7 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Pickles

Who doesn't love pickles? Here's how to avoid the most common mistakes when you're making pickles at home.

Making homemade pickles is a great way to preserve veggies during the high harvest season. You can try making quick pickles if it’s your first time preserving or opt for a full-on canning experience.

No matter the method, though, you’ll want to avoid a few mistakes so you end up with the tastiest results.

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Using Large Cucumbers

While big cucumbers are fantastic for salads and snacking, they aren’t ideal for creating crunchy pickles. Because these larger veggies contain a lot of water, they are more challenging to crisp up in the brine.

For best results pickling at home—be it making traditional sweet pickles or refrigerator pickles—choose smaller, firm cucumbers. You’ll often find farm stands or farmers market vendors selling pickling cucumbers; those are exactly the variety you want for making pickles at home.

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Salt well with spoon
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Using Table Salt

You already know that not all types of salt are the same. So when you’re setting off to make pickles, be sure you’re selecting the right variety. Always choose canning salt or pickling salt.

These salts don’t contain iodine or anti-caking additives, which can cause discoloration and cloudiness in your brine. Their fine texture also helps them dissolve quickly.

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Mixing Vegetables

While you can definitely pickle all kinds of vegetables, it’s best not to mix different types at will. Different veggies require different preparations and ratios of salt and vinegar, so be sure to stick to the recipe.

The exception to this rule would be recipes that are specially formulated to combine a handful of veggies, like giardiniera.

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Not Investing in the Right Tools

When canning anything—be it jams, jellies or pickles—it’s important to have the right tools for the job. Extras like a wide-mouth funnel will save you a lot of hassle (and cleanup) as you portion out pickles and fill jars with brine. You’ll also want to have a jar lifter, a large pot and plenty of jars at the ready for any pickling or canning projects.

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Opening the Jars Too Soon

We love making easy refrigerator pickles because they’re ready in just 24 hours! But some pickles take several days to reach the desired level of flavor, and others (like lacto-fermented pickles) can take weeks. For best results, defer to your recipe and don’t crack open a jar until the right time.

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Not Measuring

Pickling, especially when canning, is a bit of a science. It’s important to ensure that the measurements are precise so you have enough brine to cover the pickles, enough salt to preserve (but not too much) and plenty of spices to season the batch.

So, yes, it is time to break out your measuring cups or kitchen scale. You’ll need these to create a good batch of pickles.

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Only Pickling Cucumbers

Cucumbers are just the start when it comes to pickles! You can pickle so many types of produce—and even more—so don’t limit yourself.

Try pickling red onions and use them as a topper for everything from burritos to burgers. You can also pickle jalapeños and other peppers as a way to preserve a plentiful garden harvest. Other delicious yet unexpected pickle recipes include pickled eggs, pickled apples and spicy pickled garlic.

Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is a former Taste of Home editor and passionate baker. During her tenure, she poured her love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa also dedicated her career here to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.
Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay has been writing for digital publications for seven years and has 10 years of experience working as a professional chef. She became a full-time food writer at Taste of Home in 2023, although she’s been a regular contributor since 2017. Throughout her career, Lindsay has been a freelance writer and recipe developer for multiple publications, including Wide Open Media, Tasting Table, Mashed and SkinnyMs. Lindsay is an accomplished product tester and spent six years as a freelance product tester at Reviewed (part of the USA Today network). She has tested everything from cooking gadgets to knives, cookware sets, meat thermometers, pizza ovens and more than 60 grills (including charcoal, gas, kamado, smoker and pellet grills). Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, especially if it provides an opportunity to highlight local, seasonal ingredients. As a writer, Lindsay loves sharing her skills and experience with home cooks. She aspires to motivate others to gain confidence in the kitchen. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her cooking with fresh produce from the farmers market or planning a trip to discover the best new restaurants.