Homemade Bread & Butter Pickles ♥

Homemade Bread & Butter Pickles ♥ AVeggieVenture.com, no canning required, great for sandwiches and charcuterie boards.
How to make the famous bread & butter pickles at home, a DIY project that takes 15 minutes and just six (or seven) ingredients. No canning required! These "quick" pickles keep for weeks in the fridge and even freeze well. For anyone who's thought about dipping a toe into the big world of making pickles from scratch? This is a great starter recipe.

Real Food, Fast & Casual. A Summer Classic. Not Just Easy, Summer Easy. Budget Friendly. Little Effort, Big Taste. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real. Naturally Gluten Free.

Thank You, Readers!

Every so often, readers drop a note with a recipe that they think I might like, that other readers might like, that is a good fit for all the other vegetable recipes here at A Veggie Venture. Thank you! I do so appreciate these thoughtful, generous contributions!

And WOW. So many thanks to the anonymous reader who left her recipe for bread and butter pickles a couple of years back. Silly me, I waited way too long to make these super-easy bread and butter pickles the first time. And true confession time: I then waited another eleven years to make them again. But now, at the time of this recipe update? I've made them twice in two weeks and the recipe is firmly situated in my 3x5 recipe box, home to the recipes I make most often.

I love having homemade pickles on hand. Call me crazy but somehow a quick sandwich seems more like a meal when there are pickles alongside or tucked right inside.

What Are Bread & Butter Pickles Anyway?
And What's With the Funny Name?

Bread & butter pickles are thin rounds of cucumber, skins on, pickled in a liquid of vinegar, sugar and spices. Bread & butter pickles can be syrupy sweet. But to my taste, this recipe is sweet but not too sweet, just the right balance.

But the pickle's name backstory is very cool! Story goes, an Illinois farm family started selling pickles in the 1920s. The thrifty family got through hard times by taking undersized cucumbers from their garden, turning them into pickles and bartering the pickles for other staples like bread and butter. All these years later, bread and butter pickles remain a distinct thing. What a legacy! [Source: Wikipedia]

Homemade Bread & Butter Pickles ♥ AVeggieVenture.com, no canning required, great for sandwiches and charcuterie boards.

What Are These Pickles Like?

The pickles are great – crunchy but not too crunchy, sweet but not too sweet, pickly but not too pickly. They are as simple to make as opening a jar – well, almost. There's no canning required, just store the pickles in the fridge or plop them into freezer containers.

Ingredients for Homemade Bread & Butter Pickles

PICKLING CUCUMBERS Look for smaller cucumbers called "pickling cucumbers" or "pickle cucumbers". They're about four to five inches long, maybe a couple of inches across. I've never seen pickling cucumbers in a grocery store but they're abundant at farmers market. They're easy to grow in the garden, we raise both pickling cucumbers and the larger garden tomatoes in the garden. Pickling cucumbers are a good option for pickles because of their relatively small size but also because their seeds are small and digestible.

BUT OTHER CUCUMBERS CAN WORK TOO So-called "garden" cucumbers are easy to find in grocery stores (and to grow) and work fine too but the seeds inside are often large and fibrous and need to be discarded. It's easy: just cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and then scoop out the seeds with a serrated spoon like a grapefruit spoon or another implement. These rainbow-shaped pickles aren't as pretty in the jar but taste just the same. Another idea to try, cut the cucumbers in half cross-wise then use an apple corer to remove the center seeds, this might make for a prettier pickle. I think that so-called "English" cucumbers (these are the long skinny cucumbers with tender skins) would work fine as would the small "Persian" cucumbers (about four inches long, about an inch wide).

ONION Sliced onion makes for a great savory counterpoint to the sweetness of the pickles but some times I include them, other times I don't. Choose yellow onions or brown-skinned Spanish onions. Sweet onions like Vidalia and Walla-Walla would work well too. While red onions make wonderful Spiced Pickled Red Onions, they also will stain the vinegar, not pretty with cucumbers.

VINEGAR Plain white vinegar works here and the clear color keeps the pickles fresh looking.

SUGAR Sugar acts as a preservative as well as a sweetener. At first glance, this recipe includes a lot of sugar, 2 cups to yield 8 cups of pickles. Two things for your consideration, if you, like me, get wide-eyed with this much sugar. First, I tried the pickles with a single cup of sugar, good enough but not as good as with two. Maybe a cup and a half? Worth a try. Second, you don't actually consume 2 cups of sugar because a full three cups of liquid can be poured off the pickles. Do these points make a difference in your sugar thinking? If not, maybe try this recipe, Pepper & Cucumber Refrigerator Pickles with way less sugar.

