Sweet Pickles Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 1 hour + standing Process: 10 min.
Our classic tangy sweet pickles—canned in a water bath for easy storage—are a perfect garnish for sandwiches and burgers.

Updated: Apr. 16, 2024

Every summer I eagerly await the moment when my cucumbers are ready to be made into savory sweet pickles. If you brine underripe cucumbers, the flesh and skin will taste bitter and unpleasant. If you wait too long, until the fruits start to swell, the seeds will be large and fibrous. But when you preserve cucumbers at the perfect moment, when they are firm and juicy but not overly large, you’ll end up with a crisp crunch and exceptional flavor, exactly what you envision when thinking about pickling recipes.

Sweet pickles are often confused with bread and butter pickles. In truth, bread and butter pickles are a type of sweet pickle, but they are generally more tangy (depending on what’s in the brine). This sweet pickle recipe includes sugar, onion, mustard, celery seed, whole peppercorns and lots of fresh garlic. Once canned and cured, these sweet pickles should sit at least a week before opening, and you can store them on the shelf for up to a year.

I love water-bath canning because it means that I don’t have to take up precious fridge space for my produce. Plus, what feels more cozy than looking at shelves filled with colorful jars of homemade pickles, preserves and relishes? All you need are canning jars with sealing lids, a pot that’s big enough to hold them, and the ingredients. Don’t have a garden? Grab cukes from the grocery store or a farmers market!

If you’re a novice canner, canning is a lot easier than you think. Around since the early 1800s, water-bath canning is now much safer and more precise thanks to increased knowledge about microbes. Keep it simple: Follow our canning 101 guide for how to make long-lasting and delicious sweet pickles.

Ingredients for Sweet Pickles

  • Pickling cucumbers: The best cucumbers for pickling are usually smaller than typical salad or slicing cucumbers, with thick, often-dimpled skin. Their low seed content and crisp flesh make them ideal for pickling. You can make pickles with slicing cukes in a pinch, but they won’t be the same. You generally want to avoid pickling cucumbers with a waxy skin.
  • Onion: Most types of onions work in this sweet pickle recipe. Sweet onions lend excellent flavor to your pickling brine, but if you can’t find a sweet, any yellow or white onion will do.
  • Canning salt: Table salt sometimes contains added chemicals to prevent the grains from clumping, but canning salt—also called pickling salt—is free of additives. Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, which is similarly free of extras, works in a pinch.
  • Sugar: This sweet pickle recipe calls for granulated sugar. Using organic sugar as a substitute is acceptable, although it will make your pickling liquid slightly darker.
  • Vinegar: Both white and cider vinegars are used in this recipe, which gives the sweet pickles a more robust taste than using white vinegar alone. The most important factor in choosing the type of vinegar for pickling is making sure that the vinegar has at least 5% acidity, which helps keep your pickles safe and delicious. For even more flavor, feel free to use white wine or champagne vinegar in place of the white vinegar, or use only cider vinegar, provided you’re hitting that 5% benchmark.
  • Spices: The combo of mustard seed and celery seed plus peppercorns is a pickling classic. These savory spices help balance the sweetness of the sugar.
  • Garlic: Because garlic cloves can vary wildly in size, adjust the recipe as needed if you’ve got bitty baby cloves or gigantic elephant cloves. Smashing the garlic lets all of its delicious flavor easily seep out into the brine.
  • Bay leaves: Bay leaves add a hint of floral je ne sais quoi to soups, stews and pickles. If you can find fresh bay leaves where you live, those can be fun to use. If your dried bay leaves have been sitting around in the cupboard for years, compost them and buy a new batch before making these pickles.


Step 1: Salt the cucumbers

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In a large nonreactive bowl, combine the cucumbers, onion and salt. Cover the mixture with crushed ice and mix well. Let it stand for three hours. Pour the cucumbers into a colander, rinse them and let them drain thoroughly.

Editor’s Tip: Salting the cucumbers before pickling draws out excess moisture to help keep them crisp and juicy during the pickling process.

Step 2: Brew the brine

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In a Dutch oven or a stockpot, combine the sugar, water, vinegars, mustard seed, celery seed and peppercorns. Bring the brine to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

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Step 3: Simmer and steep the cucumbers

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Add the cucumber mixture to the simmering brine and return to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the cucumbers are heated through, four to five minutes.

