Pickles are one of the most common toppings on American sandwiches, burgers, and other meals. Some people prefer the whole pickles, while others like the skinny little slices.
There are as many different ways to eat pickles as there are varieties of pickles. If you’re reading this post now, though, you’re probably wondering, “Are pickles vegan?”
Pickles are almost always vegan! Pickles are simply cucumbers that have been coated in salt and preserved in vinegar. All of these ingredients are natural and vegan.
The only pickles that may not be vegan are those that are pickled with white sugar or fried pickles that have been coated in animal by-products.
Below, I’ll explain a bit more about what pickles are, how they’re made, and why they’re usually a vegan-friendly snack or topping. Let’s take the lid off of the jar and learn a bit about the ancient art of pickling together!
Can You Eat Pickles On A Vegan Diet?
When most people think of pickles, they think of the American sandwich or burger, as it’s usually one of the few times that Americans regularly eat and enjoy pickles.
In fact, if you’re out shopping for them at the grocery store, you’ll find them on the same aisle as other popular burger toppings, such as ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, and relish.
Believe it or not, though, pickles have been around for thousands of years. It’s one of the most well-known and ancient methods of preserving food and was used long before modern preservatives and refrigeration came around.
Pickles are 100% vegan-friendly. Not only are they packed full of flavor but they’re almost entirely plant-based, other than the vegan-friendly vinegar and salt used to preserve them.
There are few toppings that I enjoy more on my vegan burger patties than a few thinly-sliced pickles. They add the perfect amount of saltiness and crunch to my burger and really make the whole meal more enjoyable as a whole.
How Does Pickling Work?
As I said, pickling has been around for a long time. In fact, historical records show that ancient humans were making pickles in India as far back as 2,000 B.C., which is over 4,000 years ago!
That makes them one of the longest-standing man-made foods, other than bread, noodles, and other basic carbohydrates.
Today, pickles may seem a bit strange to the average consumer.
They’re crunchy, salty vegetables that are soaked in vinegar. I mean, who came up with this, to begin with?
You see, pickles weren’t originally created for taste. They weren’t created as a condiment to put on top of burgers and sandwiches. Pickles were created for survival.
Thousands of years ago, there was no such thing as chemical preservatives and refrigeration wasn’t a thing (unless you lived in the icy arctic or high in the snowy mountains). So, people used salt to preserve their food.
In fact, the word “pickle” actually comes from the ancient Germanic word “pokel,” which means to salt or brine something. Brine is just concentrated salt water. This is the liquid that pickles are soaked in.
Preserving food was incredibly important to early humans. Thousands of years ago, crops didn’t grow year-round. Farmers needed to find ways of making their food last through the cold fall and winter months when they couldn’t grow fresh food.
Those who failed to prepare for the winter often starved or became malnourished.
Salt is naturally antibacterial and prevents food from spoiling. The simplest method of preserving any food was to simply bury it in salt.
For this reason, salt grew to become one of the most important compounds in the world. I also have a hunch that this is why most humans are biologically geared to crave salty foods.
There’s just one problem with burying your food in salt. You waste a lot of salt.
This is when people started to combine salt with vinegar to create the world’s first official “pickles.” Vinegar is another great preservative that comes from aging wine (which has always been abundant throughout human history).
As wine “spoils” it becomes overly acidic. This, of course, isn’t good for drinking. However, it’s great for keeping food fresh!
Here’s another cool fact:
Pickles don’t have to be cucumbers. In fact, you can pickle any vegetable you want.
This is common practice in barbecue cuisine. Often, the large cuts of meat are served with a side of house-pickled carrots, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. One of my favorite varieties of pickles is pickled banana peppers! They’re spicy, salty, and taste great on a vegan hot dog.
Can Vegans Eat Dill Pickles?
Dill pickles are, by far, the most common type of pickles in the United States. They’re the little green pickles that you find on the condiments aisle. They’re crunchy, salty, simple, and delicious.
Dill pickles are 100% vegan, as they’re just made from cucumbers, dill (which is an herb), garlic, salt, and vinegar!
So, go ahead – eat your heart out and enjoy your pickles.
Alternatively, you can also make your own homemade dill pickles. They’re super-easy to make, and only require a little bit of time to prepare. You just have to wait a little while for them to be completely done. Alton Brown from the Food Network has a great recipe to follow:
What Are Pickles Made Of? Ingredients Analyzed
Alright, so now that you know a little bit more about what pickles are and why they’ve been such an important food for humans, it’s time to take a closer look. If you’ve ever wondered what exactly pickles are made of, then you’ve come to the right place.
