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It’s Time To Get Into Alt Pickles

Feature image by Jeffrey Coolidge via Getty Images

Welcome back to It’s Time To Get Into, my grocery shopping column with an emphasis on ready-made products, snacks, and no-cook or low-cook recipes! Because sometimes you simply don’t have the time!!!!!! We’ve covered tinned fish in all its versatility, beef and meat and non-meat jerkies in all their simplicity, and now I’m here to talk to you about PICKLES. But not just regular cucumber-style pickles! Other pickles! Which I have dubbed ~alt pickles. Here are some pickled snacks I think you should throw into your shopping cart — along with some tips n tricks for how to eat them. If you want to make your own pickles (very fun and rewarding!), we have a couple past guides for that, including Molly’s guide to canning garlic dill pickles, my Happy Hour At Home with a few quick-pickle guides, and this list of pickle recipes. But again, It’s Time To Get Into is for when you don’t have the time and just want to spice up your grocery list! Here are my pickled snack recommendations!


La Costeña Pickled Jalapeños

I always ALWAYS have a jar of pickled jalapeños in my refrigerator (and usually a can in my pantry, too). They’re good on nachos, but they’re also an excellent upgrade for a plain ol’ turkey and cheese sandwich. Or my personal favorite easy sandwich: cold leftover rotisserie chicken (from Publix!) sliced and put on a mayonnaised sub roll with a bunch of these bad boys thrown in.

Aunt Nellie’s Whole Baby Pickled Beets

Pickled beets are a top-tier pickled snack, and I am going to tell you two different no-cook ways to enjoy these baby beets in the form of a salad and a cocktail.

The salad: Just pour some of these beets into a bowl (or the entire jar if you’re making this as an appetizer for a party) and add goat cheese crumbles, chopped walnuts, fresh dill, and black pepper. Easy and delicious!

The cocktail: Put 2oz of vodka or gin in a shaker with ice as well as 1oz of juice from the beet jar. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with one whole baby beet. You’ve got yourself a beetini!

Aunt Nellie’s sweet and sour red cabbage is also great. Idk who Aunt Nellie is, but she Did That.

Grillo’s Hot Pickle De Gallo

Now, we’re not talking regular pickles in this column, but if we WERE talking regular pickles, I would tell you that grocery store pickle spears AND grocery store pickle chips don’t get better than Grillo’s. The spears are snappy perfection, and the pickle chips are so garlicky they’re a little bit spicy (I actually prefer the kick of the pickle chips to the kick of the hot spears — it’s a much different kind of spice). If you do buy these regular pickle products, eat them within two weeks or they go mushy, and save the brine for pickletinis or salad dressing ingredients or just like shots of plain pickle juice which I like to occasionally do?

Anyway, Grillo’s also gets in the alt pickle game with this pickle de gallo, which shouldn’t work and yet DOES. It’s exactly what it sounds like — pico de gallo but with pickles. So it’s going to be a little more acidic and briney than your standard pico. It’s good with tortilla or potato chips, but it’s REALLY good atop a hot dog.

Hot Pickle Salad

Speaking of hot dogs, I’ve long believed the most underrated hot dog topping is cole slaw!!! This pickled salad is like a more vinegary version of that same concept. There’s a slight kick to it (if you couldn’t tell, hot pickled things are my jam). It’s almost like a sauerkraut in its flavor profile and texture. A pickle slaw! You can put it on your grilled cheese, too. (Though my favorite grilled cheese hack is to add kimchi.)

Patak’s Hot Mango Pickle

Now, mango pickle definitely a thing I usually prefer to make myself at home (I feel the same way about kimchi), but as this column is for when we simply don’t have the time, I WILL say that store bought can indeed, in the words of Ina Garten, be fine. Head to the international section of your chain grocery store or to an international/specialty/Asian market to find some mango pickle, which can be served alongside just about anything. It’s the perfect blend of sour and spicy. I’m a big believer that most hot food — but especially curries, stews, and rice dishes — should be served with a side of mango pickle and sliced raw red onion.

The Extreme Bean Hot & Spicy Pickled Beans

Dilly beans!!!! I love dilly beans (which, if you’re not familiar, are just pickled green beans). They are extremely munchable just on their own, and they also instantly upgrade a bloody mary. I’ve found these specific spicy ones at Albertson’s and Kroger. For a mild option, try Tillen Farms.

Pickled Radish/Daikon

This is another one I like to make at home, but as far as store-bought goes, head to H Mart if you’re lucky enough to live in a city with one (I do not anymore!!!) or your local Asian mart for a pack of pickled daikon or radish. Pickled daikon makes a great n simple banchan as well as a topping for instant ramen or a rice bowl.

Blue Hill Bay Pickled Herring in Dill Sauce

Pickled things don’t have to just be veggies, baby! Yes, I also included pickled herring in the tinned fish guide, but listen, I’ve got family in Norway, so I’m always pushing a pickled herring agenda. Vita is the most common brand found in stores, but I think it’s just okay! Blue Hill Bay is sold at Whole Foods and more expensive grocers, but it’s worth it. Eat it on its own or on fishy toast.

