Don’t Throw Out That Pickle Juice! We've Got a Dozen Ingenious Ideas For Using It Up (2024)

Why should you use up the leftover pickle juice from that jar of pickles you just finished? Because it's a versatile ingredient in all kinds of dishes (and another clever way to reduce food waste). Pickle brine is often thought of as a throwaway ingredient—its purpose is to pickle cucumbers and other items, and it's often discarded once the job is done. But we’ve put together a list of smart ways to incorporate it in an array of recipes, from quick vinaigrettes and dips to co*cktails, both of the alcoholic and shrimp varieties.

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Make Quick Pickles

Using pickles to make more pickles is sort of like squeezing second life out of a tea bag. It can work! Traditionally, when you make pickles, you pour hot brine over raw vegetables—the vegetables begin to cook and soften slightly when submerged in the hot liquid, so they don’t taste raw but rather lightly crunchy. The brine permeates through the vegetables to give them a nice acidic flavor.

You can add raw or lightly steamed vegetables right to the jar with cold leftover pickle juice and leave them in the refrigerator for a day or two to pickle. They won’t have as intense of a flavor as a traditionally pickled cuke or green bean, but they will make a briney addition to salads or crudité platters.

You can use this technique for vegetables (like shredded cabbage, beet wedges, green beans, baby carrots, and sliced onions) and fruits (like peaches, plums, berries, and melon).

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Brine Meat and Seafood

You may not have enough leftover pickle brine to wet-brine a whole turkey, but soaking smaller cuts of meat and seafood in pickle juice adds lots of flavor. When the brine is able to reach the center of chicken thighs, pork chops, and whitefish fillets, it helps the meat remain moist. The salt from the brine will also aid in seasoning the meat from the inside out.

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Add to Boiling Water

When a recipe tells you to bring a pot of water to a boil, consider adding a generous splash of pickle juice to the pot for a splash of bright flavor. This is great when you’re cooking a big pot of beans, boiling potatoes for potato salad, blanching green vegetables for meal prep, or cooking a batch of pasta for Sunday dinner.

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Steam Fish and Vegetables

Adding pickle juice to steaming liquid does the same thing as seasoning that water with salt. The brine will soak into whatever you’re steaming and add a subtle tang. Substitute half of the water with pickle juice. The mild flavor works particularly well with fish and vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, and sweet potatoes.

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Make Vinaigrette

Whenever a vinaigrette recipe calls for vinegar or citrus juice, use leftover pickle brine instead. It won’t taste obviously "pickle-y," and will leave everyone wondering what your secret ingredient is.

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Marinate Meat, Vegetables, and Tofu

Lean meats like chicken, turkey, and pork can benefit from a quick marinade before they're cooked. Pickle juice acts like the vinegar in a marinade (because that's mostly what it is!). Not only does it add a mild flavor, it also helps tenderize the meat. While it won’t work as a tenderizer in this applications, we also like to use it in marinades before we grill vegetables or deep-fry tofu.

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Make Special Sauce Even More Special

That unmistakable sauce that you love on your drive-thru cheeseburger can be made at home. It usually involves some combination of ketchup, mayonnaise, and relish. The next time you’re grilling burgers or hot dogs, incorporate some pickle juice into the spread for your buns.

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Add Bold Flavor to Dips

Dips like hummus, tzatziki, and spinach-artichoke can all be given new life with the addition of a splash of pickle juice. It adds something special to heavier dips, especially dairy-based ones.

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Shake Up a co*cktail

Dirty martinis are usually shaken or stirred with olive brine, but pickle juice does the same thing (and is honestly less divisive than olives). Bloody Marys and Whiskey Sours can also take a more savory twist with the addition of pickle juice.

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Marinate Soft Cheeses

A splash of olive oil, pickle juice, and some fresh herbs like dill or thyme make the perfect marinade for soft cheeses like goat cheese and feta. This trick works especially well with plant-based feta alternatives. While they are creamy, they aren’t always as briney as the real thing.

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Reinvent Shrimp co*cktail

Take your shrimp co*cktail up a notch by adding pickle juice to the co*cktail sauce. Or give the cooked shrimp a bath in leftover pickle brine before they’re served. Even just half an hour in brine will add some punch to the shrimp.

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Use as the Acid in Any Recipe

Since pickle juice is almost entirely made of vinegar, it can be used anywhere you’d use vinegar or citrus juice. Try it instead of lemon juice the next time you make yourself a slice of avocado toast, or add it to guacamole if you’re out of limes.

Don’t Throw Out That Pickle Juice! We've Got a Dozen Ingenious Ideas For Using It Up (2024)
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