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Preserve Your Harvest,  Recipes

Crunchy Refrigerator Pickles: Quick & Easy Homemade Dill Pickles

I mean, who doesn’t love a good pickle? Crunchy, tangy, salty… yum! Whether you’re growing your own or are simply in the mood for a fun summer project, making fresh homemade dill pickles is a great way to preserve cucumbers – all while creating a delicious and healthy snack! Even better, this refrigerator pickles recipe is exceptionally quick and easy to make. Without the fuss of canning, refrigerator pickles also stay more crisp than canned ones since they’re not subject to high heat. 

Want to know a secret? You can use this same recipe to quick pickle a wide variety of veggies including green beans, carrots, cucamelons, radishes and more! The process is just a tad different to pickle peppers, so check out that recipe here. Don’t miss the printable recipe at the end!



What cucumbers are the best to make refrigerator pickles?


Petite “pickling cucumber” varieties will make the best, most crunchy homemade pickles. (You know… the small bumpy ones.) That is especially true for canned pickles. However, I find refrigerator pickles are more forgiving for texture, so we often use slicing cucumbers too. They stay plenty crisp for us! I’ve also heard Armenian cucumbers make for extra crunchy refrigerator pickles.

No matter what type you use, choose the most fresh and firm cucumbers you can find. Farmer’s Market cucumbers will always be more fresh than those you can buy in the grocery store! If you grow your own, make pickles within a few days of harvest – and be sure to store them in the fridge in the meantime. Never use cucumbers that have mold, and avoid those with major dings, bruises, or soft spots for homemade pickles. 


A wicker basket with eight medium to large cucumbers is surrounded by fresh sprigs of dill, grape leaves, garlic cloves, a yellow onion, and various teaspoon to tablespoon measurements of red chili flakes, mustard seed, peppercorns, and grey salt. All of these make up the bulk ingredients of refrigerator pickles.
We used slicing cucumbers from the Farmer’s Market for this particular batch of homemade pickles, and after 5 days in the refrigerator they were still more crunchy than most store-bought pickles!



How to make homemade pickles crunchy and crisp


One of the most common questions (and qualms) when it comes to making pickles is how to prevent them from getting soft. So, follow these tips to make crunchy homemade pickles:

  • Always use the freshest cucumbers possible. Just-picked are best!
  • Cut off and discard the blossom end of the cucumber to prevent a soft pickle.
  • Choose smaller cucumbers over extra-large ones. Petite ones will have a higher skin-to-flesh ratio and also fewer seeds – the part that gets most soft. Little guys (or gals) fit better in jars with less waste too.
  • Never peel cucumbers before making homemade pickles. 
  • Add tannins. Include a couple grape leaves, horseradish leaves, oak leaves or black tea leaves in each jar. The natural tannins found in these leaves help homemade pickles stay crisp. No access to fresh leaves for tannins? Try using a “pickle crisp” product instead.
  • Keep the cucumbers cold before making pickles by storing them in the refrigerator. For maximum crunch, soak your sliced cucumbers in a large bowl of ice water for several hours or overnight before adding them to the jar.
  • For smaller batches and where cold storage space isn’t a concern, use a refrigerator pickles recipe (like this one!) rather than high-heat canning.


DeannaCat is holding a handful of fresh grape leaves, beyond lies two quart jars of cucumber pickle spears filled to the brim with pickling brine.
Adding a natural crisping agent like grape leaves helps maintain an extra crunchy pickle!


What vinegar should I use to make homemade pickles?


Distilled white vinegar is the most common type of vinegar used in homemade pickle recipes, followed by apple cider vinegar – also known as ACV. We like to use a combination of both, since each type brings a little something unique to the table….or in this case, the jar! 

White vinegar has a more sharp acidic bite to it, and since it is colorless, results in a clear pickling brine. Apple cider vinegar has a more fruity, sweet, and mellow flavor. It is light burnt orange or tan in color, and it is also slightly cloudy. Therefore the resulting homemade pickle brine will be less clear than using white vinegar. We also love that raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar is full of healthy probiotics!

