These sweet and spicy refrigerator pickles are easy to make and require no canning! These quick refrigerator pickles are the absolute best and make the perfect side dish or topping to your sandwiches, hamburgers, or salad.
Why Make This Recipe
What you’ll love:
- No canning
- No special equipment
- Fast and easy
- Perfectly flavored.
These quick sweet and spicy refrigerator pickles are a fan favorite. They are sweet and spicy and easy to customize. You can switch out the vinegars or add more peppers for extra heat. Make these pickles extra hot or extra sweet, the choice is yours!
We’ll give you the rundown on what kind of cucumbers will give the best results and different ideas on how to switch up the flavors. This recipe requires minimal effort and is easy to halve or double.
- Cucumbers. Make sure your cucumbers are not overly ripe. See our section on choosing the right kind of cucumber.
- Salt. Salt helps draw out the extra moisture in the cucumbers and onion to help keep them crispy.
- Red Onion. Red onion adds great flavor to the pickles.
- Vinegar. Apple cider vinegar pair perfectly with the sweet honey and spicy pepper.
- Water. Water works as a carrier for the vinegar so it isn’t too potent.
- Honey. Honey adds amazing flavor and is the perfect sweetener in this recipe.
- Garlic. Fresh garlic is best.
- Crushed Red Pepper. Crushed red pepper adds just the right amount of heat.
How to Make Sweet and Spicy Pickles
- Slice cucumbers. Remove and discard the ends of the cucumbers. Slice cucumbers about ¼ inch thick. Thinly slice red onion (you’ll need about 1 cup).
- Salt Cucumbers. Sprinkle salt over sliced cucumbers and red onion. Place on tray lined with paper towels or in a colander to drain off any excess liquid. Let sit for 1 hour.
- Boil vinegar. Add vinegar, honey, garlic, water, and crushed red pepper to a small pot and bring to a boil. Stir until smooth and let boil for one minute. Cool completely. NOTE: If you plan on using several small jars I have noticed that you need more pickling liquid. Increase the ingredients in pickling liquid by 50%.
- Rinse Cucumbers. Rinse the salt off of the cucumbers and onions and pat completely dry.
- Pour over cucumbers. Place cucumbers and red onions in a jar or jars. Pour cooled vinegar in the jar over top of the cucumbers and onions.
- Refrigerate. Place lids on jars and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before eating.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
These sweet and spicy pickles are much healthier than the sweet pickles you’d buy at the store. They are low in sodium and have no preservatives or dyes added. We are using honey to sweeten them, but you can replace the honey with something like stevia or monk fruit sweetener to make them low calorie and sugar-free.
Refrigerator pickles have a weaker brine than traditional pickles, resulting in little to no fermentation. They are also not processed in a water bath making storage in the refrigerator a necessity.
The secret is to cool the pickling liquid and what kind of cucumbers you choose to make your pickles.
If your refrigerator pickles are mushy it could be due to a couple of issues. It could be that you poured hot or warm vinegar mixture over your cucumber or forgot to salt the cucumbers before using. Or it could be due to the kind of cucumbers you used. Certain cucumbers result in crunchier pickles than others. If your cucumbers were overripe the pickles will also turn out soggy.
Salting the cucumbers before soaking in the pickling liquid is essential! When you salt the cucumbers it helps remove excess liquid from the cucumbers, resulting in a crunchier pickle.
- Use Cool Pickling Liquid. Make sure the pickling liquid has completely cooled. If you use hot liquid it will make your pickles go soggy.
- Try Different Pickle Shapes. I usually make my pickles in round circles but feel free to try different shapes! You can do crinkle-cut rounds, spears, or sandwich slices.
- Try a different container. Remember, you don’t have to use a jar. You can use a food storage container if that works better for you. Just make sure whatever container you use keeps the cucumbers submerged in liquid. Also, a reminder to make sure your jar and container are clean. While the jars do not need to be sterilized because we will not be processing the jars in a water bath, your containers still need to clean to prevent any bacterial growth.
What Kind of Cucumbers to Use
Choosing the right kind of cucumbers for your pickles can make a huge difference in how your pickles come out. There are breeds of cucumbers that are considered “pickling” cucumbers. These cucumbers usually have a thinner skin; a firm, dry flesh (less moisture = crunchier); and are smaller in size.
