Deutsch: Einlegen / Español: Encurtido / Português: Conservação em Vinagre / Français: Marinage / Italiano: Sottaceto

Pickling in the food context is a method of preserving food by anaerobic fermentation in brine or immersion in vinegar. The process enhances the shelf life of the food and imparts a distinct, tangy flavor, often making the food more palatable and digestible. Pickling is a traditional preservation technique used worldwide, known for its versatility in preserving a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and even meats and fish.


Pickling involves immersing food in an acidic solution, typically vinegar, or a brine solution made of water and salt. This creates an environment where harmful bacteria cannot survive, thus preserving the food. The key aspects of pickling include:

  • Acidic Environment: The acidity from vinegar or the production of lactic acid through fermentation inhibits the growth of spoilage organisms and pathogens.
  • Brining: Saltwater brines help draw out moisture from the food, creating a crunchier texture and also contributing to the preservation process.
  • Flavor Enhancement: Spices, herbs, and other flavorings are often added to pickling solutions to enhance the taste of the final product.
  • Types of Pickling: There are two primary types of pickling - vinegar pickling (quick pickling) and fermentation pickling (traditional pickling).

Historically, pickling dates back thousands of years and was a vital method for preserving food before the advent of refrigeration. Different cultures have developed their unique pickling techniques and recipes, contributing to a diverse range of pickled foods around the world.

Special Aspects

One special aspect of pickling is its ability to retain or even increase the nutritional value of the food. Fermentation pickling, in particular, produces probiotics, which are beneficial for gut health. Pickled foods also retain their vitamins and minerals, making them a nutritious addition to the diet.

Application Areas

  1. Home Cooking: Many households engage in pickling to preserve seasonal produce, create homemade pickles, or prepare traditional dishes.
  2. Commercial Production: Pickling is widely used in the food industry for producing a variety of pickled products, such as pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, and chutneys.
  3. Culinary Use: Pickled foods are used as condiments, side dishes, or ingredients in recipes, adding a burst of flavor and texture to meals.
  4. Cultural Cuisine: Pickling is integral to many traditional cuisines, where pickled items are staples or key components of the diet.

Well-Known Examples

  • Pickles: Cucumbers preserved in vinegar or brine, often flavored with dill, garlic, and other spices.
  • Sauerkraut: Fermented cabbage, a staple in German cuisine, known for its tangy flavor and probiotic benefits.
  • Kimchi: A traditional Korean dish made from fermented vegetables, primarily cabbage and radishes, seasoned with chili pepper, garlic, ginger, and fish sauce.
  • Pickled Onions: Onions preserved in a vinegar solution, commonly used as a condiment in various dishes.
  • Chutney: A spiced condiment made from pickled fruits or vegetables, popular in Indian cuisine.

Treatment and Risks

While pickling is a relatively safe method of food preservation, there are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Proper Sterilization: Containers and utensils used in pickling must be properly sterilized to prevent contamination.
  • Acidity Levels: Ensuring the correct acidity level is crucial to inhibit harmful bacterial growth. Vinegar with at least 5% acidity is typically recommended.
  • Salt Content: Adequate salt content is necessary for fermentation pickling to prevent the growth of undesirable bacteria.
  • Allergies and Sensitivities: Some individuals may have sensitivities to certain pickling spices or ingredients.

Similar Terms

  • Fermentation: A broader category that includes pickling but also encompasses other methods of preserving food through microbial activity, such as yogurt and kefir production.
  • Curing: A preservation technique involving the use of salt, sugar, and nitrates, commonly used for meats and fish.
  • Brining: A process similar to pickling where food is soaked in a saltwater solution, often used for meats before cooking to enhance moisture and flavor.


Pickling is a time-honored method of food preservation that involves the use of an acidic solution or brine to inhibit the growth of spoilage organisms. It enhances the flavor and shelf life of a wide variety of foods, from vegetables and fruits to meats and fish. With its roots in traditional cuisine worldwide, pickling remains a popular technique both in home kitchens and commercial food production. It offers nutritional benefits, particularly when fermentation is involved, and adds a distinct, tangy taste to culinary creations.