Here are some of the most common ingredients you’ll find in pickles.
1) Cucumber or Other Vegetables
Cucumbers are arguably the most popular vegetable used for pickles. There’s something about the solid crunch you get when biting into a cucumber dill pickle that really makes them addictive.
However, you don’t have to use cucumbers. You can use practically any vegetable or pepper you want.
Some of the most common veggies and peppers used for pickles include carrots, cherry tomatoes, onions, banana peppers, jalapenos, bell peppers, and even olives (which are almost always pickled).
Next, the vegetables are soaked in water. It’s important to note that tap water is not used here. Tap water actually has added minerals (such as fluoride and chlorine) that can prevent the pickling process from occurring. Instead, filtered water or distilled water is used.
Next, we have brine. Brine is just a fancy term for “salt,” which is the primary preservative used for all pickles. Salt is 100% vegan, as it’s either man-made in a lab (in the form of iodized salt) or comes from an oceanic salt deposit (in the form of sea salt).
Next, vinegar is added to the salt water and vegetable mixture. The vinegar acts as an additional preservative, adding to the salty flavor and preventing bacteria from developing and causing the pickled vegetables to spoil.
Vinegar is always vegan, as it comes from natural sources. Vinegar is typically made from distilled fruit juice or wine. It never contains any animal by-products or questionable additives.
Today’s modern pickles often contain an added chemical preservative. While the salt and vinegar should be enough to keep the pickles fresh for a long period of time, the man-made preservatives help the pickles last even longer.
They also keep the pickles fresh after the jar is opened and exposed to the outside air.
Typically, you’ll only find preservatives used in commercial pickles. The fresh locally-made pickles you’ll find at farmer’s markets and local grocery stores are typically made with just salt and vinegar.
6) Seasonings & Herbs
Last but not least, many pickles contain added seasoning and herbs. Some pickles are made with spices, while others contain herbs, such as garlic, dill, or fennel. At this point, it’s really up to the pickler.
Some people prefer plain salt-and-vinegar pickles, while others enjoy the fully-loaded flavor of a spicy pickle mixture.
Do Pickles Have Sugar?
The only time that pickles would be non-vegan is if they’re pickled with sugar. This isn’t very common, but some brands like to give their pickles a sweet aftertaste by using white sugar as one of the “seasonings” added to the pickle brine.
Unfortunately, white sugar is not vegan, as it’s filtered through animal bone char. To turn organic unrefined cane sugar into the concentrated white sugar crystals sold on most store shelves, the outer layer of malt flavor and brown coloring must be stripped through this filtration process.
Since this filtration process uses charcoal from animal bones, most vegans abstain from white sugar.
Are Pickles Healthy?
Pickles are actually quite healthy! Most of the original nutritional value of the pickled vegetables is preserved, meaning that pickles are a good source of vitamins and minerals.
That being said, pickles are also very high in salt. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of salt in moderation, but you also want to watch your sodium intake to ensure that you’re not over-consuming salt. Over-consumption of salt is linked to dehydration, high blood pressure, and even heart attacks.
In short, pickles are healthy in measured doses. Just be sure not to make them the main course, as they’re high in salt!
Are Vlasic Pickles Vegan?
Vlasic Pickles are one of the most popular brands of dill pickles sold on store shelves. They’re also 100% vegan-friendly, so you can enjoy them with full confidence and zero remorse!
Are Fried Pickles Vegan?
While pickles are usually vegan, you’ll want to watch out for fried pickles. Fried pickles can be vegan, but they’re often non-vegan. Here’s why:
- Fried pickles may be fried in palm oil, which is unsustainable and harmful to the environment.
- Fried pickles may be coated in eggs, which is a popular frying additive.
- Fried pickles may be fried alongside meat in the same vat of oil.
So before you order those fried pickles, just double-check to make sure that they’re cooked in a vegan-friendly manner.
Is Relish Vegan?
Relish is a thick sauce that’s made from finely chopped pickles, vinegar, and sugar. Unfortunately, most relish is not vegan, since it’s made with white sugar. However, if you happen to find an organic relish that’s made with cane sugar, then it should be vegan-friendly!
The Verdict – Are Pickles Vegan-Friendly?
At the end of the day, almost all pickles are vegan-friendly. They’re just vegetables that have been soaked in water, vinegar, and salt! It’s an ancient preservation method that makes for a deliciously salty, crunchy condiment or topping.
If you’re looking for another great topping for your vegan BBQ, then check out my list of the best vegan BBQ sauce brands next!