We will discuss some of the best herbs and spices in pickles and how to use them to maximize flavor. Right from dill, and garlic, to peppercorns, herbs and spices have been used for centuries to make pickles delicious.
What Spices And Herbs Are In Pickles?
If you’re looking for a way to add a little something extra to your next batch of pickles, give these herbs and spices a try.
Dill is an annual flowering plant native to Southwest Asia and North Africa. While it is one of the most popular spices in pickles, dill seeds are used to flavor soups, sauces, and fish dishes.
The taste of this herb is similar to caraway, anise, and cumin, while the aroma is “fresh” and “herbaceous”. Dill has antioxidant and antibacterial properties and has been traditionally used to treat insomnia and indigestion.
Garlic has been used for many years in cooking, not only for flavor but also for its medicinal properties. Studies show it can help reduce high blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
When used with other spices in pickles, garlic adds a distinct flavor.
Known for its anise-like, pungent flavor, Tarragon is used to flavor chicken, fish, and egg dishes apart from herbal teas.
The herb is rich in antioxidants and minerals in addition to having antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Thyme is a perennial, aromatic herb native to southern Europe, particularly, the Mediterranean region. The leaves of the thyme plant have a strong flavor and can be used to add flavor to soups, stews, and sauces.
When used as a herb in pickles, thyme can add a subtle flavor that enhances the other flavors in the pickle. Plus, it is a great way of getting some added minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Easily grown indoors or outdoors, the fragrant herb is often used in pickles and other types of food, especially in Italian cuisine.
Basil’s flavor is a mix of anise, mint, and pepper that achieves a unique balance of sweet and savory.
When used as a herb in pickles, basil’s peppery flavor goes well with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and other vegetables.
Rosemary is a herb native to the Mediterranean region. It is used as a spice in many dishes, as well as for its medicinal properties. Rosemary is known to improve memory and cognitive function, and it also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Turmeric is a popular spice used in Asian cuisine that has many health benefits like being able to reduce inflammation, provide pain relief, and help with digestion.
Adding turmeric to your pickles will give them an earthy taste which goes well with the tanginess of vinegar-based pickling liquid. Of course, it will also add a nice yellow color to the pickle.
Refreshingly cool and flavorful, mint was originally cultivated as a medicinal plant by Egyptians who believed it could cure everything from stomach aches to headaches and toothaches.
There are over 20 different types of mint, with each having its own unique flavor profile and medicinal properties. When added as a herb in pickles, mint offers an extra kick of flavor.
9. Star Anise
Star anise is the fruit of a small evergreen tree native to southwest China, used as a culinary spice in many Asian countries. The fragrant spice can be ground into powder or added whole to dishes.
It has a sweet, licorice-like flavor that complements meat and vegetables. Star anise is the star ingredient in Sangria, a Spanish cocktail typically made with red wine, fruits, and spices.
Apart from its beautiful color, lavender plants are known for their fragrant leaves used in cooking.
There are many health benefits of lavender, with the most popular one being its ability to combat insomnia by promoting relaxation and reducing stress.
The pungent, earthy flavor of lavender makes it a great choice as a herb in pickles.
11. Black Peppercorns
Peppercorns are the dried fruit of a vine in the family of pepper plants. Black peppercorns are made by soaking green peppercorns in brine or vinegar that are then sun-dried.
The black peppercorns used as spices in pickles add a perfect spicy flavor and texture to the vegetable.
The European herb belongs to the mint family and has a mild, sweet flavor that is similar to oregano.
While more research is needed, marjoram is believed to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. It is also thought to boost digestion and relieve stress.
Galangal is a close cousin of ginger and turmeric that is used in many Asian dishes such as chicken soup, Thai curry, and Vietnamese pho.
There is evidence of its health benefits ranging from reducing inflammation and boosting immunity, to aiding digestion.
The root has a flavor that is similar to ginger, but it also has a peppery and zesty taste making it one of the best seasoning to put on pickles.
14. Mustard Seed
Mustard seeds are the most common spices in pickles.
These small and round seeds of the mustard plant are packed with fiber, B-complex vitamins, and minerals.
Mustard seeds can be of different colors – white, yellow, black, or brown – with lighter colors having milder flavors.
15. Coriander Seeds
Coriander seeds come from the coriander plant, a bushy annual herb that grows up to two feet tall. The leaves are light green, and feathery, and have a strong fragrance.
While they are an important spice in Indian cooking, coriander seeds add a nice crunch apart from a light, citrusy flavor to pickles.
With so much herbs and spices to choose from, you might be thinking: can you pickle herbs? So that you will always have some herbs at hand for your next batch of pickles.
How To Use Herbs and Spices For Pickling
While there are no hard and fast rules about how to use herbs and spices in pickles, here are some tips that can help you get started.
Thyme, mint, rosemary, lavender, tarragon, and basil in pickles;
- First, wash the leaves and remove any leaves that are brown or wilted.
- Next, add the leaves to the pickling mixture or layer it on top of the cucumber slices before pouring the brine mixture.
- If you’re using fresh leaves, add them in the last few minutes of cooking. If you’re using dried leaves, add them earlier in the cooking process.
- You can also tie a bundle of these herbs with string and place it in the pickling jar. This will give the pickles a strong herbaceous flavor.
There are different ways to add turmeric to your pickle.
- Boil water, vinegar, salt, black pepper, sugar, and turmeric powder.
- Cool the mixture down to room temperature before pouring it on the vegetables and fruits of your choice.
You can also just sprinkle turmeric powder on top of the vegetable or fruit being pickled and cover it with a brine mixture.
Galangal, garlic and ginger
- Place crushed galangal, garlic, or ginger in the bottom of the pickling jar.
- Add the vegetable or fruit of your choice and top it with the brine mixture.
Peppercorns, star anise, mustard, and coriander seeds
- Add the seeds on top of the sliced cucumbers (or any other vegetable) before pouring brine into the pickling jars.
- You can also boil the seeds or star anise in water, vinegar, salt, and sugar and cool it down to room temperature. Once it cools, pour it on the vegetable of your choice.
- Roast and powder or crush star anise and the seeds before adding them to the vegetables.
Best Herbs and Spices Used For Pickle Brine Summary
While experimenting with spices and herbs in pickling, remember to not overcook them. Adding them at the last stage will help preserve their nutrition and flavor.
Some spices and herbs such as dill, rosemary, and mustard seeds are usually used in sweet pickles. Garlic, ginger, mint, and peppercorns are more common in savory pickles.