Recipes / Fermenting & Pickling

4 Ways to Pickled Green Tomatoes

4 ways to pickled green tomatoes

I am drowning in tomatoes. Crunchy, tart, green cherry tomatoes.

Correction, I was.

By the time you read this, I’m well on my way to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, via a 10-day-ish road trip through Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico.

But this road trip was the impetus for the mad harvest last week of my rogue tomato plants, which have been exploding with fruit all summer long.

When you’re away for 10 days, things on the home front can feel a little stressful.

5Green tomatoes on the vine
End-of-season unripe tomatoes
Backyard harvest of unripe tomatoes

Who will water the garden, who will weed the beds, who will check for pests and trim off the dead stuff and pluck all the ripe veggies so they don’t waste away?

When I saw the hundreds of green tomatoes hanging off the vines, just days away from ripening, my other thought was — who will eat all of that?!

And so, just three days before I was set to leave, I spent a sweaty afternoon picking as many green cherry tomatoes off my plants as I could, hoping to preserve them so I wouldn’t come home to a mass of over-ripened, rotting fruit.

The final tally came to 55 pounds.

When you’re talking about cherry tomatoes, 55 pounds is a lot of tomatoes. I nearly tweaked my back hauling the harvest from the garden up to the house. (I know, I know — cue the violins.)

Related: Grow Tomatoes Like a Boss With These 10 Easy Tips

55 pounds of unripe tomatoes
Mountain of green unripe cherry tomatoes

Since I didn’t have time to get creative and whip up some relish or chutney, I decided to pickle all of them, thinking I can always turn those preserved tomatoes into relish later on.

And because I was canning up a storm (32 quarts in all), I pickled them four different ways so I wouldn’t get too sick of them come next summer.

Read more: 8 Canning Tips and Tricks for Modern-Day Home Canning

Guess what everybody’s getting for Christmas this year?

Jar of pickled green tomatoes
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4 Ways to Pickled Green Tomatoes

Makes 1 quart

Ingredients

1 pound green slicing tomatoes (or 1 1/2 pounds green cherry tomatoes)

For the Brine
1 cup white distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Basic Pickling Spice Mix
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice

Dilly Garlicky Pickling Spice Mix
2 teaspoons dill seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, peeled

Hot ‘n Spicy Pickling Spice Mix
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns *
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Curried Pickling Spice Mix **
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon whole allspice
3/4 inch fresh ginger, sliced into thin coins

Instructions

Cut larger (slicing) tomatoes into 1/2-inch wedges, and cut smaller (cherry or grape) tomatoes in half.

Green tomatoes ready for preserving
Pack jars tightly with green tomatoes

In a small saucepan, bring all of the brine ingredients to a boil and stir until the salt is dissolved. Remove the brine from heat.

Fill a hot, clean quart jar with the pickling spice mix of your choice. Pack the jar tightly with the tomatoes.

Bubble the jars with a chopstick to release trapped air bubbles

Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes, covering them completely and leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Stick a chopstick or “bubbling” tool into the jar and move it around to release any trapped air bubbles.

Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes
Leave 1/2 inch headspace in the jar

Wipe the rim clean, seal with a lid and band, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes (adjusting the time for altitude as needed).

Quick tip: Due to limited space on my stovetop, I now use this electric water bath canner and I wish I’d found it sooner!

Canning often takes up all the space in my kitchen so no one else can cook while I’m in there. The electric canner makes it possible for me to move the water bath process to the end of a kitchen counter, dining table, patio, or anywhere I have access to a plug.

In the summer, I like to set up my canning station outside so I can also enjoy some fresh air while keeping the house cooler.

There’s a drain spout on the side so you don’t have to lift a huge, heavy pot to pour it out, but this spout is also great for dispensing drinks.

If you need to make a large batch of a hot beverage (spiced apple cider, for instance), you can heat it up in the canner and use it as a convenient, mess-free serving station (no more ladles going in and out of a slow cooker). Such a plus in my party book!

Green tomatoes in pickling brine

Store the jar in a cool, dark place. The green tomatoes will be perfectly pickled in about two weeks.

Add them to sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, steaks, potatoes, or anywhere you would normally use relish. For a unique kick, you can even top off a Bloody Mary or dirty martini with a pickled green tomato garnish!

Recipe notes

* Szechuan peppercorns can be found at well-stocked Chinese or Vietnamese supermarkets in the spice aisle.

** When making curried and pickled green tomatoes, bring the brine ingredients, brown sugar, and curry powder to a boil. Stir until the spices dissolve completely. Fill a hot, clean quart jar with cumin seeds, whole allspice, and ginger coins; pack the jar with tomatoes; then pour the hot brine mixture over the tomatoes.

