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Quick Pickled Cucumber Slices


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These quick pickled cucumber slices will add crunch and flavor to your favorite plant-based sandwiches, salads, bowls, sushi rolls, and more! They’re easy to prepare and keep for two full weeks in the fridge.

An overhead image of thinly sliced, pickled cucumbers and mustard seeds.

Yes, I’m all about pickled vegetables this spring!

Quick pickled vegetables are simple things. Yet for all of their simplicity, they truly add so much to recipes.

That’s the reason I’ve been putting my recipe sharing focus on them lately, with quick pickled onions, quick pickled carrot ribbons, and today, quick pickled cucumber slices.

Quick pickled cucumber slices versus traditional pickles

While not everyone makes or eats quick pickled carrots or onions regularly, most of us have had pickled cucumbers before.

In fact, when we say or hear the word “pickle,” what we’re often referring to is a spear of pickled cucumber.

There are many varieties of cucumber pickles: dill pickles, Kosher pickles, sweet pickles, cornichons, and bread and butter pickles, among others.

I like all of the above pickles. But the quick pickled cucumber slices that I’m sharing today are a bit different.

Traditional pickles are made with a canning bath. This allows them to be preserved for a long time. That long preservation time deepens their flavor considerably.

These quick pickled cucumber slices are made simply by pouring a warm, homemade brine over cucumber slices and transferring them to the fridge for storage. In fact, quick pickles are sometimes referred to as “refrigerator pickles.”

The result is slices of cucumber that can be ready to eat within thirty minutes. The flavor is tangy and salty, but it won’t be as intense as traditional pickles are.

How to make quick pickled cucumber slices

If you’ve seen some of my other pickle-themed content lately, then you may already be familiar with my process.

If you haven’t, or if you’d like a refresher, here are the steps for making my favorite quick pickled cucumber slices.

Crosswise sliced cucumbers are resting on a white plate.
A vegetable slicer or paring knife will make it easy to create very thin, crosswise slices of cucumber.

Step 1: slice your cucumber

I recommend using some variety of seedless cucumber here. Most often, I use a seedless English cucumber to prepare the recipe.

There’s no need to peel the cucumber in order to make this recipe. However, you will want to create thin, crosswise slices. I like to aim for 1/16-inch / 2mm thick.

A slicer will make this task especially easy. But you can also work carefully with a paring knife to create those thin slices.

A small pinch bowl is filled with water, vinegar, and mustard seeds.
Water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and mustard seeds give flavor to quick pickled cucumbers.

Step 2: create a pickling liquid

The liquid mixture in this case is simple: water, vinegar, salt, and sugar.

Technically, you could simply pour this mixture over the cucumber slices, transfer them to the fridge, and allow them to pickle cold.

Quick pickles can be even quicker if you pour hot pickling liquid over the pickles. I usually heat my water and vinegar in a small saucepan or microwave them for 2 minutes.

Then, I dissolve salt and sugar into the hot mixture.

A glass mason jar has been filled with crisp, bright green sliced vegetables and pickling liquid.
Pour hot pickling liquid over your cucumber slices to create quick pickles.

Step 3: pour the liquid over the cucumbers

Once your pickling liquid is ready, you need simply to pour it over your cucumber slices in order to start the pickling process.

A glass jar is filled with very thinly sliced pickles, liquid, and brown mustard seeds.
Quick pickled cucumber slices can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Step 4: store

Allow the cucumber slices to marinate in their hot liquid for about 30 minutes. Then, cover them and transfer them to the fridge.

The slices will keep for up to 2 weeks, giving you plenty of time to use them in different dishes.

What sort of container should I use?

I like to use wide-mouthed, 16 ounce (1 pint, or 480ml) mason jars for my quick pickles at home. The wide mouth makes it easy to add my hot liquid, and the size is versatile for all sorts of vegetable shapes.

That said, any container with an airtight lid will work. Be sure to leave at least an inch of headspace at the top.

Is the cane sugar necessary?

When I posed my pickled carrot ribbons last week, a reader asked if the cane sugar in the recipe is necessary. She mentioned that she’s not a big fan of sweet pickles.

The answer is no—the cane sugar isn’t strictly necessary. It’s definitely OK to omit it from this recipe and my other quick pickle recipes.

With that said, I think you’ll find that the very small amount of sugar in the pickling liquid here (only 2 teaspoons for the whole recipe) isn’t enough to create sweet pickles, per se.

The quick pickled cucumber slices don’t taste like bread and butter pickles or like sweet pickle relish.

In fact, the sugar is only present to help create some balance with all of the tartness added by apple cider vinegar.

This is the same reason that I add a very small amount of maple syrup to vinaigrettes. The intention isn’t to create something that’s overtly salty and sweet (though I do like salty/sweet flavor combinations), but rather to keep the recipe’s tastes in harmony with each other.

What to do with quick pickled cucumber slices

My favorite thing to do with these crispy, tangy slices is to pile them into my sandwiches. They’re such a fun, fresh addition!

Some sandwiches that I like to use the slices in include my miso tahini vegetable sandwich, green goddess club sandwich, and tofu egg salad sandwich.

Two slices of whole grain sandwich bread are being assembled into a vegetable sandwich. They rest on a white surface.

The slices are also really nice in summery salads. You can chop them and toss them into my spinach rice salad, chickpea Greek salad, lentil beet salad, or tofu and udon noodle salad, for example.

The cucumbers also make a nice topping for toast—try piling them onto avocado toast for texture and flavor contrast.

A smashed white bean salad is held in a white, ceramic bowl, resting on a white surface.

Finally, I like to top round crackers with hummus or garlic tahini smashed white bean salad, then one of the pickled slices. This is such a fun, tasty hors d’oeuvres or snack.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 seedless cucumber
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, distilled white vinegar, or unseasoned rice vinegar (120ml)
  • 3/4 cup water (180ml)
  • 2 teaspoons cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (optional)

Instructions

  • Using a vegetable slicer or a sharp chef’s knife, slice the cucumber crosswise into thin slices (ideally 1/16 in/2mm, or as close to that as you can get).
  • Place the slices into a 1-pint/480ml mason jar. Add the mustard seeds to the jar, if using. 
  • Stir together the vinegar and water in a heatproof measuring cup. Pour this mixture into a saucepan and bring to a simmer, then stir in the sugar and salt. Alternatively, microwave the water and vinegar for 2 minutes, then stir in the sugar and salt until they’re  dissolved.
  • Pour the hot pickling liquid over the cucumber slices in the jar. Submerge them completely. 
  • Allow the slices to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Use right away, or cover the jar tightly with a lid and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

And now, I’ll take a brief step away from the pickle-themed content—though no promises to stop pickling all the veggies and writing about it when I do.

I hope you enjoy these crispy, cool, flavorful slices for summer. And I’ll be back later this week with a sweet new recipe to celebrate blueberry season with.

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