Zucchini Pickles

In the past, I have publicly expressed my dislike of bread and butter pickles. Honestly, I just don’t love sweet pickles. Usually. But maybe I think I don’t because so many are overly sweet and lacking in flavor. So, it was with a bit of trepidation that I tried this recipe for zucchini pickles from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook. My friend Sandra was the first to recommend the recipe, and she is a very trustworthy source. Judy Rodgers ain’t bad either.

My first impression was that these are seriously good looking pickles. The combination of mustard powder and turmeric gives them a beautiful chartreuse color. And believe it or not, I like the way they taste. This first round, I followed the recipe exactly. I remain tempted to reduce the sugar a little for my next try, but part of me thinks that the sugar is important and that I actually like the sweetness. These would be such an incredible side to serve with a grilled burger. I can’t think of anything better.
Bryan was super skeptical. First of all, he insists on calling these pickled zucchini. Pickles is an honorary title only awarded to cucumbers. But even he admitted these were good. The recipe says they’ll keep indefinitely in the fridge, which means you can still be eating your bumper crop of zucchini when there is snow on the ground.

Zucchini Pickles (from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers)

  • 1 pound zucchini (medium-smallish)
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar (I would try 3/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed yellow and/or brown mustard seeds
  • scant 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Wash and trim the zucchini, then slice 1/16-inch think on a mandolin. Slice the onion thin as well. Place together in a large but shallow bowl, add the salt and toss to distribute. Add a few ice cubes and cold water to cover, then stir to dissolve the salt.

After about 1 hour, taste and feel a piece of zucchini- it should be faintly salty and softened. Drain, making sure to remove any reaming ice cubes. Dry very thoroughly between towels, or use a salad spinner. The zucchini needs to be very dry- otherwise it will not be crisp. Rinse and dry the bowl you were using.

Combine the vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds, and turmeric in a saucepan and simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside and cool until room temperature.

Put the zucchini back in the bowl and add the cooled brine. Stir to distribute the spices.

Transfer the pickles to jars. Cover and refrigerate for at least a day before serving to allow the flavors to mellow and permeate the zucchini. Rogers says these will keep indefinitely in the fridge.

46 comments to “Zucchini Pickles”

  1. Hmm….I’m not a fan of sweet pickles either…but I do have a lot of zucchini in the fridge!

  2. These really are a gorgeous color! Tumeric is sadly so often overlooked in my kitchen for some reason, but this is really great inspiration to dig it out & give some pickled zucchini a try.

    I bet these are incredible on sandwiches, maybe with a little spread goat cheese and roasted red pepper. Yum.

  3. Wow. These look incredible. I’ve wanted to try making pickles for a while, but no recipe has grabbed me enough to get me to actually do it. This one is just the thing!

  4. nom, so good good good

  5. There’s a similar recipe in the book the Joy of Pickles, which is a fun book to flip through if you haven’t checked it out before! Thanks for the timely seasonal recipes.

  6. I’ve never been a sweet pickle fan either. But I love the idea of pickling zucchini! Once mine are in full force I plan to try this recipe out, thanks!

  7. I love when you use recipes from books I already own. It’s a kind tap on the shoulder that tells me to give it another once over.

    As for pickles, I love bread and butter pickles, but the kind that are usually labelled “sweet with heat”. I like that zing of spice after that initial sweet taste. So I’m gonna bust out my Zuni book and mandolin and see where it takes me!

  8. There is a wonderful restaurant called Rabbit (yes, they always have a rabbit dish on the menu) in our nearby city which serves the most amazing hamburger. (It’s off menu… you have to ask for it.) The beef is superior, cooked only to barely medium, the bun is freshly made and perfect, and it is served with the best salty pommes frites. The thing that makes the burger otherworldly, though, is the pert fresh house-made pickles it is served with. Thanks for the push to give these a try, as I’d like to not have to drive 45 minutes for such a lovely burger!