Some of the best pickling cucumber breeds are: Boston, Bush, Calypso, Kirby, National, Jackson, Sassy, and Gherkins.
Slicing cucumbers, like English cucumbers and Garden cucumbers are the most common cucumbers found in grocery stores. These cucumbers can be used, however they will not be as crunchy and grow softer with time.
That said, I usually use English cucumbers (I prefer English to Garden). For me, it’s too hard to find other breeds of cucumber unless I am growing them in my own garden in the summer. These refrigerator pickles are delicious no matter what kind of cucumbers you use.
Substitutions in this Recipe
One thing I really love about this recipe is how easy it is to customize this refrigerator pickle recipe. You can easily swap vinegars or honey for a different sweetener. These swaps will obviously change the flavor of this recipe, so do so with caution.
Make it Sweeter or Hotter
If you want more of a sweet refrigerator pickle recipe you can increase the amount of honey in this recipe. If you want more of a spicy refrigerator pickle you can increase the amount of crushed red pepper or try adding some jalapeno or serrano in with the cucumbers.
Add or Use Other Vegetables
Try adding other vegetables in place of or with the cucumbers. You can use sliced zucchini in place of cucumbers. The instructions for this recipe will not change. If you want to try adding vegetables like green beans, cauliflower, carrots, or asparagus, blanch the vegetables and rinse off before adding to the jar.
How to Make this Recipe Vegan
The honey in these sweet and spicy pickles is not vegan. To make this recipe vegan replace the honey with sugar or your favorite sweetener. You could use agave, coconut sugar, etc.
How to Make this Recipe Keto
If you are following a low-sugar, low-carb, or keto diet, it is easy to swap the honey in this recipe for a sugar-free sweetener. You can replace the honey with your favorite sweetener that measures 1:1 like sugar. Splenda, monk fruit sweetener, or erythritol will work great in this recipe. If you want to use something like stevia you’ll have to adjust how much you add, stevia is usually much more potent than sugar.
How to Eat sweet and Spicy Pickles
These sweet and spicy refrigerator pickles are amazing on hamburgers, sandwiches, salads, or even just by the bowlful!
How to Store this Recipe
Refrigerator pickles need to be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. They are best eaten within 3 months.
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Sweet and Spicy Refrigerator Pickles
- 6 cups sliced cucumbers (about 3 medium cucumbers)
- 1 cup red onion thinly sliced
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 1 ¼ cup apple cider vinegar see notes
- 1 cup water
- 5 tablespoons honey see notes
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper Or more for more heat
- Remove and discard ends of cucumbers. Slice cucumbers about ¼ of an inch thick. Thinly slice red onion.
- Sprinkle 3 teaspoons of salt over you thinly sliced cucumbers and red onion. Place cucumbers and onions on tray lined with paper towels or in a colander and let sit for 1 hour—this helps remove the extra moisture from the vegetables. Set aside and start on your pickling mixture.
- In a small saucepan on low heat add your vinegar, water, honey, minced garlic, and crushed red pepper. Bring mixture to a boil and let boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Please note: If you plan on using several small jars you will likely need more pickling liquid—Increase ingredients by 50%.
- After your cucumbers and onions have sat for 1 hour, rinse salt and pat dry. Add your cucumbers and onions to 1 large jar or divide between 2 medium size jars (see notes). It’s okay to really squish the cucumbers and onions in there. Pour the pickling liquid into the jar(s) covering the cucumbers and onions. Place lid on tightly and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before eating.
- You can use any kind of vinegar you want, I prefer apple cider vinegar because it has a sweet taste and pairs well with the other flavors.
- 5 tablespoons on honey will give you a mildly sweet pickle, if you like your pickles really sweet try adding 8 tablespoons of honey.
- This recipe fits perfectly into a 46 (1.88 liter) ounce jar or you’ll need 2-32 (1 quart) ounce jars. Or you’ll need some combinations of medium and small jar like 1-32 (1 quart) ounce jar and 1-16 (½ quart) ounce jar. If you use smaller jars, you may need to increase the amount of pickling liquid you make by 50%.
originally posted September 16, 2018
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