Over the years, I’ve learned that you either are a pickle person or you’re not. The briny, bumpy, pantry staple is either absolutely adored or vehemently detested by foodies-giving cause for the saying “hold the pickles.” But for those who have a palate for pickles, there’s a world of possibilities. So many delicious pickled recipes run the gamut from sweet baby gherkins, bread-and-butter and even Kool-Aid flavored pickles. My favorite? Dill pickles.
Kosher dill pickles tread a delicate balance between sweet and sour, juicy and crunchy. They also have a briny taste that’s full of salt, sweet dill and usually garlic. With so many flavor factors and dozens of brands to choose from, it can be difficult to decide what to buy. So I stepped up to find the best brand of dill pickles. I wanted to find one that would be perfect to pair with my pickle-and-cheese sandwiches or Chicago-style hot dogs.
I wrangled up a group of people who, like me, were picky about their pickles. Together, we taste tested the top 5 supermarket brands side-by-side. After stripping the labels from their pickles, we judged the following: texture, appearance and (most important) flavor. Read on to find out which pickle prevailed.
#5: Vlasic Kosher Dill Spears
Average rating: 3.2/10
“Very potent…the sour flavor hit you severely.”
“This one was soft, but it had a flavor blast.”
“Oh my. That was a limp pickle.”
You might remember Vlasic by its iconic stork mascot, but without that marketing flair this brand fell to the bottom of the barrel. The pickles had a neon-green color, which seemed unnatural and off-putting to our judges. When we took a bite, we found that the pickles’ rind was soft and thin. And instead of a sturdy crunch, the spears had a soft, limp texture. However, Vlasic’s pickles had an explosion of flavor. Our taste buds were practically punched with a sour vinegar taste. That being said, the group decided that this pungent pickle is more of an acquired taste.
#4: Yeehaw Pickle No Frills Dills
Average rating 3.3/10
“This is weird. I don’t even know what I taste.”
“It’s so gray.”
“I probably wouldn’t care as much about the color if it wasn’t placed next to these other pickles.”
As the new kid on the block, Yeehaw Pickles barely squeezed ahead of its more-established competitor. The brand touts that its hand-cut pickles are free from artificial preservatives. (And yes, it’s a little more pricey.) When we removed the pickles from their fancy packaging, they looked dull and gray. The verdict was unanimous: they looked unappealing. As for texture, the spears had a slight crunch on the outside and a very soft, squishy middle. Yeehaw Pickles tasted very sharp and slightly sour. They left an odd aftertaste that some judges chalked up to artificial preservatives. Ironic, because the brand prides itself on being natural.
#3: Mt. Olive Kosher Dill Spears
Average rating: 6/10
“This one is very much your middle-of-the-road pickle.”
“It’s so neon.”
“Tastes sharp, not salty.”
Mt. Olive brought us back to the qualities of a classic dill pickle. The brand jumped higher in our ratings as it delivered a good crunch and looked plump and hearty on the plate. Its brine had a strong vinegar profile, but it didn’t overwhelm our taste buds. Compared to Vlasic, the pickles were slightly sweeter. The brand didn’t have much salt in it, which could be the reason for its bronze medal. (Or the fact that the pickles were bright yellow. We like our pickles to be green, thank you.)
#2: Market Pantry Kosher Dill Spears
Average rating: 6.6/10
“This was the most radioactive color.”
“Salty, not sharp.”
“Pretty standard pickle, similar to (Mt. Olive).”
Speaking of bright colors, Target’s Market Pantry pickles stood out from the pack. They had an almost fluorescent, neon color. (I wouldn’t be surprised if they glow in the dark!) In light of this, the pickles delivered a flavor that was hard to beat. They had a well-rounded briny taste that was equal parts sweet and tart. They commanded attention with lots of tasty garlic, dill and salt. What’s more, each spear had fantastic crunch. Congrats, Target. You’ve made yourself a major contender in our pickle-loving hearts.
#1: Claussen Kosher Dill Spears
Average rating: 8.7/10
“This looks like a real pickle. Is it homemade?”
“This is a classic dill pickle.”
“It’s got a solid crunch.”
The champion became clear when we took a taste of Claussen’s spears. The brand had everything we wanted in a pickled cuke. Tasters loved how the product looked natural-and some even thought they were homemade! Claussen’s variety had deep green color with a slightly gray tint. When it came to flavor, the brand had top marks. The brine was both sweet and sour, and it had a decent amount of salt. There was a hint of garlic and a big dill flavor. Plus, the pickles had a fresh crunch-which is hard to beat.
To our picky pickle judges, the results were clear. If you missed it, here are the brands from most favorite to least favorite: Claussen, Market Pantry, Mt. Olive, Yeehaw Pickle, and Vlasic.
What You Should Take Away
You eat with your eyes.
Color was an unexpected factor that made a big difference in our deliberations. It turns out that pickles range in hue from neon yellow to gray-green. Artificial colors made certain brands look unnatural, while the natural grayish pickles didn’t seem as fresh as the rest of the bunch. Our favorite brand found a middle ground between the two.
Price doesn’t make the pickle taste better or worse.
I was surprised to see Yeehaw Pickles fall to the bottom of our rankings. At a price of $7.99 per 24 oz., the brand was our most expensive by far. The pickles looked pretty in the bottle, too. You could actually see whole sprigs of dill weed and cloves inside. I was sure the pickles were going to be rich with yummy dill flavor. Instead, the top-shelf brand was surpassed by bargain brands like Target’s Market Pantry ($1.99/24oz.), which cost a fraction of the price.
Pickles are nostalgic.
As we tried each brand, the discussion became more heartwarming than fierce. The dill pickles seemed to bring everyone back to their childhood. (Perhaps that’s why we love them so much!) Some recalled how their parents would make homemade refrigerator pickles, while others said that as kids they loved the look of a neon-green spear. Even our Test Kitchen couldn’t help but weigh in. The pros said that Claussen and Vlasic were the brands they preferred because that’s what they grew up with.
If anything, this test made me appreciate pickles even more. And the leftovers? Well, those made their way into pickle-perfect recipes like this Dilly Potato & Egg Salad and this hearty BBQ Bacon Burger.