What Is Pickling Spice

What Is Pickling Spice?

Many of the preserve recipes that you find here and elsewhere call for an ingredient called “pickling spice”. Whether it is in a brine for curing corned beef, fermenting vegetables or pickles and chutneys, there are so many recipes that say to add pickling spice. The question is, however, what is pickling spice? In this article, we will take a look at ready-made pickling spices, what’s in them and how you can make your own, tailored exactly to your own tastes.

What Is In Pickling Spice?

To put it simply, pickling spice is a blend of spices and herbs that add a robust and rounded flavour to preserves and pickles. Many companies that sell herbs and spices have their own unique blends of spices which they call pickling spice.

In most cases, you will find that pickling spice blends similar herbs and spices in differing quantities. Below is all list of the most common spices used in pickling spice.

Mustard Seeds
Bay Leaves
Chilli Flakes

These spices and herbs are usually left whole, rather than being ground and added to the pickling liquor or vinegar and infused before being strained out.

By adding spices and herbs to a vinegar or brine you have the chance to add lots of flavour to the fruit or vegetable you are preserving.

Think of the dill pickle, without the distinct taste of dill along with mustard seeds, peppercorns and a little garlic you only really have a sour cucumber that doesn’t have much flavour. By using pickling spices and thinking about how you can add depth to the product you are preserving you get to completely customise the taste of your cures, pickles and preserves.

Buying Pickling Spice Blends Or Blend Them Yourself?

Buying a pickling spice blend is usually the most economical way to utilise spices in your preserve, however, if you can afford to buy different herbs and spices and then blend them yourself can really set your preserve apart from everybody else’s.

If you like a bit of heat in your pickles then add more chilli flakes into your pickling spice, if you like the unique taste of dill add some fresh dill as well as some seeds to your next preserve. One thing I would add is that most pickling spices don’t have garlic in but I add garlic to nearly all of my pickles and cures so in a way garlic is part of my own pickling spice.

Pickling Spice Recipe

I am not a big fan of cloves so I tend to leave these out of my pickling spice mixes for the most part. The taste is a little too strong in my opinion and can overwhelm a pickle. This is the beauty of making your own pickling spice.

Pickling Spice Recipe

A simple pickling spice blend looks something like this:

  • 2 tbs Coriander
  • 2 tbs Mustard Seeds
  • 1 tbs Peppercorns
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 tsp Chilli Flakes
  • 1 tsp Allspice Berries


Combine all of the spices to get an even distribution and that is all there is to it. Store in an airtight container and the pickling spice will keep for months, ready to be used whenever you need it.

Now Customise Your Pickling Spice

Of course, this is just the beginning. You can chop and change the pickling spices and add fresh herbs as well as garlic. The sky’s the limit here, I would suggest trying to build up a stock of spices that you can pick and choose from and try different combinations in your preserves.

A classic combination is caraway in sauerkraut, this is still a pickling spice even though there is only one spice in the mix. You can build on this and make your sauerkraut completely unique to you with your own pickling spice blend.

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