  9. Yes, yes, I agree they look good. But, I’d like to hear a comment from someone who has actually TRIED this recipe.

  10. …Okay, I have to agree with Bryan on this one. Pickling zucchini, okra, watermelon rinds, etc., does not make one a pickle. I feel the pickle crown belongs to the cucumber only…jmho. ;o)

    …These do sound delish’ tho’ and thank you for the recipe!

    …Blessings :o)

  11. I’m on the fence about sweet pickles, but I definitely want to give this a shot. I’ll be sticking close to your blog for ideas on how to use my Midwest CSA :)

  12. I agree with Brian about the naming of the ‘pickles’ :). they look extra tasty though, and i’m generally not too big a fan of sweet pickles. maybe zucchini is different?

  13. THANKYOU THANKYOU THANKYOU!!!

    I made these 3 years ago and promptly lost the recipe. I’ve been looking for it for nearly 2 years and haven’t been able to find it amongst my boxes of misc recipes and paper scraps. It’s so delicious!

    I can’t wait to make pickles this weekend.

  14. Kasha- nice! Glad I could help!

  15. jan canyon says:

    August 6th, 2011 at 7:57 am

    These can only be equaled by Zucchini Relish which is surprisingly delicious! I will add thses to my pickle making extravaganza. JNow I am off to find fresh peaches…..YUM!

  16. Hello!

    I was totally about to post a zucchini pickle recipe! Photos and all. You beat me to it! Mine are spicy, but I’m going to have to wait. I linked your blog on my site! People love it!

    —-Sarah

  17. jam (tini's friend) says:

    August 6th, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    hi tim,

    this looks great! i have been doing a ton of pickling this summer with all the excess farm produce. just a question, could you make these and process them so they would be shelf stable?

  18. jam! i know you without the description. ; ) the main issue is a texture one- these pickles are never heated and so it keeps the thin strips of zucchini crispy. if you were to water process these, you’d lose that. but supposedly these keep for months in the fridge, so maybe not necessary anyway? good to hear from you! xoxoo

  19. Hey Tim, if you managed to win Bryan’s approval, then these must be DAMN good (no offense people!). I LOVE zucchini (the capitalization says it all), but the pickling is an interesting twist. The last pickle I made were carrot pickles soaked in a ginger steeped white vinegar (Clotilde’s version). I wonder if zucchini could be used in this case.

    Is there any vegetable out there that hasn’t been pickled?

  20. These are great. This recipe is a real keeper. We made them yesterday after I found your blog on a Google search for Zucchini Pickles. This seemed to be the easiest recipe I found, and I didn’t have to go to the store for some spice or seed I will never use again.

    Thank you for the recipe.

  21. Bitter Badger says:

    August 7th, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Generally not a fan of sweet pickles either but I love Happy Girl Kitchen’s zucchini bread and butter pickles so I will definitely be trying this recipe!

  22. If you process these can you keep them on the shelf? (pre-opening of course)

  23. Wondering about the salt water ice bath. What is the purpose? And can it be skipped?

  24. These are great on tuna sandwiches instead of pickles.

  25. @ Katrik…..would love the recipe for the ginger carrots :) I am making the zucchini pickles today! Love trying new recipes especially when the comments are so positive.

  26. Joanna- No, I wouldn’t process these. They will lose their crispiness. But I haven’t tried.
    Jen- The ice water keeps the zucchini crisp, it should not be skipped.

  27. I am not a fan of sweet pickles either but if you gave this recipe a try I will take your cue and open my mouth to a new experience. And your photo/text looks so good that I want to eat my screen.

  28. AHHH! These sound awesome. I trust anything that comes from Zuni. Awesome post.

  29. How is a zucchini cut to 1/16″ gonna stay crisp in a pickly preparation?

  30. Hi lownbrown! I love rhetorical questions, too! Is crisp the wrong word? A bite remains. It doesn’t turn to mush. Is that what you were debating? In any case, they are delicious.

  31. Tim,

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE these pickles. I’ve been making them annually ever since Luisa wrote about them a few years ago, and I recommend them to *everyone* I encounter who has an excess of zucchini in their lives. They are SO ADDICTIVE!