Pickled green tomatoes
Jars of pickled green tomatoes

Common questions about green tomatoes

Is it safe to eat green tomatoes raw?

Absolutely! Green tomatoes (as well as tomato leaves) are edible, raw or cooked. They’re completely safe to eat and — contrary to popular belief — no part of a tomato plant is poisonous.

As with any vegetable, the key is consuming green tomatoes in moderation (especially if you’re sensitive to acidic foods).

What do green tomatoes taste like?

Green unripe tomatoes are tart, acidic, and slightly astringent, depending on how young the tomatoes are. They have a firm, crunchy texture, and lack the juiciness of mature tomatoes.

While green tomatoes can be eaten raw, their astringency mellows out when cooked or canned.

What’s the difference between a green tomato and an unripe tomato?

Certain heirloom varieties of tomatoes (such as Green Zebras) start out green on the vine, and stay green when fully ripe. As they mature, their flavor sweetens, their pulp softens, and they become juicier inside, all while remaining green outside.

Unripe tomatoes (across all varieties) start out green as well, but turn any shade of pink, red, yellow, orange, purple, or black as they develop.

Pickled green tomato recipes use green unripe tomatoes, as their natural tartness complements the punchy flavors in pickling spices.

How can I get my pickled green tomatoes to stay crunchy after canning?

If these pickled green tomatoes are too soft for your liking after going through a boiling water bath, try skipping the boiling water bath and making them as quick pickles instead. Simply pour the hot brine over the tomatoes and spices, let the jar cool at room temperature, and store in the fridge.

Or, you can add Pickle Crisp (food-grade calcium chloride) to your jar, following the recommended package amounts.

If your pickled green tomatoes are mushy, the problem may be in the quality of green tomatoes used. Always start with firm, fresh, unripe tomatoes that were harvested before the first frost. (A freeze will turn tomatoes mushy, even if they appear fine on the outside.)

Unripe tomatoes left on the counter for a few days will also begin the process of ripening (and softening), so it’s best to use them as soon as you pick them.

What do you do with pickled green tomatoes?

Here are some of my favorite ways to use pickled green tomatoes in my everyday cooking: charcuterie and appetizer boards, potato salads, macaroni salads, green salads, salad dressings, burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and wraps, tacos, rice and noodle bowls, bloody mary cocktails, and dirty martinis.

I also have lots of suggestions for using the leftover pickle brine here!

Canning Sources

4 Ways to Pickled Green Tomatoes 1
Ball Wide-Mouth Quart Jars | Ball 4-Piece Canning Utensil Set | Ball FreshTech Electric Water Bath Canner
Yield: 1 quart

4 Ways to Pickled Green Tomatoes

4 ways to pickled green tomatoes

Turn an excess of green, unripe tomatoes into pickled green tomatoes with your choice of four different pickling brines.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 14 days
Total Time 14 days 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound green slicing tomatoes (or 1 1/2 pounds green cherry tomatoes)

For the Brine

  • 1 cup white distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Basic Pickling Spice Mix

  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice

Dilly Garlicky Pickling Spice Mix

  • 2 teaspoons dill seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled

Hot 'n Spicy Pickling Spice Mix

  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns *
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Curried Pickling Spice Mix **

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 3/4 inch fresh ginger, sliced into thin coins

Instructions

  1. Cut larger (slicing) tomatoes into 1/2-inch wedges, and cut smaller (cherry or grape) tomatoes in half.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring all of the brine ingredients to a boil and stir until the salt is dissolved. Remove the brine from heat.
  3. Fill a hot, clean quart jar with the pickling spice mix of your choice. Pack the jar tightly with the tomatoes.
  4. Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes, covering them completely and leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Stick a chopstick or "bubbling" tool into the jar and move it around to release any trapped air bubbles.
  5. Wipe the rim clean, seal with a lid and band, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes (adjusting the time for altitude as needed).
  6. Store the jar in a cool, dark place. The green tomatoes will be perfectly pickled in about two weeks. Add to sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, steaks, potatoes, or anywhere you would normally use relish. For a unique kick, you can even top off a Bloody Mary or dirty martini with a pickled green tomato garnish!

Notes

* Szechuan peppercorns can be found at well-stocked Chinese or Vietnamese supermarkets in the spice aisle.

** When making Curried Pickled Green Tomatoes, bring the brine ingredients, brown sugar, and curry powder to a boil. Stir until the spices dissolve completely. Fill a hot, clean quart jar with cumin seeds, whole allspice, and ginger; pack the jar with tomatoes; then pour the hot brine mixture over the tomatoes.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1/2 cup

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 47Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 815mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 1gSugar: 7gProtein: 1g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

This post updated from an article that originally appeared on August 29, 2011.

