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

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 »

175 Comments

  • erin henrie
    November 15, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    I tried the Basic Pickling spice mix and it was HORRIBLE. I’m so sorry to say that. Not trying to be mean but I’m trying to help someone who is new to bottling green tomatoes. I would highly recommend NOT using that recipe.

    Reply
  • Jennifer Hunter
    November 15, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    Hiya, can I substitute dried dill weed for the dill seeds? Having a hard time finding them. Thanks!

    Reply
  • Noelle Tristan
    November 15, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    Your recipes look amazing! Can I substitute the vinegar for Apple Cider Vin? If you don’t remove the bubbles will it ruin the batch?

    Reply
  • Suzy Vance
    November 15, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks for the recipe… I only hav green romas in the garden. Would you use that and how would be recommend cutting the tomato?

    Reply
  • Leona Olson
    November 15, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    I had green tomato pickles a few weeks ago and really liked them. What a lot of tomatoes you had. Great.

    Reply
  • Connie Hesher
    November 15, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    Made these and they were good but a bit soft for me. Mom loved them. I’m going to try again and use grape leafs for crispness. Wish me luck!

    Reply
  • J. Dennis
    November 15, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    can I use powdered cumin instead of cumin seeds? if so. what is the equivalent conversion seeds to powder. thanks
    jd

    Reply
  • Kenny Reid
    November 15, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    How long is the self life of pickeled green tomatoes?

    Reply
  • Jimi
    December 8, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Once opened should these be refrigerated or will the vinegar still keep them stable?

    Reply
  • Liza
    October 1, 2017 at 10:53 am

    I eaten pickled green cherries without it being cut up. The gentleman what brought just marvelous pickles to church pot luck told me to use my fav pickling recipe & do nothing else with the tomatoes but pickle like you do any vegetable.

    Reply
  • Kelly Curdie
    November 6, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    I am wanting to process in pint jars instead of quart. Does the process time change?

    Reply
  • Carroll Curtis
    November 1, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    The tomatoes tend to float and it is hard to get them completely covered with the brine. Will they be OK if a small fraction of tomato is above the brine?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
      November 2, 2016 at 12:44 am

      As long as they’re properly canned in the water bath, they’ll be shelf stable. You can periodically give the jar a shake to make sure all the tomatoes are infused with brine.

      Reply
    • Imaghmoor
      November 15, 2020 at 12:56 pm

      Turn the can upside down for a day or two then turn back.

      Reply
  • tee
    October 28, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Do I have to add lemon juice to the jars so the tomatoes don’t go bad after canning?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
      November 1, 2016 at 12:26 am

      Correct. The lemon juice raises the acidity for safe canning.

      Reply
      • Carroll Curtis
        November 1, 2016 at 1:20 pm

        I do not see lemon juice listed as an ingredient. Did I miss something?

        Reply
        • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
          November 2, 2016 at 12:40 am

          My mistake, I thought the previous comment was referring to another recipe. No,
          you do not need to add lemon juice. The vinegar in the brine makes this
          acidic enough for safe canning.

          Reply
    • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
      November 2, 2016 at 12:39 am

      My mistake, I thought this comment was referring to another recipe. (I answer comments held in a moderation queue, not on the page itself.) No, you do not need to add lemon juice. The vinegar in the brine makes this acidic enough for safe canning.

      Reply
  • dan
    October 26, 2016 at 7:04 am

    can green tomatoes be pickled in a cold pack method?? I use Dill pickle mix and just fill the jars with assorted veggies and pour the bubbling brine over into the jars and let them seal on their own when they cool down. been doing it that way for 4 yrs but have never tried doing green tomatoes.

    Reply
    • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
      October 28, 2016 at 2:47 am

      Hi, this recipe IS for cold-pack pickles. The cold-pack method still requires water bath canning for safe long-term storage, but you can certainly do it your way and refrigerate any jars that don’t properly seal.

      Reply
    • Susan Rubinsky
      November 15, 2020 at 12:52 pm

      Dan, I do the same thing. Then check the jars to insure they seal. If a jar doesn’t seal, I put it in the fridge. I put the sealed jars on a shelf and put in the fridge after opening. The pickles are a lot crispier using this method.

      Reply
  • Henry E Riehl
    October 16, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Do tomatoes prepared in such a manner ferment and yield probiotics? By early-October I am always overwhelmed my a cornucopia of green tomatoes. I ferment cabbage and pickles and would love to add to these great sources of probiotics.

    Reply
    • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
      October 17, 2016 at 11:55 pm

      These are vinegar-based pickles, so they will not ferment. However, tomatoes CAN be fermented using standard fermentation methods.

      Reply
  • John Dante Mazzone
    October 5, 2016 at 6:13 am

    Tried this. ended up with 6 jars of very mushy tomatoes. Inedible. 15 minutes?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
      October 14, 2016 at 5:06 pm

      The processing time is correct for quart-size jars (processed at sea level). These pickled green tomatoes are not meant to be crisp, they should be soft but still pleasant. Different factors can affect the outcome, including the quality of tomatoes you started with, how much water they contained, even your definition of “very mushy.” If you prefer crisp pickles, you can skip the processing and turn them into refrigerator pickles. You can also try adding Pickle Crisp (calcium chloride) to your next batch, but I’m uncertain how that would turn out as I’ve never used it for tomatoes.

