Fermenting & Pickling / Recipes

Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread and butter pickles

No, we’re not actually pickling bread and butter of any kind. This classic pickling recipe is so named because back in the olden days when times were tough, the sweet and sour pickles were tucked between two slices of buttered bread to make a hearty sandwich.

And you know what? It’s quite delicious! I like to take it a step further and press my sandwich in a panini maker with a rich layer of cheese (try Gruyere or havarti!). It’s a small yet satisfying sandwich perfect for a midday snack.

Bread and butter pickle sandwich

Unlike sweet pickles, bread and butter pickles have a tangy bite to them. Traditionally people have used pickling cucumbers in their recipes (the cute little cukes that are half the size of standard cukes), but I find that any cucumber works. Here, I used a combination of what I had on hand: Dragon’s Egg, Metki Painted Serpent, and Mexican Sour Gherkin.

(You might remember that Metki Painted Serpent is actually a melon, which means you can go wild and substitute any veggie in this recipe, such as a bell pepper, green bean, or baby zucchini. They’re all good!)

Bread and Butter Pickles

Makes 1 quart


Cucumbers, sliced (enough to fill a quart jar)
Kosher salt
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon mustard seeds (I used a mix of brown and yellow)
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes


I like my cucumbers thickly sliced. If you succumbed to that impulsive buy at Bed Bath & Beyond and have one of those fancy criss-cut knives, you can finally break it out for this task and make some ridged cucumber slices! Très gourmet.

Slice cucumbers with fancy criss-cut knife

If you’re using Mexican Sour Gherkins, you don’t actually have to slice them in half like I did. They’re perfectly suitable for pickling whole, but since I like to layer my pickles in sandwiches, I prefer a flatter profile.

Slice cucumbers

In a small bowl, liberally salt your cucumber slices with a handful of kosher salt. The salt will draw the moisture out of your cukes (improving flavor and texture), so let them sit for at least an hour or two.

Liberally salt cucumbers to draw out moisture

After time is up, rinse and strain your cucumbers well to remove any excess salt.

Rinse cucumbers

Add your onion slices and combine all the ingredients.

Combine cucumber and onion slices

To make your pickling brine, add the apple cider vinegar, sugar, and spices to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir the brine until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove from heat.

Make pickling brine

Heat vinegar, water and spices

Pack a clean jar with your cucumber and onion slices.

Pack jars with cucumber and onion slices

Pour the hot pickling brine into your jar, making sure all the cucumbers and onions are submerged (though it’s okay if a few slices float to the top). Let the brine cool to room temperature, then seal with a lid and ring.

Refrigerate your pickles for at least a day to allow the “bread and butter” flavor to fully develop, though it’s best after three days.

Fill jars with pickling brine

If a straight-up bread and butter sandwich is not your thing, you can mix these pickles into a potato salad or tuna salad or even a pasta salad. You can top off a hot dog or hamburger with your very own bread and butter relish, or use them to spice up a boring ham sandwich. Enjoy!

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »


  • Drscot
    August 31, 2016 at 9:07 am

    Will adding an oak or grapevine leaf keep the pickle crisper as I’ve read in other recipes or will it destroy the flavor?

    • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
      October 15, 2016 at 1:05 am

      I’ve never tried it, so I couldn’t tell you. But I’ve heard the same thing about grape leaf; if it works out for you, please come back and let us know!

  • Mon
    September 22, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    Hi Linda! I also have far too many cucumbers that I could possibly eat. So need to pickle them. However, I don’t have a big refrigerator. Do you think this recipe will work processing them in water? So filling the jar, closing and boiling the jar in hot water for 15mins??

    • Linda Ly
      September 25, 2015 at 11:19 pm

      Yes, you can process these pickles in a boiling water bath, but keep in mind that their texture won’t be crisp the way refrigerator pickles are.

  • Mon
    September 22, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    Hi Linda! I also have far too many cucumbers that I could possibly eat. So need to pickle them. However, I don’t have a big refrigerator. Do you think this recipe will work processing them in water? So filling the jar, closing and boiling the jar in hot water for 15mins?

  • Lucy
    October 21, 2013 at 2:36 am

    I want to try making your Bread & Butter Pickles from this recipe. Hw long can they keep refrigerated? without canning them….

    • Linda Ly
      October 21, 2013 at 8:41 pm

      Mine are still good after 6 months, but I also have a very cold fridge.

  • Lucy
    October 21, 2013 at 2:33 am

    I want to try making your Bread & Butter pickles from this recipe however, how long can you store them in the rfefrigerator after you bottle them??


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