SEASONING Salt acts as a preservative and adds flavor. Mustard seeds and celery seed add amazing flavor, both soften during the pickling process, very edible!

How to Make Bread & Butter Pickles at Home

The detailed recipe is written in traditional recipe form below but here are the highlights. You can do this!

PACK THIN-SLICED CUCUMBER INTO A JAR Slice the pickling cucumbers quite thin and pack into a glass container. A sharp knife works fine, no need to drag out a mandoline or anything. If you're using onion, slice and pack it in too, a layer of cucumber, a layer of onion. For prettiness in the jar, keep the slices in flat layers.
BRING THE LIQUID INGREDIENTS TO A BOIL Then pour the hot liquid into the pickle jar. At first you'll think there's not enough liquid, that you'll need more. Instead, press the pickles down into the jar until all the cucumbers are covered.
ADD A WEIGHT TO SUBMERGE THE PICKLES Now find something that can keep the pickles submerges, perhaps a small plate with a can of soup or something? You'll be soon surprised, not only are the cucumbers completely submerged, there's room in the jar to add more!
ADD MORE CUCUMBER! So repeat the process of arranging sliced cucumbers in the jar, and pressing them down into the liquid, until either the jar or the liquid just can't take anymore.
COVER & REFRIGERATE Give the pickles at least 24 hours before eating them, then enjoy!


If you can finagle some sort of weight for the pickles, great. Otherwise, you might consider getting some glass weights like these glass weights for wide-mouth canning jars (affiliate link, My Disclosure Promise). I find them really handy.

How to Store Homemade Bread & Butter Pickles

RIGHT IN THE REFRIGERATOR These are "quick" pickles. Yes, they're quick to make. But in the pickle world, "quick" also is code for pickles that must be stored in the fridge. Quick / refrigerator pickles haven't been properly "canned" with heat in the special canning jars that would allow them to be stored long-term at room temperature.
IN THE FREEZER These pickles can also be frozen, I like to put them away in small one-cup freezer containers to nibble on throughout the winter.

Preserving Summer Vegetables for Winter

When we talk about harvesting summer bounty for winter, mostly, I think, we mean "canning". And to be sure, canning is an especially productive way to put away food for the off-season. If you're a cook who cans, you might check this page, Practical Home Canning Tips. It's the result of canning hundreds of jars of jams, jellies, pickles and vegetables the summer my mom passed away.

But let's not forget about our freezers, something that's more do-able for many of us, especially for small volumes. These pickles freeze. But you can also freeze corn, tomatoes and the ever-so-wonderful Slow-Roasted Tomatoes.

What Makes This Recipe Special

Great way to use a large amount of cucumber all at once
Flexible recipe that can scale up for more cucumber or down for less cucumber
Crisp cucumber pickles, not too sweet, not too vinegar-y, not too pickle-y
Freezing is a good way to preserve summer produce
No dragging out the canning equipment or dealing with boiling water and hot canning jars
So handy to have on hand for sandwiches, an appetizer platter or charcuterie board, even just to snack on

Homemade Bread & Butter Pickles ♥ AVeggieVenture.com, no canning required, great for sandwiches and charcuterie boards.


Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time to table: 24 hours
Makes about 2 quarts (8 cups) of pickles

These amounts fill two quart jars or one half-gallon jar or crock. You'll wonder if there's really enough liquid, but there is, once the cucumbers shrink in the hot pickling liquid, expressing their own liquid. The recipe is easy to scale if you have more or fewer pickles.

about 2-1/2 pounds (1135g) pickling cucumbers, blossom and stem ends trimmed, sliced into rounds if small and half-rounds if larger (see ALANNA's TIPS)
1 cup onion, sliced thin in rounds or half rounds, rings separated, optional

1 cup (225g) white vinegar
2 cups (400g) sugar (may be reduced to 1 cup)
2 tablespoons (40g) Morton's kosher salt (see TIPS)
1 tablespoon (6g) celery seed
1 tablespoon (11g) mustard seed

CUCUMBERS Pack the sliced cucumbers into a half-gallon glass jar or two quart jars, slipping onion (if using) between the layers. Fill the jar as much as you can, you'll add more cucumber later.

PICKLING LIQUID Bring the ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, stirring to ensure that the sugar and salt dissolve. Pour the hot Pickling Liquid Weight over the cucumbers. You'll wonder if there's enough liquid. There is, just press the cucumbers down with the back of a spoon, submerging the slices into the liquid. As the cucumber compacts, add more slices, filling the jar again. If needed, do this a third time. Place a weight over top of the pickles, keeping them all submerged in the Pickling Liquid.