More green tomato recipes you might like

Linda Ly 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 »

200 Comments

  • Avatar
    Nora
    September 21, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Awesome—I appreciate the variety —

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Katie Lagerstrom
    September 15, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I just processed a round of the dilly variety. The hardest part is having to wait to taste them. I really appreciate 4 options with basically the same instructions. It encourages me to experiment with my own combos.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Camille Martin
    September 13, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    I cant wait to try these! I have about two pounds of green tomatoes left that my mom dropped off (Her friend gave them to her from her garden). I already made a garden relish with green tomatoes, peppers, onions and cucumber but still have about 2.5 pounds left of green tomatoes and these looks delicious. What would you suggest to have with these?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      September 16, 2013 at 6:44 pm

      Lately I’ve been enjoying pickled green tomatoes in homemade tacos with grilled meats. They’re also good in potato salad (and other mayo-based salads).

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Camille Martin
        September 16, 2013 at 7:31 pm

        I made three jars of this so cant wait to see how they taste. I just made some homemade tortillas and topped them with beans that i cooked with some tomatoes and onions I had mashed and a tablespoon and a half of homemade taco seasoning and with that I put some homemade hummus and some homemade garden relish(Super sweet and tangy relish that just made this dish go from ok to amazing) and sweet and sour pickled red onions and cucumber and lettuce. It was delicious! I cant wait for the three weeks to be up so I can try these pickles!

        Reply
  • Avatar
    Tricia
    September 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Will this work with sliced or quartered regular size tomatoes? Frost is coming and I have tons!!! The curry version sounds wonderful.

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      September 9, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      Yep! I make jars and jars of these with whatever green tomatoes I have at the end of the season.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Amber
    September 6, 2013 at 7:05 am

    I made these and they were fantastic! I did NOT cut my tomatoes and they were just fine! I left them for about 3 weeks before cracking them open. My favorites were a combination of the basic pickling spice + dill and garlic. SO GOOD! I had never had pickled green tomatoes before and I’m so glad I tried them. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      September 7, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      I’m so glad they turned out great for you! These are some of my favorite pickles, ever.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    cathy
    September 5, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Did you slice them to fit more per jar or is it a necessity? If I leave them whole, do I need to pierce them?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      September 7, 2013 at 2:56 pm

      I sliced them so I could fit more tomatoes in the jar. But no, it isn’t necessary. They will absorb the brine just fine!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Teri
    July 30, 2013 at 3:48 am

    These look just like some of the ones a friend of ours use to can and they are SOOOO good. I have looked everywhere for a recipe like it. You could just eat them right out of the jar, yum! I was wondering. Do they have sort of a tart taste? I hope so cause that would be perfect. He also added a couple cloves of garlic. I am going to try them today.

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      July 31, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      It depends on how tart your green tomatoes are to begin with, but usually they just pick up whatever flavor you’re pickling them in.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Joy
    July 28, 2013 at 8:54 am

    There are different types of curry. What type do you recommend?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      July 28, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      I use an all-purpose curry powder that’s not too sweet (and leaning a little toward the hotter side). The dominant spices in mine are turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, and pepper. I’d say, go for a high-quality curry that you like, as the tomatoes will just pick up that flavor.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Harold Cochran
    July 7, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Linda,

    Just tried the garlic recipe. I had a a crazy amount of patio tomatoes. The taste was awesome. I used garlic from a jar. Smell was overpowering, had to place in zip lock bag. I also experimented with the szechuan peppers recipe, not hot at all. Any suggestion on a spice that is hotter? Add jalapeño?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      July 7, 2013 at 10:59 pm

      If you want something really fiery, try adding whole chilies or double the red pepper flakes.

      Reply
  • Linda Ly
    Linda Ly
    December 23, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Looks like you’ve got all the right ingredients for a green tomato salsa there!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Z Monkey
    December 11, 2012 at 2:56 am

    Nice site, I was looking for a green Tomato picking recipe and found this.  Hot and Spicy sounds right for me.  I’ll give it a try…

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      December 11, 2012 at 3:04 am

      Hot ‘n spicy is my favorite one!

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Z Monkey
        December 13, 2012 at 4:05 am

        http://scientilosopher.blogspot.com/2012/12/late-fall-harvest.html

        This is my late fall harvest.  My fall Tomatoes didn’t do very well, didn’t have enough time for them to ripen before the first freeze.  I’m going to start some winter vegetables here within a week or so, after I clean out the frozen plants.