Step 4: Fill the jars

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Line up four hot, wide-mouth pint-size canning jars. Evenly distribute the cucumber mixture and brine among the jars, leaving at least 1/2 inch headspace. Drop three garlic cloves and a bay leaf into each jar. Remove any air bubbles and, if necessary, adjust the headspace by adding hot pickling liquid.

Editor’s Tip: I like to heat my jars by boiling a separate pot of water while the brine is coming together and pouring some of the boiling water into the jars. Refill that pot, bring it to a simmer and use it as your water-bath canner. When it’s time to fill your steaming hot jars, carefully dump the water from each and go!

Step 5: Tighten the lids

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Wipe the rims of the jars, carefully center the lids and screw on the bands until fingertip tight.

Editor’s Tip: You’ll want the bands to be tight enough that they don’t wiggle when you pick up the jars, but you don’t want to crank down on them.

Step 6: Simmer in a water bath

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Place the jars into the canner with simmering water, making sure that they are completely covered by at least an inch of water. Bring the water to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Gently remove the jars and let cool.

Editor’s Tip: For the most delicious results, let the pickles cure for at least a week before eating.

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Recipe Variations

  • Swap the spices: Feel free to tweak the spice blend to your specifications. For instance, use a store-bought or homemade pickling spice blend. Want to add some heat? Throw in some chile flakes or even whole dried chile peppers. Like pie spice flavors in your pickles? You can always add cinnamon sticks, cloves and allspice berries. For a little citrus zing, tuck strips of orange zest into your jars.
  • Make them less garlicky: These bread and butter pickles use more onions instead of garlic, plus turmeric for a brighter color.
  • Skip the water bath: To turn a canned pickle recipe into a refrigerator one, you only need to stop a little early. Once you pack the hot cukes and brine into the jars and screw on the tops, simply let the pickles cool and move them to the fridge. Here’s another take on easy refrigerator pickles.
  • Vary the veg: Have too many zucchini or yellow squash? Use them in this recipe instead of cucumbers! Other veggies that could work well are celery, fennel, petite cauliflower florets and thinly sliced carrots.

How long do sweet pickles last?

As a general rule of thumb, we recommend storing canned pickles on the shelf for no more than a year. Once opened, as long as they’re submerged in brine, sweet pickles must be refrigerated and will last for three months.

Sweet Pickle Tips

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What kind of cucumbers do you use for sweet pickles?

One of the biggest pickling mistakes is choosing the wrong cucumber, so choose pickling cucumbers for this sweet pickle recipe. Smaller, firm cukes with thick skin are best.

How long do you need to wait before eating these sweet pickles?

For the best results, let these sweet pickles stand for at least a week, or up to four weeks, for the flavors to mellow and develop. But it’s really all personal preference. These pickles are safe to eat right away if you simply can’t wait!

How should you serve sweet pickles?

Because of their sweet-sour profile, these pickles are an extremely flexible garnish. They are perfect for burgers and hot dogs, excellent as an addition to ham sandwiches or chopped and mixed into tuna fish salad, or as an alternative to dill pickles in tartar sauce.

Watch how to Make Sweet Pickles

Best Ever Sweet Pickles

Prep Time 10 min
Yield 4 pints.


  • 9 cups sliced pickling cucumbers
  • 1 large sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup canning salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 12 garlic cloves, crushed


  1. In a large nonreactive bowl, combine cucumbers, onion and salt. Cover with crushed ice and mix well. Let stand 3 hours. Drain; rinse and drain thoroughly.
  2. In a Dutch oven, combine sugar, water, vinegars, mustard seed, celery seed and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cucumber mixture; return to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 4-5 minutes or until heated through.
  3. Carefully ladle hot mixture into 4 hot wide-mouth 1-pint jars, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Add 3 garlic cloves and 1 bay leaf to each jar. Remove air bubbles and, if necessary, adjust headspace by adding hot pickling liquid. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.
  4. Place jars into canner with simmering water, ensuring that they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil; process for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool.

Nutrition Facts

1/4 cup: 35 calories, 0 fat (0 saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 175mg sodium, 8g carbohydrate (7g sugars, 0 fiber), 0 protein.

I pack away homegrown cucumbers every summer. This recipe is based on the pickled veggies in Brown Eggs and Jam Jars by Aimee Wimbush-Bourque, but I’ve made it less mustardy and more garlicky to fit my family’s tastes. This method keeps them incredibly, refreshingly crunchy. —Ellie Martin Cliffe, Taste of Home Digital Deputy Editor