Pickling peppers is one of the most enjoyable and easiest ways to preserve food at home, and the results are delicious. You can try different types of peppers, brines, shapes, and sizes, and each will have slightly different but delectable results.
The process for pickling peppers is much like the process for pickling any vegetable. Cut the peppers into the desired sizes, put them in a jar, and cover them with hot brine. Store in the refrigerator, and they will be ready after at least 24 hours of soaking in the brine.
If you’ve never pickled anything before, this might still sound a little complicated, but the learning curve isn’t steep at all, we promise. By the end of this guide, you will learn everything you need to know to get started pickling peppers. This includes what peppers to use, how to make a savory brine, and what to expect from your first batch of pickled peppers.
Which Peppers are Best for Pickling?
The first step to making pickled peppers is figuring out what peppers to use. As you can imagine, bell peppers will have a very different flavor than Jalapeños. The good news is, pretty much any pepper can be pickled! So the real decision should be based on your own taste and preferences.
Here are some of our favorite peppers to pickle are:
- Hungarian Wax
- Hot Cherry
The best pickled peppers are made with peppers that are fresh from the garden, but peppers from the grocery store will do just fine. Believe it or not, you can even pickle dried peppers as well if fresh peppers are not available, The brine essentially rehydrates and softens the dehydrated pepper.
You can also add peppers to other pickled vegetables to add spice to the brine. I personally love to pickle Jalapeños with carrots, the sweetness of the carrots complements the spice of the Jalapeños perfectly. Another fun choice is pickling a bunch of different colorful peppers together in one batch.
There are no rules here! Want to pop a Habanero with your Bell peppers? We won’t stop you!
Which Vinegar is Best for Pickling Peppers?
Most pickled pepper recipes will suggest using distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Any vinegar that has at least 5 percent acetic acid is suitable for pickling.
Let’s take a look at a few different types of vinegar you can use to pickle peppers and why you might choose one or another:
- Distilled white vinegar: Distilled white vinegar is one of the most inexpensive vinegars around, and it is easy to find in large quantities which comes in handy for a pepper pickling party. It typically has 5 percent acetic acid. Many prefer distilled white vinegar because it has a plain vinegar flavor.
- Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is a staple in most homes and has a slightly different flavor compared to distilled white, and is usually sweeter. The flavor is described as woody or apple-esque.
- 10 percent pickling vinegar: Old school pickled pepper recipes may insist that you use vinegar with 10 percent acetic acid because that was the standard back in the day. To truly replicate the vintage recipe, you’ll need it. If you substitute a 5 percent vinegar, the pickles may lack tartness.
The only vinegar you can’t use to pickle peppers is vinegar with less than 5 percent acetic acid or those where the acetic acid content is unknown. If the vinegar used doesn’t have at least 5 percent acetic acid, your pickles will be unsafe to eat.
Step-by-Step Guide for Pickling Peppers
Roll up your sleeves, Peter Piper, because we’re about to pickle some peppers! Here is your step-by-step guide to pickling peppers.
Prepare Your Peppers
Even if you’re pickling whole peppers, you got some prep work to do. This can take a few minutes or an afternoon, depending on the number of peppers you’re pickling. Note: When handling hot peppers, it is prudent to wear gloves. This will help keep your fingers from getting irritated.
- Wash the peppers. If you have a couple of peppers, just pop them under running water. If you’re processing a large batch of peppers, you can fill a bowl of water and give them a dunk. If your peppers are fresh from the garden or farmers’ market, you may need to do a little more rinsing to get rid of insects and dirt. Wiping the peppers drycan help you catch any hidden dirt, but it is not necessary.
- Cut and core the peppers. If you’re pickling peppers whole, you can skip this step, but for all other types of pickled peppers, you’ll need to cut open the pepper with a knife and remove the core. You can remove the seeds as well if desired. For thin slices, and to speed things up, use a mandolin.
- Rinse the cut peppers one more time (optional). If you’re pickling hot peppers, a second rinse will create a milder pepper.
Prepare Your Jars
Where you intend on storing your peppers once pickled (in the refrigerator or outside in room temperature) will determine how you prep the jar or container.
- For quick pickled peppers, simply make sure that the jar is clean and doesn’t have any cracks or chips. You could use any container for this purpose, like a Mason jar or even an old pickle jar.
- For canned pickled peppers, you need to sanitize your jars. Clean the jars in the dishwasher or with soap and water. Place the jars in a canner or a large stockpot and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil and boil the jars for 15 minutes. A few minutes before it comes time to fill them, you can place them on a kitchen towel (or non-stone surface).