        Reply
  • Avatar
    Renee
    November 10, 2012 at 7:09 am

    When I search for green tomato at the site, I don’t find this recipe. When I search for green tomato asian recipes I find it. Quirky search engines eh?

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Renee
      November 10, 2012 at 7:10 am

       Should have said, the second search was by google, not on this site.

      Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      November 11, 2012 at 3:53 pm

      Bizarre? I just searched for “green tomatoes” on my blog and the post showed up on the second page of results.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Renee
        November 12, 2012 at 6:46 pm

        IDK but I had to go to google and search there instead to find the post. Love your photos btw. Very nice blog. 🙂

        Reply
        • Linda Ly
          Linda Ly
          November 20, 2012 at 5:59 pm

          Thank you!

          Reply
  • Avatar
    Whatayear2009
    October 29, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Will processing them in the boiling water cause the tomatoes to become mushy?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      October 30, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      The tomatoes do become soft, but not mushy. I’ve canned them using both the boiling water bath and refrigerator pickle methods, and I prefer the softness that the boiling water bath brings.

      If you need to can them in a boiling water bath, you can try adding calcium chloride (Pickle Crisp) to maintain the crispness; or you can simply put the jar in your fridge without processing it. I’ve had an unprocessed jar in my fridge for three months and it’s still good!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Suegeiger53
    October 28, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    I found these recipes to late, I live in ND and we really had an early frost this year, so had to pick all green ones. I really am going to love to make the dill garlic ones, all other recipes I found always call for sugar, which some family members don’t care for. Thanks so much, storing this one on Pinterest till next summer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Oakley Dogger
    October 25, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Wow!  I’m glad I stumbled upon your blog.  Beautiful photos and great info!  I just started a balcony garden.  I received a packet of tomato seeds.  I really have to try this.  Any advice on starting these tomato seeds? 

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      October 26, 2012 at 10:10 pm

      Unless you live somewhere super warm, I wouldn’t recommend starting tomato seeds until spring. Even in my zone (10b) they grow very slowly over winter because of cooler weather and decreased daylight. Try some fall-friendly plants for your balcony, like greens or peas!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    bcannon
    October 20, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Would these work as “refrigerator pickles” if I dont want to can them? 

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      October 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm

      Yes! Just let the flavors develop over a few days in the fridge before you eat them.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    paula
    October 18, 2012 at 6:57 am

    after putting jars in bath fifteen minutes the lids did not pop?

    Reply
  • Linda Ly
    Linda Ly
    October 13, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    At higher altitudes, water boils at a lower temperature so you have to compensate for that by increasing the canning time.

    In general, add 1 minute more per 1,000 feet for recipes that call for less than 20 minutes of processing; add 2 minutes more per 1,000 feet for recipes that call for over 20 minutes of processing.

    So… if you were to can these pickled green tomatoes, which call for 15 minutes at sea level (where I live), you would actually need to process them for at least 21 minutes (I personally would round up to 25 minutes to be assured of a safe seal).

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Charity
    October 7, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Ooooh, I’m so exited to make these with my glut of tomatoes this year. I’m planning to make bloody mary mix and roasted tomato salsa with the red ones, but anything that is green….bring it! 

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      October 13, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      If you make bloody mary mix with the red tomatoes, pickle the green ones to use as a garnish for your bloody marys! It’s sooo tasty.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Kasia Lucia
    October 6, 2012 at 6:44 am

    Can you explain adjusting the water bath time for altitude? I am new to canning. I live at 6,035 feet above sea level.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Honestly
    September 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    I came here for pickling recipes, but seeing that picture of you with the surfboard, I’d like to take a bite out of your ass.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Georgia1009
    August 19, 2012 at 7:52 am

    This sounds great; can you add tomatillos to them also?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      August 19, 2012 at 10:25 am

      I don’t see why not! Sounds delicious!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Jjvking2u
    July 23, 2012 at 8:00 am

    could I use canning salt instead?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      July 25, 2012 at 9:46 pm

      Absolutely!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Jjvking2u
    May 4, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    I could’nt find any actual cherry tomato seeds but found small tomato variety, should be ok to use if i slice them? & thanks for sharing recipes that were’nt really spicey;)

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      May 4, 2012 at 10:53 pm

      You can use any tomatoes that are still green and unripe. Just slice them up or cut them into small wedges to fit in your jar.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Callie
    October 22, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Made a quart each of your garlic dill and curried picked cherry tomatoes – can’t wait to try them.  Hope you enjoyed your road trip!

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      October 22, 2011 at 10:09 pm

      I just had the garlic dill pickles the other night as a side to some grilled steak… so tasty. Beats store-bought pickles for sure.

      Reply
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