for you to make your own pickles and store them so you can have them wherever the mood strikes you.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.