      Reply
    • Tim
      November 15, 2020 at 12:52 pm

      Hot brine and green maters don’t mix… use cold brine and refrigerate. .I’ve eaten them 10 months later and still great. Lots of dill and lots of jalepenos is the way to go. Or just lots of dill..

      Reply
  • Ramina Kol
    August 19, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Hi Linda. We loved your recipe but found it a little too vinegary for cucumbers/pickles. Do you think it is safe to reduced the vinegar to 3/4 of a cup instead of 1? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
      October 15, 2016 at 1:18 am

      It’s not safe canning practice to reduce the vinegar. However, if you eat the pickles right away after canning, it should keep in the fridge for a week or so (that’s a conservative estimate).

      Reply
  • Timbo
    August 19, 2016 at 11:02 am

    First time I’ve been to your site, and I’m just an old southern boy. So I don’t mean to insult any of your fans that post here, but come on. The recipes I’ve read here are about as plan and simple as any I’ve seen anywhere. People, slow down, read the directions, and thank Miss Linda for all she’s done to share some very good recipes with us. I thank you for it all Linda…….Tim

    Reply
    • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
      October 15, 2016 at 1:19 am

      I appreciate the kind words, Tim! And welcome!

      Reply
    • Garraidh
      September 13, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      I was just thinking the same thing, and I’m a Yankee boy. Lol. (Although my granddaddy was born and raised in Lynchburg TN and I have a few kinfolk down there.) People just don’t seem to take the time to actually read things from Once upon a time to The End anymore.

      Reply
  • Marcos Munoz
    May 15, 2016 at 7:52 am

    I prefer to leave the cherry tomatoes whole. Is there a way to do this?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
      October 17, 2016 at 7:27 pm

      Yes, you can leave your cherry tomatoes whole (you just won’t be able to fit as many in the jar).

      Reply
    • tee
      October 28, 2016 at 2:55 pm

      poke a few holes in the tomatoes first so that the brine can really get in there 🙂

      Reply
  • Matt
    November 16, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    Last question. The brown sugar did not dissolve till after I processed them and noticed it at the bottom. Total crisis or ok? This is my first attempt at pickeling

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      November 16, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      The sugar was supposed to be boiled in the brine until it dissolved (as stated in the directions). The flavor might be a bit uneven but it’s not a crisis. If your jar sealed properly, the pickles will last a long time but should ideally be used within 1 year for optimal quality. If you wanted these pickles crisp, simply store the jar in the fridge without processing it.

      Reply
      • matt
        November 17, 2014 at 7:31 am

        yeah i saw that note after i finished haha….flash backs from every teacher i ever head went through my head….read everything before you start:-)

        awesome thanks!!!!

        Reply
  • Matt
    November 16, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    Also how long will these keep?

    Reply
  • Matt
    November 16, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    What would I do if I wanted to make these crispy

    Reply
    • gopher0
      July 30, 2015 at 9:37 am

      Pickle Crisp

      Reply
      • Tim
        November 15, 2020 at 12:52 pm

        Cold brine…no alum crap.

        Reply
    • Mary Wise
      August 16, 2016 at 4:45 am

      For crispy pickles: Soak sliced tomatoes for 24 hours in 2 gallons of water with 2 1/2 cups of lime (from grocery store). Wash well and then soak another 24 hours in 2 gallons of water with 1/2 pounds alum. Rinse again and soak for 6 hours in water with a box of ginger mixed in Then begin your recipe. This a a process that my grandmother would’ve called “trouble”, but it works and it’s worth it.

      Reply
      • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
        October 15, 2016 at 1:21 am

        Thank you for the suggestion. Pickle Crisp (calcium chloride) is the commercial version of what you explain here, and should work as well.

        Reply
  • wcradd
    November 13, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Sorry. Saw the answer to my question from a prior poster.

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      November 14, 2014 at 8:34 pm

      No worries, enjoy your pickles. 🙂

      Reply
  • wcradd
    November 13, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Can you put the jars in the refrigerator and not do the processing?

    Reply
  • Lucinda
    November 12, 2014 at 6:23 am

    Hi Linda,

    I am looking for something to finish up the rest of the green tomatoes I have sitting around (I am drowning in chow chow and green tomato salsa verde). I am really interested in making the dilly version of these but I’m not much on canning in quarts , I just like the amount a pint gives me. How can I alter the recipe for pints? This is my first year canning and doing good so far! 🙂

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      November 12, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      You can simply halve the recipe ingredients to produce a pint. Processing time remains the same. Enjoy!

      Reply
      • Lucinda
        November 13, 2014 at 9:34 am

        Thanks! It was the processing time I was worried about!!!

        Reply
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