Bread and Butter Pickles

Boxes filled with cucumbers from the farmers market, scores of mason jars, big pots, lots of activity in the kitchen, fresh homemade pickles. These are some of my memories from summers growing up.

My grandmother (dad’s mother) and my parents used to pickle a lot when I was a kid. My dad’s favorite was spicy carrot and cauliflower pickles (I’m still waiting for the recipe); my favorite was sweet watermelon rind pickles (can’t find watermelons with thick enough rinds to make these anymore).

Sweet pickles like these bread and butter pickles (who came up with that name?) never lasted that long around here; we kids gobbled them up.

Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread and butter pickles are easy to make, and if you are planning to make them as refrigerator pickles (storing them in the cold fridge, to be eaten within weeks), you can skip a lot of the canning steps. This is a basic recipe which we happen to love, cobbled together from various editions of the Joy of Cooking plus some online research.

The ice helps keep the cucumbers crispy, as does cooking them just a short time. You can experiment with the pickling spices, and the pickling vegetables for that matter. We have a jalapeño bread and butter pickle recipe for people who love their pickles spicy. Do you have a favorite bread and butter pickle recipe? If so, please tell us about it in the comments.

Bread and Butter Pickles Recipe

  • Prep time: 4 hours, 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Makes about 5 pint jars

Start with the freshest pickling cucumbers you can find; your pickles are only going to be as good as the produce you start with. The fresher the cucumbers are, the crispier your pickles will be.



  • 2 1/2 lbs pickling cucumbers (fresh from the market)
  • 1 pound white or yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup pickling salt (can use Kosher salt as a substitute, regular table salt has additives in it that will turn the pickles dark and muddy the color of the pickle juice)
  • 1 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 Tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 6 allspice berries plus a pinch of ground allspice
  • 6 whole cloves plus a pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric

If you are planning to store pickles outside of refrigerator, you will need the following canning equipment:

  • 5 pint-sized canning jars, clean, unused lids, metal screw bands for the lids (see Canning jars and lids)
  • 1 16-qt canning pot with rack
  • Jar lifters or tongs


1 Carefully rinse the cucumbers, scrubbing away any dirt that may have stuck to the ribs. Slice off 1/8-inch from the ends and discard. Slice the cucumbers in 1/4-inch thick slices, place in a large bowl.

bread-and-butter-pickles-method-1 bread-and-butter-pickles-method-2

Add the sliced onions and pickling salt. Stir in so that the salt is well distributed among the cucumber slices. Cover with a clean tea towel (thin towel, not terry cloth). Cover with a couple of inches of ice.

bread-and-butter-pickles-method-3 bread-and-butter-pickles-method-4

Put in the refrigerator and let chill for 4 hours. Discard ice. Rinse the cucumber and onion slices thoroughly, drain. Rinse and drain again.

2 If you are planning to store your pickles outside of the refrigerator for any length of time, you will need to sterilize your jars before canning, and heat the filled jars in a hot water bath after canning. If you are planning to eat the pickles right away and store them the whole time in the refrigerator, you can skip the water bath step. It's still a good idea to sterilize the jars first, you can do that by running them through the dishwasher, or placing them in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes. To sterilize the jars for canning, place empty jars on a metal rack in a large, 16-qt canning pot. (Jars must rest on a rack in the pot, not on the bottom of the pot). Fill with warm water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to warm to keep the jars hot and ready for canning. Remove with tongs or jar lifters one by one as you can the cucumbers. Sterilize the lids by bringing a pot of water to a boil and pouring water over a bowl containing the lids.

3 In a 4 qt or 6 qt pot, place the vinegar, sugar, and all of the spices. Bring to a boil. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the sliced cucumbers and onions. Bring to a boil again. As soon as the sugar vinegar solution begins boiling again, use a slotted spoon to start packing the hot jars with the cucumbers. First pack a jar to an inch from the rim with the vegetables. Then pour hot vinegar sugar syrup over the vegetables to a half inch from the rim. Wipe the rim clean with a paper towel. Place a sterilized lid on the jar. Secure with a metal screw band.

4 If you are planning to store pickles outside of refrigerator, process the filled jars in a hot water bath for at least 15 minutes. Return filled jars to the same canning pot with its already hot water. Water level needs to be at least one inch above the top of the cans. Bring to a boil and let boil hard for 15 minutes, or 20 minutes for altitiudes of 1001 to 6,000 feet. Over 6,000 feet, boil for 25 minutes. Remove jars from pot. Let cool down to room temperature. Jars should make a popping sound as their lids seal. If a lid doesn't properly seal, do not store the jar outside of the refrigerator.