Though this is a refrigerator pickles recipe, I should note that it’s important to use pasteurized vinegar with at least 5% acetic acid when canning. In that case, do not use weaker vinegars like some salad or wine vinegars, or homemade vinegar since the acetic acid content is unknown (even though we do love to make our own ACV!). The bottle of vinegar should list the percent acid. Visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation for more information on safety and canning.


A bottle of apple cider vinegar is poised next to a pink dahlia flower. The ingredients have been underlined with a bright red line that has been photoshopped onto the image. It details the acidity of the vinegar which is 5%. Acidity isn't a major issue for refrigerator pickles but having 5% and higher acidity is crucial for canning.
This isn’t critical for refrigerator pickles, but vinegar with at least 5% acid is needed for canned pickles.


How to Make Refrigerator Dill Pickles


Ingredients


The recipe below is per quart jar. Scale up or down as needed.


  • Approximately 4 to 6 small pickling cucumbers, or 2 to 3 small to medium slicing cucumbers
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 2 tsp sea salt, kosher salt or pickling salt (not table salt)
  • 1.5 Tbsp cane sugar
  • approximately 6 sprigs of fresh dill (a small handful) OR 2-3 dill flower heads
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • a pinch of red chili flakes, more or less per personal preference (I like about a half a teaspoon)
  • Optional (though highly recommended for crunchy homemade pickles): 1 or 2 grape leaves or oak, horseradish, or black tea leaves. Another alternative is to use a pickle crisp granules.
  • Optional: A few slices of onion and/or fresh hot chili peppers (e.g. jalapeño pepper). I added some homegrown sweet Walla Walla onion to this batch!


Instructions


Prep


  1. In cool water, thoroughly wash the fresh dill and cucumbers. Again, avoid using cucumbers that are bruised, soft, or otherwise damaged.

  2. Trim off the ends of the cucumbers, and then cut them into your desired shape such as round slices, halves, or my personal favorite, thick spears. Pay attention to the height of your jar versus the length of your cucumber pieces (so they aren’t too tall to fit inside). You can also leave small pickling cucumbers whole.
  3. If time allows, feel free to soak the cut cucumbers in ice water for several hours before proceeding to packing the jars. When I’m not going to soak them, I usually start the brine on the stove first (described next) so it can cool slightly while I am prepping the cukes.


Cucumbers sliced lengthwise into spears cover a wood cutting board. A part of an onion and some of its slices cover the top right corner of the board with a lonely sprig of dill.


Brine and Pack


  1. Create the pickling brine by combining the called-for water, vinegars, sugar and salt in a pot on the stovetop. Heat lightly and stir until the sugar and salt both completely dissolve, and then remove the pot from the heat. (The remaining spices will go right in the jar.) 

  2. Add the washed dill to the bottom of a clean jar. Then add the peeled garlic cloves and remaining called-for spices into the jar. Also toss in any optional goodies like onion or hot chili peppers now.

  3. If you’re using grape leaves (or other leaves) for tannins, you can either add those to the bottom of the jar now or put them on top at the very end, pressing them down into the brine. Alternatively, add a pickle crisping agent following the product instructions.

  4. Finally, fill the jar with cucumbers. Pack them in tightly to reduce wasted space.

  5. Once the brine has cooled to lukewarm, pour it over the cucumbers until they’re completely submerged and the jar is full. Using a hot brine will slightly cook the cucumbers and thereby make them less crunchy. You may have a little brine leftover. That’s okay! Better to have extra than not enough. (If you do happen to need more to completely fill the jar, simply splash a little more vinegar in on top).


A four way image collage, the first image shows the inside of a quart jar with fresh dill, garlic cloves, mustard seeds, red chili flakes, and peppercorns nestled into the bottom. The second image shows the side of the jars after onion slices are added to the top of the previous ingredients listed. The third image shows a birds eye view of the jars after they have been packed with cucumber spears lengthwise into the jar. The tops of the cucumber spears are visible from above. The fourth image shows a birds eye view of the top of the jar after the brine has been added and grape leaves are stuffed into the top as a cap due to the tannins the leaves contain which helps produce a crisp refrigerator pickle.


