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What are Sweet Pickles?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Sweet pickles are pickled cucumbers made with salt, sugar, vinegar, and an assortment of pickling spices. Technically, any type of vegetable could be pickled with this spice mixture, but the convention of referring to pickled cucumbers as “pickles” will lead most consumers to associate cucumbers with sweet pickles. These pickles are readily available in grocery stores in whole, sliced, diced, and spear forms, and they are also relatively easy to make at home, providing that you have canning experience.

Sweet pickles differ from kosher or dill pickles because the primary flavor is the sweetness, rather than a tart flavor caused by pickling in salt. Some consumers prefer the flavor of sweet pickles, while others find them too cloying. Relish is commonly made from these pickles, and they also frequently appear as a garnish for hamburgers and fried foods, as the sweetness interacts with the salty flavor of the food.

When well made, these pickles are crisp and crunchy, just like their more sour counterparts. Some consumers prefer a softer pickle texture, and will soak their pickles in repeated changes of warm water before canning to give the pickles a mushy texture. Others pickle in one day, and add alum to the pickling mixture so that the pickles will remain crisp. In both cases, it is important to make pickles in spotlessly clean canning jars to avoid the onset of rot and mold.

As with sour pickles, sweet pickles can be made in a variety of ways. Changing the pickling spices is the most common way to adjust the flavor, but some cooks also add ingredients like other vegetables, especially garlic and sweet onions. Most grocery stores carry a range of tart and sweet pickles with an assortment of additional ingredients. Variations with additional vegetables such as carrots and cauliflower can be more difficult to find, except at specialty store which carry a ranged of pickled vegetables.

Gherkins, pickles made from the Cucumis anguria plant, are often made sweet. This cucumber is related to the cucumbers primarily used for pickling, Cucumis sativus, which are sometimes mislabeled as gherkins when they are pickled at a young age. As can be seen, a gherkin is actually a completely separate species, and because of the tendency of gherkins to be slightly bitter, they are often used to make the pickles. Sweet pickles made with gherkins are particularly popular in Great Britain.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By literally45 — On Apr 09, 2014

@stoneMason-- I'm exactly the opposite, I love sweet pickles. The type I buy are actually called "candied dills," so you can imagine how sweet they are.

Although they may taste too sweet if you eat them straight up, when eaten with salty foods, especially meat, they are perfect. I think that sweet pickles are the best to have with roast beef or turkey. We had turkey sandwiches for dinner last week and we put sweet pickles in them. The whole family loved the sandwiches and people even asked for extra pickles. Just delish!

By bluedolphin — On Apr 09, 2014

@stoneMason-- Have you ever tried sweet and spicy pickles? Even if you don't like sweet pickles normally, I'm sure you will love these. They're sweet pickles but they are also hot peppers in the jar which make the pickles both sweet and spicy. It's difficult to describe the flavor. All I know is that they are addictive and can be eaten with anything-- salads, sandwiches, fries, hamburgers, hot dogs and more.

So before you decide never to eat sweet pickles again, I think you should try some of the varieties. I'm sure you'll find something you like.

By stoneMason — On Apr 08, 2014

I don't like sweet pickles, I'm just not used to them. I once bought them by accident and was shocked when I bit into one. I like my pickles salty and crisp.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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