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Jalapeno bread and butter pickles - try this technique with jalapenos instead of cucumbers, delicious!

Canning jars and lids

Canning information from

A different method for making bread and butter pickles using pickling lime and a brine, from The Slow Cook

Homemade Kosher dill pickles from David Lebovitz


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Showing 4 of 47 Comments

  • jo

    This was the year I was determined to make pickles. I have my Gran and great Gran’s recipe boxes and they are LOADED with pickle recipes. Gran didn’t consider it a meal unless pickles were involved. I broke out the recipe box and flick, flick, flicked through the cards for Mrs so and so’s pickles cousin blah;s pickles and all the recipes were a peck of pickles or more! I haven’t braved the canning beast yet, so I broke out Chris Schlesinger and Doc Willoughby’s Quick Pickles, scaled it back for a tester batch and OMG I was a happy girl. I bought a jar of pickles up in Maine at a local farmstand called The Greenspot and she added cayenne and chipotle to her sweet and sours and they were amazing so I did the same. Fabulous! Sweet and sour and bread and butter pickles are my fave. Gran used to make something called cheatie pickles that used already made pickles into a quick version of these, when I find that recipe I’ll put it up.
    The first batch I made was devoured in 2 days, I made more up in Maine when I was hanging with Mom and left them for my Stepdad who called one night to rave at how pleased he was that someone picked up the pickle mantle.
    I also concur with you about watermelon rind pickles, they are my fave! Sadly, as you said, they are breeding watermelons with thinner rinds, we are going to have to buy some heritage seeds and grow our own I guess. I still have my Gran’s cranberry glass pickle canister waiting for some to magically appear.
    I meant to blog pickles this summer and didn’t get a chance, thanks for bringing them to the forefront.

  • Jeanette

    I live close to the Rocky Mountains in western Canada and am not always assured of getting pickling cucumbers to mature in my garden. BUT, I always have an abundance of zucchini.

    This recipe uses zucchini to make bread and butter pickles and is every bit as tasty and the pickles are just as crunchy as with cucumbers.


    18 cups sliced zucchini
    1/2 cup coarse pickling salt
    4 medium onions
    1 green pepper
    2 red peppers
    3 cups good quality vinegar
    3 cups granulated sugar
    1 1/2 Tbsp mustard seed
    1 tsp celery seed
    1 tsp turmeric

    I use zucchini that are just a bit bigger than the baby variety. I also use a mandolin to slice the zucchini and onion evenly.

    The night before, slice washed, unpeeled zucchini around 1/8 inch thick. Put in an enamel roaster or some other non-corrosive dish. Sprinkle with the pickling salt, cover adequately with ice cubes. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

    The next morning, drain the zucchini well.

    Slice the onions and finely dice the peppers.

    In a large pan that is safe for using on a cook top (I use my large rectangular enamelled turkey roaster), combine the vinegar, sugar and spices and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Add the sliced onions and diced peppers and boil for another minute. Add the drained zucchini and cook at high heat just until they are warmed through completely and change color.

    Put in hot sterilized jars leaving around 1/2 inch head space. Make sure that you do not pack the jars too tightly with the pickles, you need enough liquid in each jar to do its job of pickling.

    Seal. Store in a dark place. Use in 3 weeks.

    Note: I use the mason jars with snap lids. Put the lids in a bowl and pour over boiling water. Sterilize the jars and keep them hot as you fill them with pickles. When the lids and jars and pickles in brine are all hot, you should get a very good seal.

  • Bob

    Sweet mercy, I love homemade pickles. My brother makes a sweet, garlic pickle and I have been begging him for the recipe. He keeps saying “oh sure, next time I make them I will call you and you can come by and blog them”, but do I get a call? No. It’s always “Oh, I have a jar of pickles for you. What, you wanted to blog them? I didn’t know”.

    … so I guess I can’t really complain. At least I get the pickles. Heh.

  • michael bash

    I’ve been makinng the Better Homes and Gardens bread ‘n’ butter recipe for about 35 years. Never let me down; everybody loves them! Consider green peppers optional. Never NEVER throw away extra/leftover juice. Freeze it for later or use in pot or mac salad.

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