Rest and Enjoy!


  1. Add a lid to the jar and then move it to the refrigerator. You can use a standard jar lid, though we’ve come to prefer using these BPA-free plastic mason jar lids for refrigerator pickles since the high vinegar/acid content can make regular metal mason jar rings corrode and get rusty.

  2. Now, allow your refrigerator pickles to sit and marinate in the refrigerator for about 5 days before consuming in order to develop maximum delicious dilly pickle flavor. (I always sneak a few before then though!)
    Over the first couple days in the fridge, gently shake the jar every now and then in order to mix and wet the ingredients that may be exposed or floating on the very top of the jar. This isn’t crucial; I just do it when I see them and remember.

Now enjoy your delectable crunchy homemade refrigerated pickles! For the best quality and texture, consume within 2 to 3 months. Continued refrigeration is required. If you end up eating the pickles fairly quickly (within one month) feel free to toss in more fresh cucumbers or other veggies to reuse the brine and create more pickles!


Two quart mason jars set one in front of the other, the front jar is in focus while the one in back is slightly out of focus and set off center from the first. The jars are filled with sliced cucumbers in a pickling brine with dill, mustard seeds, and black peppercorns on the bottom. A grape leaf is covering the top of the jar and cucumbers which will help create a crisp refrigerator pickle. The area surrounding the jars of pickles has garnishes of fresh dill sprigs and loose scattered peppercorns.


I told you it was quick and easy.

Are you officially craving pickles now? I sure am. I hope you love these crunchy refrigerator pickles just as much as we do! Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below, and be sure to stop back by to leave a review after you try them! Also please feel free to spread the dill pickle love by pinning or sharing this post. As always, we appreciate you tuning in. Happy pickling!


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4.87 from 23 votes

Crunchy Refrigerator Pickles: Quick & Easy Homemade Dill Pickles Recipe

Come learn how to make your own crunchy refrigerator dill pickles. They're quick and easy to make, delicious, and delectably tangy – ready to eat in five days!
Prep Time20 mins
Pickling Time (in the refrigerator)5 d
Course: Appetizer, Party Food, Preserved Food, Side Dish, Snack
Keyword: crunchy pickles, homemade dill pickles, homemade pickles, pickled cucumbers, refrigerator pickles
Servings: 1 quart jar

Ingredients

  • 2-6 Fresh cucumbers (depending on type and size)
  • 3/4 cup Water
  • 3/4 cup Distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp Sea salt, kosher or pickling salt
  • 1.5 Tbsp Sugar
  • 6 sprigs Fresh dill (a small handful) OR 2-3 dill flower heads
  • 3 cloves Fresh garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tsp Peppercorns, to taste (about a dozen per jar)
  • 1 tsp Mustard seed
  • 1 pinch Red chili flakes (scant 1/2 tsp), or 1 fresh hot chili pepper (optional)
  • 2 whole Grape leaves – substitute with horseradish, oak, or black tea leaves (optional, for maximum crispness)
  • Optional: onion slices

Instructions

  • Wash the fresh dill and cucumbers (avoid using bruised or damaged ones).
  • Trim off the ends of the cucumbers, and then cut them into your desired shape and size (slices, spears, halves, etc).
  • Prepare the pickling brine by combining the water, vinegars, sugar, and salt in a saucepan on the stove. Heat lightly until the sugar and salt dissolve, but then allow the brine to cool to lukewarm/room temperature before adding to the jar.
  • Add the fresh dill, garlic cloves, and remaining called-for spices to the bottom of a clean quart jar.
  • Add recommended grape leaves (or oak, horseradish or black tea leaves) to the bottom of the jar now, or on top of the cucumbers.
  • Add the cucumbers into the jar until full, carefully packing to reduce wasted space.
  • Pour the brine over the top of the cucumbers until they are completely submerged. If you happen to run out, top off with plain white vinegar if needed.
  • Place an air-tight lid on the jar, and then move to the refrigerator.
  • For optimum flavor, allow the pickles to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 5 days before consuming.
  • Enjoy your homemade pickles within 2 to 3 months for best quality and flavor. Maintain refrigerated at all times.