REFRIGERATE Refrigerate for at least 24 hours. The pickles are now ready to be eaten, they're delightful!

FREEZE If you like, transfer all or some of the pickles to freezer containers and freeze until ready to eat. Be sure to freeze some liquid too, this will avoid freezer burn.

HOW TO STORE These are refrigerator pickles, that means they need to be kept in the fridge (or frozen) until used up.

CHOOSING CUCUMBERS If you can, choose small "pickling cucumbers" most easily found (in my experience) at farmers markets. But other cucumbers can work too. Large "garden cucumbers" are in most supermarkets; if the interior seeds are large, scoop them out before slicing the cucumbers. I haven't made these pickles with the long, thin English cucumbers or the small Persian cucumbers but believe they'd work just fine.

MEASURING SALT You may have heard that table salt is "saltier" than kosher salt and even that Morton's kosher salt is saltier than Diamond Chrystal kosher salt. And that's true, when you measure the salt by volume, that is, with a measuring spoon. That's because table salt has smaller grains, more grains fit into a single spoon. That's because Morton's kosher has smaller grains than Diamond Chrystal, more grains fit into a single spoon. For a small volume like a half teaspoon or even teaspoon, there's not a lot of difference in the end. But with a bigger volume, like here with two tablespoons, the difference could make the difference between perfectly balanced pickles and super-salty pickles.

So use any salt you have, so long as you measure the salt by weight. That's because 40 grams of table salt is equally salty as 40 grams of Morton's kosher and 40 grams of Diamond Chrystal kosher.

Don't have a scale? I pull this Escali kitchen scale (affiliate link & My Disclosure Promise) out from its top drawer multiple times a day. It's light, it holds a battery forever, it takes up little room, it saves dishwashing, it makes for consistent results. As I say, handy!

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. I love bread and butter pickles! These sound yummy.

  2. Oh, that picture is just so tempting- I have a Pavlovian response to pictures of pickles.

    I'll have to look for pickling cucumbers at Soulard and make a batch of this stuff.

  3. Funny... one of my readers sent me a bread and butter pickle recipe, too. I posted it when I wrote about turmeric, and I've been making those pickles ever since.

  4. Hi there! We're having a 4th of July BBQ and these pickles just sounded like something I should do. So I have them in my fridge right now, but the liquid sure wasn't enough to cover the 7 C of cucumbers! But I just piled them all in anyway, mixed it all around, threw a plate on top for when they eventually shrink and called it a day. Since you say you can add more cucumbers the next day without reheating the mixture, I assume that my overfull bowl will be fine?

    I love your site, I'm a recent member and love all the veggies. The zucchini and feta boats were my first veggie venture voyage and I've been sold ever since!

  5. talk to me about "large crock or glass jar" . . . . how big are we talking? Tupperware would not work? I'm trying to figure out what would fit in my fridge and my Pampered Chef lidded batter bowl (8 cups) seems like it would be too small for all of that liquid+solid. I am immersed in Amish Friendship Starter lately, so I am paying attention to glass vs ceramic vs plastic.

  6. Alta ~ They are!

    Nupur ~ Soulard for sure!

    Lydia ~ Aha, now even our readers are channeling!

    AmberGale ~ You're something, a woman of my own heart! They first batch of cucumbers have shrunk, right, leaving room for more? As I look back at the instructions, I'm wondering myself how 1 cup of liquid covers 7 cups of cucumbers. That's the problem with making/writing something several months before posting. PS Thanks for the kind words, they mean the world.

    Kirsten ~ I wouldn't use Tupperware, no, for the pickling stage because it will ruin your tupperware, you want to use something that the vinegar won't soak into, something 'non reactive' as they say. Glass is the best bet, Corningware would work. I wouldn't use metal either. Have I answered your question? I hope! xo

  7. Tempting! What's the strength of the white vinegar in your part of the world, dear Alanna? We only get wine vinegars or then 30% proof here..

  8. Pille ~ Great question, I had to check, since I buy 'cheap' vinegar in big containers and transfer it to smaller bottles that fit in my cupboard. It looks like the 'standard' is 5%. So do you adjust by adding water, is that the trick? I'll start paying attention to this from now on.

  9. Pickles are such a refreshing snack. We also love pickling green beans, as it allows us to capture that summer freshness in a jar. Here's a link for our pickled dilly beans. http://www.kitchencaravan.com/recipe/ellens-dilly-beans

  10. I tried these at Irenes-- very good, and nice to not heat up the kitchen with canning.

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna