Bread and Butter Pickles


How to make sweet sliced cucumber bread and butter pickles, perfect for sandwiches.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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 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 Prep the cucumbers: 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.

2 Toss sliced cucumbers and onions with salt, cover with ice, and chill 4 hours. Then rinse and drain:

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.

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

3 Sterilize the jars: 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.

4 Boil vinegar, sugar, pickling spices: 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.

5 Pack jars with cucumbers and onions, pour pickling syrup over them: 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.

6 Process in hot water bath: 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 altitudes 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

Homemade Kosher dill pickles from David Lebovitz

Bread and Butter Pickles


Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

120 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Judith

    Hi, maybe I’m not paying attention but did you say to boil them for 15 minutes twice? I just need to be clear on that. Thanks

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  2. Julie Sheldon

    I made this recipe and when my family tried them they insisted that I make more. They are Simply the Best Recipe for Bread and Butter Pickles I have found.


    Show Replies (1)
  3. David

    What does it mean when it says fill the boiling water pot to above the cans are they talking about filling it 1 inch above the jars and lids. on number 6 above.

    Show Replies (1)
  4. Thomas

    I found this recipe for my first experiment making bread and butter pickles, after my wife bought a basket of cucumbers. I enjoyed them quite a bit, but everyone’s tastes are different. I found the pickling fluid a little too thick and sweet for my taste, so next time I will probably scale back the sugar. Also, my pound of onions resulted in far more onion than I tend to like mixed in with my bread and butter pickles. To keep the flavor, I might sub some onion powder next time. I didn’t have any red pepper flakes, so I used some powdered cayenne pepper from my own garden, scaled back to adjust for the different heat level. I like this little bit of heat– but next time I make them, it will probably be eliminated so I can take some to my mother over at the “old folks home” (her words, not mine). She loves bread and butter pickles, but as she has aged, her sensitivity to heat has become quite pronounced.

    Thanks to the other commenter for the tip about not boiling, in order to preserve some of the firmness. I do like a good bit of crunch in my pickles. Based on the information about the icing down the cucumbers helping with preserving firmness, I might have to experiment just a little with seeing if longer or shorter times icing the cucumbers helps.

    I found this to be an excellent recipe to use as a starting point for my experiments!


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  5. Debbie I

    My husband requested I make him some Bread and Butter pickles and I found this recipe. Absolutely delicious and easy.


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