DeannaCat signature, keep on growing

43 Comments

  • Charlotte

    5 stars
    I just put 6 jars of these in the fridge! Could these be processed in a waterbath for shelf stable pickles? Thank you for all the info on this blog! You are my garden guru!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Charlotte, since this recipe isn’t for canning I would look into suggested water/vinegar ratios used for canning pickles as well as the suggested time and temperature for safely canning pickles. Hope that helps, we appreciate your support and thank you for following along!

  • Laura

    Are you talking about grape leaves that grow on vines like the ones in my yard? Do you remove the grape leaves after the 5 days, of leave them in?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Yep, if you are lucky enough to have grape vines in your yard, just grab a few leaves per quart jar and toss them in. Just leave them in until you get rid of the brine once you’re finished with the pickles. Good luck!

      • Laura

        Should I remove the stems on the leaves and the leaf size on my vines vary wildly, can you give me an approximate size leaf I should use or does that not matter? I plan to omit the sugar, but could I substitute honey, or just leave the sweetener out all together? Thanks! I plan to make these today!!

        • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

          Hi Laura, leaf size doesn’t really matter. We take off the main stem but leave the leaf intact. Can you tell the size we used in our pickles from the photo? A couple that fit in the palm of your hand will work just fine and you can omit the sugar altogether, along with using honey as a substitute. Good luck and hopefully you enjoy the pickles!

  • Rosie

    5 stars
    I made these using ingredients from my garden and went heavy on the jalapeños and garlic. They have stayed so crunchy and flavorful, I plan to use the rest of my cucumbers for this recipe! Such a tasty snack, thank you.

  • Jerry

    5 stars
    Yesterday I made a batch of the Crunchy Dill Piclkles following your recipe, including a couple of grape leaves, vinegar and ACV and other ingredients you mentioned in the recipe, in four small mason jars. They are in the fridge now, and am anxious to try it after 5 days on this Saturday. Thank you for the easy to follow instructions.

  • Kathryn

    I’ve just prepared my first batch of refrigerator pickles and am anxiously awaiting them! I had a question though: why isn’t it vital that everything stay below the liquid level, as it is with fermenting?
    Thanks!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Kathryn, it is best to try and keep most of it submerged below the brine but vinegar is so acidic it doesn’t allow mold to grow that easily. You can always shake your pickles around once a day for the first few days to be sure the brine washes over any exposed parts. We didn’t do that on our batch and they turned out just fine.

  • Corinna E. Meissner

    5 stars
    I’m definitely going to give this recipe a try. Can I skip the sugar or is it essential for the crunchy pickling process?

  • Andrea Runde

    5 stars
    I have made something like these once before, but your recipe sounds better. From the basics, I KNOW they will be wonderful, and yes, I included a grape leaf or two also. Can’t wait to make your recipe. Sadly, tho, I will have to buy cucumbers because the nasty little rabbits kept eating off all the new shoots. Made us so disgusted we just pulled them out. Maybe next year?? ha

  • Harold

    5 stars
    I’ve never made pickles with apple cider vinegar before but I will give it a try now. These look delicious! The grape leaf is a trick I learned a few years ago and people are always surprised to hear that it works.

  • Lemony

    I saw soms video’s on YouTube about worm compost and other great content. I wondered if you had a website or other platforms that you’re using.

    I’m so happy to see that you have an updated websites with great recipes. I love your idea’s tips and tricks. Keep it up.

      • Miriam wedel

        5 stars
        Where does one find grape leaves and the other leaves you suggested ? Also what’s the difference between fresh dill and fresh flower heads? Sounds like a great recipe and so happy to find a recipe for 1 qt jars so don’t have a massive mess canning a canner full of qts.

        • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

          Hi Miriam, grape and oak leaves may be more difficult to source depending on your location. You can also use fresh bay leaf that you can usually find in the herb section of a produce department or black tea which may be more readily on hand. Fresh flower heads from dill is mostly referring to those that are growing dill as the tops can become large flower heads that are great for pickling. Hope that helps and enjoy!

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