In this article, we go over the basics of canning pickles, but if you’ve never canned before, we recommend looking into how to safely use a water bath to can vegetables before you start pickling.
Make the Brine
Pickled pepper recipes usually call for a hot brine. Every brine recipe is a little different, but it is very important to put in the proper proportions of ingredients, especially if you’re canning the pickled peppers. The amount of salt and vinegar is important to keeping the peppers from going bad.
Making the brine is usually as simple as making soup. It’s just bringing a bunch of ingredients to a boil! If you can make pasta, you can make a brine. We’ll talk about specific recipes later, so keep reading!
Pack the Peppers Into the Jar
Packing is the easiest part of picking peppers.
- Place the seasonings (things like crushed garlic and peppercorns) in the jars.
- Pack each jar with peppers, but do not overfill. You should have at least a half inch of space between the top of the peppers and the top of the jar.
- Pour the brine over the peppers until they are just covered.
- Use a butter knife or spoon to skim off any air bubbles and top off with more brine if necessary.
Finishing Refrigerator/Non-Canned Pickled Peppers
If you’re planning to store your pickled peppers in the refrigerator, then you don’t have much left to do.
- Allow the peppers to sit in a safe place until they reach room temperature.
- Place a lid on the jar.
- Give the jar a shake. This probably isn’t necessary, but we like to give the jar a shake to make sure everything is mingling together.
- Store in the fridge. Ideally, eat after 24 hours and within three months.
Finishing Pickled Peppers When Canning
If canning, you still have a bit more work ahead of you. If you’re making a small batch of pickled peppers, it is only about 20 minutes worth of work, but if you’re making a large batch, it will likely take much longer depending on the size of your canner.
- Wipe the rim and outside of the jar with a kitchen towel.
- Place a vacuum seal on each jar and then the rings. The rings should be snug, but do not overtighten them.
- Place the jars in the boiling water in your canner or stockpot for 15 minutes if using quart jars and 10 minutes if using a pint jar.
- Remove the jars when the time is up using a jar lifter or tongs. Place on a kitchen towel (and never on stone) until they reach room temperature.
- Store pickled peppers in a cool, dry place. Ideally, eat after 24 hours and within a year.
Best Recipes for Pickled Peppers Using Jalapeño, Banana, and Habanero Peppers
If you’re starting out your pickling adventure with peppers, we recommend skipping the canning process and making only small batches until you’ve got the process down. Of course, if you already have canning experience, you could be ready to jump right into the thick of it.
Here are some of our favorite recipes for pickled peppers for beginners:
- Sherried Jalapeño Pickles from the Old Farmer’s Almanac are a great place to start. The recipe is simple and just goes to show how easy pickling can be.
- Easy Pickled Banana Peppers from The Country Cook has all the staples of a good pickled pepper recipe without being overly complicated.
- This Pickled Habaneros recipe from Mexico. When I make this recipe, I usually add to the ingredients list because I like to add other vegetables along with the Habaneros. If you like heat and want a recipe that is a bit pared down compared to the above two, then start here!
- These Pickled Bell Peppers from the National Center for Home Food Preservation are sweet and tangy. The directions are for canning, but you can opt-out of the canning if you want and just pop them in the fridge once they reach room temperature.
How Long Does it Take to Pickle Peppers?
From my experience, pickling peppers generally takes around 30 minutes to an hour. It varies based on how many peppers you’re pickling and if you are doing the simple refrigerator/uncanned version or the more time consuming canning process.
Most of the time spent when pickling peppers is in the preparation. The slicing, coring, seed removal, and chopping require the most time. After that, it is just a matter of making the brine and putting the ingredients in a jar.
Time Consideration for Canned vs Refrigerator Pickled Peppers
Refrigerator pickled peppers, also called quick pickled peppers, take the least amount of time. They are a favorite among home picklers because of this. After the jars reach room temperature, you simply put them in the refrigerator until you’re ready for a snack.
Canning will add about 15-20 more minutes to your cooking time. However, once your pickles reach room temperature, you’ll be able to store them in your panty, and they won’t be taking up space in your fridge.
How Long Does it Take for Peppers to Become Pickled?
Most pickled peppers take 24-48 hours before reaching the perfect pickled flavor. Additional time allows the peppers to take on more of the brine’s flavor, which makes for a tastier and tangier pickled pepper.
What Can You Use Pickled Peppers For?
If you’ve never had pickled peppers before then you might be wondering what you can do with them. Here’s the thing about pickled peppers… they’re amazing. You can use them for all sorts of things. You might have even eaten them without knowing it.