    Alas, you are more open-minded than I am in your willingness to embrace the sugar content. ‘Bread and butter’ pickles sort of make me shudder, so the first time I used 1/3 cup sugar (http://ferriswheelbohemia.blogspot.com/2008/08/in-pickle.html) and still found them too sweet. Then I went the other extreme and only used 1 T (http://ferriswheelbohemia.blogspot.com/2009/06/pickled-piper.html). Think I have at last settled on 2 T and a pinch as my “sweet spot.”

    So tweak at your discretion, but whatever you think your preferences and prejudices are when it comes to pickles, do give these a go! They’re super easy and supremely delicious!

    -Whitney

  32. I had the same question as a few others re: preserving. Might try it anyway as an experiment. Meanwhile I made a variation on this with ribbons of pale green Pattypan squash (seeds removed) and a few carrot threads for, agave instead of sugar, turmeric, coriander & mustard seed. It was a big hit! Thanks for the inspiration.

  33. In response to Joanna and Alice: these are lovely post-processing. I made the same recipe for the last two years , and processed in a water bath for 20 minutes or so. They have a fantastic texture and hold up nicely – perhaps not a huge crunch but definitely worth it nonetheless. (I would compare crunch but haven’t had them unprocessed.) My favourite pickles ever – I can a lot and these are the only ones people ask about year after year!

  34. One last thought: I sliced my zukes width-wise instead of length wise. Perhaps this helped preserve the texture?

  35. Angela! Thanks so much for that very useful information. How thickly did you slice your zucchini? They sure are delicious, and it is good to know you like them after processing!

  36. I sliced mine by hand as thin as I could muster (I don’t have a mandolin). I would guess about 1/8 an inch, though it was hardly uniform. The onions were a little thicker since they’re harder to cut. Really really worth the effort. May I recommend on a veggie burger, and on a thin cracker with goat cheese? Best. Pickles. Ever.

  37. Yum! I was hooked by the color and the description so I made a batch last week. Everyone who has tried them loves them, and I plan to make more soon to have on hand for homemade hamburgers. Thanks.

  38. Yay, Cynthia! So glad you liked them. Me too, and burgers are also on our horizon. Seems like such a perfect pair.

  39. Oh! Love the presentation of thin vertical slices. I try to be conscious of the aesthetic presentation of my canned goods and made some diagonal rounds of sweet and sour zucchini pickles but for some reason I was never tempted to eat them. I’ll have to try again using this method!

  40. Those look delicious! And the photos are fantastic too. Pickles rock.

  41. Gads – these are GORGEOUS!

  42. Made these the other day and keep sneaking to the fridge to grab a forkfull out of the jar. The best pickled thing I have eaten (aside from possibly pickled beets – anyone have a recipe for that?). I have so far served them with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes on a dark wheat bread. But have been thinking about using them in potato salad as well.

  43. We made these last summer and loved them, then I forgot where I found the recipe… Thank goodness for the brilliant photo you took! When it popped up in the google image search (my best tool for finding the forgotten source of a fantastic recipe) I remembered it immediately.

    These are truly a treat, cool and briny from the fridge. They pair so well with grilled fare, can be chopped into a salad with celery, mayo, apple, and leftover chicken for a twist on “chicken salad.”

    To your note – these do last a while – though this is hard to test as they typically don’t stay around for long.

    As far as prep is concerned, we were fortunate to receive a Breville Sous Chef food processor as a wedding present from a very kind family member. Its adjustable slicing disc makes quick work of the zucchini and onions.

  44. Wow, this sounds really good! The only problem I have is that I don’t have a scale. About how many zucchini is in one pound? Our zucchini will be ready in a few weeks and I’d really love to try this. Thanks.

  45. Vickie,

    You’ve got to get a scale! Look for one at a yard sale, or borrow one from a neighbor. There is no way to describe how many zucchini are in a pound since every zucchini is a different size and shape and weight. Or, just wing it and see what happens. : )

  46. Great recipe! added the seeds of 10 cardamom pods, very slightly crushed.

What do you think?