Meet the Quickle, the Quicker-Than-Quick, No Recipe Pickle

Every time I’ve gone to pickle, I end up making jam. The jars are out and the intention is there, but the lack of time (aka, patience) prevents the follow-through and I end up filling the jars with raspberry jam, not pickled cucumbers. Because, let's face it, I’m Gen Y and far too accustomed to everything being instantaneous (I say with a mouthful of jam).

Usually the intention to pickle comes from walking through a deli or grocer and staring at the wall filled with polished jars of all the shades of pickles; my competitiveness gets the better of me and I find myself wanting a pickle wall of my own. Cucumbers are bought for pickling, but I quickly find myself realizing my inability to house even a small picklery in my tiny unit—not to mention how long I'd have to wait to reap the benefits. All this results in a lack of homemade pickles, a bare, jarless wall of my own, and a sense of inadequacy.

But I’ve solved this pickle! And found a way to make pickles that don’t clutter your shelves and need only a small amount of your time, a sharp knife, and in some cases, a fridge.

Say What?

Introducing the “quickle,” aka, a quick pickle. The concept was first introduced to me while recipe testing a burger for a fast meal that needed some onion with the onioniness taken out of it, and the puckery pickleness put in. (Trust me, it will make sense later.)

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“WOW. These were inedible! I used white vinegar, sugar, and salt in the ratio you recommend and they were so salty and acidic, they went straight into the garbage, even after just 30 minutes of pickling. Is there supposed to be water included to dilute the brine? If so, how much? ”
— Minnie

Quickling slaps a big Band-Aid over that nagging pickling inferiority complex that I sometimes feel. And while it has its limitations, the quickle makes you feel like you are #cookingyourbestlife. To me, there is nothing quite like seeing a wafer-thin piece of red onion or cabbage change from deep purple to vibrant pink after a mere touch of acid in a matter of seconds.

How Do I Get Started?

There’s no need for sterilized jars and lids; you can quickle in anything non-reactive. Be it a ceramic bowl, a mug, even in a roasting pan straight out of the oven. I managed to do just this recently: While my roasted cauliflower rested, I quickled some thinly sliced onion, fennel, and whole caraway seeds in the corner of the pan to toss through later.

Here's the key: I thinly slice everything! By thinly slicing or chopping your pickling ingredient very small, you increase the surface area and speed up the pickling process. This is crucial to quickling, and differentiates it from standard pickling.

What Should I Quickle?

My top ingredients for quickling would be: all onions, turmeric root, cabbage, green beans, baby cucumbers, and radishes. Then it’s onto making a balanced brine. Enter the Holy Trinity: sour, sweet, and salt. My tried-and-tested ratio is four parts sour (any kind of vinegar and or citrus juice), two parts sweet (any kind of sugar and or honey), and one part salt (flaked sea salt or fine kosher salt), and then you’re ready to get your quickle on.

At this point, it becomes a game of Choose Your Own Adventure:

  • Adventure No. 1: Combine brine components in a bowl and add chopped ingredients (here, I sometimes chuck a herb like dill in for that dilly-pickle flavor) for more of a fresh-tasting quickle.
  • Adventure No. 2: Place brine ingredients in a saucepan with aromatics (I like to use one or two of either juniper berries, coriander seeds, dill seeds, cloves, or bay leaves) and cook over high heat until salt and sugar have dissolved. Cool the mixture completely, then pour over your veg for a crunchy pickle.

Let the quickles, well, pickle for anything between one to 30 minutes and taste until you’re happy with the level of pickle flavor and texture. Then chill until needed. Pickles should last in an airtight container for two weeks in the fridge.

To save you even more time (yup, it’s possible), I like using leftover brine from pre-bought pickles—yes, I give you permission to grab a jar of quality pickles from that inspiring wall of pickles I mentioned earlier—as literally all the prep has been done for you. Just reheat the prepared brine, and you’re on your way.

Following my ratios, try these quickle hacks out for yourself:

  • Salad quickle: I always get my thinly sliced red onions going in a separate bowl with a cold quickle brine of apple cider vinegar and honey before being tossed through the salad leaves and olive oil.
  • Grilled seafood quickle: I heat some white wine vinegar, coconut sugar, and mustard seeds in a saucepan and pour the hot mixture over some thinly sliced turmeric. Set it aside for two minutes before serving with grilled butter-brushed prawns and crispy curry leaves alongside.
  • My favorite quickle right now: Juniper berries, white vinegar, dill, a dash of gin, and superfine/caster sugar in a saucepan brought to a boil and cooled. Pour over thinly sliced cucumbers. Quickle for five minutes in the fridge, and serve spooned over a side of oven-roasted salmon.

