Fermenting & Pickling / Recipes

What to Do With Leftover Pickle Brine?

Uses for leftover pickle juice

Here’s your frugal tip for the day: You can and should reuse your leftover pickle brine. Why waste such a delicious byproduct of those tasty pickles, especially one that was lovingly crafted in your kitchen?

Once I empty a jar of my favorite homemade pickles (say, these radish seed pods), I often save the brine, which is full of zesty flavor and pungent spices that have been steeping in the liquid for weeks.

Sometimes I’ll refill the old jar with new veggies and make quick pickles by letting them sit in the fridge for a couple of days (perhaps in a bath of Vietnamese đồ chua). I usually only reuse the brine once or twice; after that it’s become too murky for me to find it appetizing. (And do not attempt to re-can a jar in a boiling water bath using the old brine, as its acidity level may have diminished.)

Sometimes I’ll make a vinaigrette for a freshly harvested salad (like this garden delight with pea shoots). Whisked with olive oil, the brine has enough tang on its own but you can add pinches of salt, pepper, or other spices to it too. Aside from being a standard salad dressing, a dribble on steamed veggies (when you’d normally use lemon juice) adds just the right kick. (Try this with some kohlrabi pickle brine!)

Sometimes I’ll use it as a marinade for chicken before I grill, or I’ll poach a fish in my favorite pickle juice (this one with dilly beans pairs well with white fish). If you have a slab of beef, all that vinegary goodness tenderizes it to perfection — go ahead and give it a good soak!

It’s also my secret ingredient for tuna salad and potato salad (especially a tangy one like my bread and butter cukes). Pickle juice and mayo just go so well together! (And this works for all mayo-based salads, including egg salad, chicken salad, and macaroni salad.)

Add the brine to some broth to give your soup a lovely tang. (My rhubarb brine is especially good with noodle soups, Asian soups, and caldo verde, a Portuguese greens soup.)

For a puckery pick-me-up, add some brine to your bloody mary or dirty martini (this is my favorite way to use the juice from my hot and spicy pickled green tomatoes — and I’ll even throw in a few tomatoes with it).

And of course, there are people who like to drink the pickle juice straight… but I haven’t done that since I was 10.

How do you like to use your leftover brine?

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 »