Koegel’s Pickled Bologna

Okay, this is a bonus alt pickle snack because it is extremely regional and niche and therefore not as readily easy to find as the rest of the above!!!!! In fact, it’s very possible you can only get this specific brand of pickled bologna in Michigan, where I lived for four years. Please, if you live in a place with ANY pickled bologna, go get some and tell me about it so I can live vicariously through you, because I think the only way I’ll be able to have pickled bologna in Miami is if I make it my damn self. Here’s how to eat pickled bologna: sliced, on a Ritz cracker, with a chunky slice of cheddar cheese. THAT’S IT! For another pickled meat snack, these pickled pigs feet are easier to find and taste great straight out the jar.

Okay, I’m probably gonna go write a personal essay about pickled bologna bye!!!!! Have some pickled snack recommendations of your own? Throw them in the comments. Happy snacking! 🥒


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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Miami. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 394 articles for us.

13 Comments

  1. i have impulse control issues when buying produce and one of my very favorite things is to make ALL the refrigerator pickles – picked onions / chilis / garlic, pickled grapes, pickled radishes, pickled cherries + golden raisins, you name it.

    (slice / prepare the produce and put into container [i use mason jars]; boil equalish parts water + vinegar of choice + a couple TBSP sugar of choice + any additional seasonings you want; once it’s not boiling [don’t want exploding glass!], pour liquid over the produce, making sure it’s wholly covered; let cool to room temp before storing [note: short-term fridge storage only, this is NOT canning!])

  2. I’m all about easy food full of veggies and one of my favourite lunches I discovered during the pandemic is blitzed pickled stuff as a dip.

    Pickled beetroot with feta and mint, or pickled bell peppers with chickpeas, olive oil and tahini for a hummus-variant, or all different pickled veggies together if I’m feeling extra sour. Usually I’d dip into the first two with crackers and the last one I’d dollop on top of a thick layer of cream cheese on a nice sturdy piece of bread. 😊

  3. Love this topic. It’s near and dear to my heart: I have taught hands on classes on pickling for several years for the University of California.

    Tip 1: NEVER THROW AWAY PICKLE JUICE. When you finish a jar of pickles and save the juice. It can be used to pickle other vegetables or even as an ingredient, see below.

    Tip 2: MAKING YOUR PICKLING JUICE: If you run out of pickling juice, use this formula: 1:1 vinegar:water. Cheap distilled white vinegar works perfectly, don’t use the expensive stuff. If you like a sweeter pickling juice use this: 3:2:1 vinegar:water:sugar.

    Tip: 3: PICKLED JUICE AS AN INGREDIENT: Add pickling juice to tomato or V8 or any vegetable juice and it will taste better. Brightens up the flavor. This is actually a trick taught in culinary school, a little vinegar with brighten up and bring out flavors in many types of dishes.

    Tip 4: PICKLED CORN: A pickled item that is usually forgotten is pickled corn kernels. Great to add to salads or make as a relish.

    I WILL SEND ANOTHER COMMENT LATER WITH SOME IDEAS ON FERMENTED FOODS (IT’S A FORM OF PICKLING WITH NATURAL LACTIC ACID)

  4. My father is excellent at pickling things. I really should learn his ratios, cause a few years ago, we opened a 15 year aged jar of pickled garlic he did himself. Some of the best I’ve had.

    • Love pickled garlic!! Every year we grow about a 100 bulbs of garlic and end up pickling about half. It’s actually one of the easiest things to pickle.

      Pretty cool that your Dad is into it. You definitely should try it and I think you’ll get the pickling bug!! It’s a great family activity.

  5. My mom recently gave me her mom’s recipe for pickled eggs, which I wouldn’t share if it was handy because …I don’t know. It just feels like I shouldn’t.

  6. As promised here is some additional info you might find useful:

    Here is a useful reference if you would like different pickling recipes:

    https://ucanr.edu/sites/camasterfoodpreservers/files/341217.pdf

    Start on page 30 for recipes for just about every vegetable: asparagus, artichokes, peppers, beans, beets, carrots, green tomatoes, garlic, relishes etc.

    Don’t be intimidated these recipes are as simple as buying fresh, canned or frozen vegetables of your choice and combining in any combination you want and add them to a vinegar brine (recipe in my first comment) and let sit in the refrigerator for at least a week, then enjoy.

    HOT TIP ON SAVING $$S ON PICKLED BEETS: I love pickled beets like others here but I can eat an entire jar in one sitting which is a problem because they can be pricey. Here is a way to save money: go to a grocery store that sells large sizes of canned goods for restaurants etc. They usually have pickled beets in 64 or 128 oz. Pour out the juice (its not good quality) and replace with your own pickling brine and let sit in refrigerator for a few days and that’s it. I have calculated the cost savings and it is cheaper by at least a factor of 10 or more.

    The reference above also includes recipes for fermented pickles which is made exactly the way sauerkraut is made. Cucumbers are added to a salt brine and sit at room temperature fermenting. They form their own acid, lactic acid instead of vinegar, and have a different flavor. If you like Kombucha, these pickles have similar taste profile since they both contain lactic acid from fermentation.

    Lastly here is another great source, the pickling chapter from the national center for home food preservation:

    https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can6b_pickle.html

    HAPPY PICKLING!!

  7. I wholeheartedly agree about pickled bologna. My mom’s family is from Michigan, and that’s the only place I’ve ever been able to buy it. My grandmother also made her own as well, though, either with a homemade brine, or by just throwing chunks of ring bologna in a jar of leftover pickle juice.Divine eiter way.

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