Here are some of the ways people use pickled peppers:
- Add them to a salad
- Mix them with regular peppers in salsa
- Add them to Tex-Mex favorites like quesadillas, tacos, nachos, or burritos, whole or chopped.
- Put them on a sandwich as you would any other pickle or to add heat
- Use sweet pickled peppers as a pizza topping, or hotter pickled peppers for a spicy kick
- Blend pickled peppers into a bloody mary for a spin on the classic drink
Here are some ways you can use the leftover brine from pickled peppers:
- Leftover brine can be used in another brine for other vegetables or meats
- You can use it instead of vinegar in homemade salad dressing
- You can use it instead of vinegar in dishes like potato salad or deviled eggs
- It makes a great acid for marinades, especially for meat that needs tenderizing
- If the brine is spicy, it can be used to add some tangy heat to sauces or black beans
- Pickled pepper brine can also put a new twist on pickle shots.
Really, what can’t you use pickled peppers for? They go just about anywhere a pepper would go!
Are Pickled Peppers Good for You?
Peppers are one of the healthiest vegetables out there, and adding them to your diet raw, cooked, or pickled will certainly give you a boost.
Here is why peppers are good for you:
- Peppers are packed with micronutrients and antioxidants. They are a good way to get Vitamins A and C, and potassium in your diet. Some contain carotenoids and capsicum as well. They say you should try to eat a rainbow of colors every day, and peppers help with that.
- Peppers are low in calories. A pepper typically contains around 20 calories, and it packs a ton of flavor. You can add it to any dish for flavor without adding too many unnecessary calories.
- Peppers are a good source of fiber. When you consider how low they are in calories, they contain a good amount of fiber, which has been proven to improve health and reduce the risk of many common diseases like heart disease.
But what about pickled peppers? They’re as good for you as the peppers themselves, and the addition of vinegar only adds to their healthiness. Vinegar has many health benefits, and it has been used as a home remedy for things from lice to heartburn.
The only thing to be careful about is the level of sodium in pickled peppers. If you make your own at home, you can adjust the sodium level to your taste and dietary needs.
Do Pickled Peppers Need to be Refrigerated?
This depends on how the pickled peppers were made! Let’s break it down:
- Store-bought pickled peppers: Check the label. Most pickled peppers can be stored in your pantry until they are opened. Once opened, they should be stored in your refrigerator.
- Canned pickled peppers: Properly canned pickled peppers can be stored in a cool, dry location as long as they are unopened. Once you’ve broken the vacuum seal, they must be stored in the refrigerator. If a seal fails during the canning process, the pickled peppers should be stored in the refrigerator. Always check your seal before opening. If a seal fails while in storage, the pickles aren’t safe for eating and should be thrown out.
- Quick or Refrigerator pickled peppers: If you haven’t gone through the canning process for your pickled peppers, then you have to store them in the refrigerator.
Does Pickling Peppers Make Them Hotter or Milder?
Pickling peppers usually makes them milder because some of the spiciness from the pepper leeches out into the brine. So a fresh Jalapeño is almost certainly hotter than a pickled one.
If you’re interested in hot pickled peppers, leave the seeds in the pepper or add them in with the seasonings you plan to use—the seeds of a pepper pack quite a punch. You can also add a spicier pepper into the mix to increase the heat. If you put a serrano in with your Jalapeño, you’ll end up with spicier pickled peppers.
If you want a milder pickled pepper, remove the seeds and rinse the pepper before using it for pickle making. This helps take away some of the heat.
How Long do Pickled Peppers Last?
Pickled peppers that have been canned at home will last about two years if stored in a cool, dry location, but we usually recommend you can enough to last you six months to a year. This will ensure your pickled peppers don’t degrade in quality and taste.
Once opened, pickled peppers will last about a year in the refrigerator, but again, we recommend finishing them within three months for the best quality.
The longer a pickled pepper sits in its juice, the softer it will become, especially once the jar is opened. Eventually, they will get mushy, and you’ll want to toss the jar well before the peppers become unsafe to eat because they will no longer be palatable. I never had a jar of pickles go bad on us….. but that’s also because they don’t last very long in our household and are usually completely eaten in days!
We hope by now you’ve figured out that pickled peppers are one of the easiest pickles to make, especially if you aren’t planning to can them. If you do want to can your pickled peppers, take heart in the fact that pickled peppers only require water bath canning. Water bath canning is much simpler than pressure canning.
Honestly, once you’ve gotten a couple batches of pickled peppers under your belt, you’ll be a pro!