Something to Go with That Quickle?

How are you enjoying pickles this summer? Let us know below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Dee
  • BK
  • S
  • Minnie
  • Robert Clemons
    Robert Clemons
MOF.MOF: Maximum Of Flavour, Minimum Of Fuss.


Dee July 7, 2020
The salt is too much! Will try to fix my batch but pretty disappointed right now.
S July 7, 2020
I had a similar issue. I believe that the recipe writer is in Australia where flake salt (less salty) is more commonly used. I’m in the USA and attempted the recipe with kosher salt but it was too much. I haven’t reattempted yet but if you scroll down the recipe author gave some recommendations for when using non flake salt.
Dee July 9, 2020
Hi S, thank you for the reply. I actually was able to half way salvage them. I drained the liquid off of them, cut it with half water, and added it back. They were still crazy salty, but more edible, lol.
BK June 17, 2019
Just tried this recipe--it was awful. The salt ratio is WAYYYY too high--inedible.
It really doesn't take THAT much salt to make a safe brine.
S May 19, 2019
I thought this sounded so easy especially with the easy ratio but I should have heeded the comments. This was the saltiest pickle I’ve ever tasted- completely inedible. We tried to salvage it by removing half the brine, replacing it with water and adding lemon zest and fresh lemon juice. It improved it a bit but the saltiness comes in STRONG regardless. There is something majorly wrong with this ratio.
Samantha R. May 19, 2019
S, so sorry to hear this!!!
I might need to add the same amount of water to vinegar to the brine, as I didn’t take into account people using different types of salt. I always use sea salt flakes being in Australia, which are less intense. Usually I do 4 Tbs vinegar, 2 tbs caster sugar or honey and 1 tbs sea salt flakes. But if you’re using fine kosher salt I’d go for 1/2- 1tsp
Minnie January 31, 2019
WOW. These were inedible! I used white vinegar, sugar, and salt in the ratio you recommend and they were so salty and acidic, they went straight into the garbage, even after just 30 minutes of pickling. Is there supposed to be water included to dilute the brine? If so, how much?
Robert C. June 18, 2018
WOW I must have missed something. I made these "quickles". They are SO salty they were inedible
They had good crunch but it was too late to rinse the saltiness. I used the 4-2-1 ratio--What did I do wrong??
I like the premise of quick pickles.
702551 June 8, 2018
The undisputed world champions of the quick pickle are the Japanese who have developed the greatest appreciation for extended aged and quick preserved vegetables.

Their quick pickle recipes include salt, vinegar, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, sake, citrus (especially yuzu), kombu, but only a few of each in various proportions based on the cook's preference for a given dish. Sometimes the preserving liquid is cooked, other times it is raw.

One important step that the Japanese often use is "aku nuki" to remove bitterness. Basically, you salt the item, press it under a weight for 10-20 minutes and throw away the resulting liquid (which has extracted much of the bitterness).

I do this all the time with my favorite asazuke ("shallow pickle") made with sliced cucumbers and salt. I usually stick with a classic Japanese style and also use a piece of kombu and some citrus peel.

A related preparation is ohitashi, an item that is briefly steeped in a broth (typically a dashi based one). The classic here is with blanched spinach leaves, but many other items can be prepared this way.

If one is serious about these types of dishes, it is highly recommended to read a cookbook on classical Japanese cuisine. The Tsuji cookbook refers to five basic vinegar sauces and eleven vinegar dressings.

The range of items that can be enjoyed with a quick pickle/brine/sauce/broth is enormous, ranging from lowly turnips and radishes to fancy ingredients like kanisu ("vinegared crab" -- cooked of course), yet another classic.

Of course the simplicity of this technique will reveal the shortcomings of inferior ingredients.
Jennifer S. June 9, 2018
Totally agree about Japanese pickles, including the pressed oshinko. Delicious. I want to recommend also that the sweet component is optional in a quick pickle. I like most of mine without the sweet. Either way, quick pickles are great.
Fran M. June 15, 2018
Is Tsuji the author ?What is the name of the cook book?
Fran M. June 15, 2018
Is Tsuji the name of the author? What is the name of the cook book?
JoAnne L. July 22, 2018
I agree! I don’t like sweet in my pickles, quickle or otherwise!