5 Tips to Ensure Crunchy Fermented Pickles

Mushy pickles. The bane of the home-fermenters existence. No one likes slimy, mushy pickles. No one. 

So what's a fermenter to do? I get asked this pretty regularly in my local fermentation classes or just through people messaging me on my LittleOwlCrunchyMomma Facebook page.  

No need to worry! If Bubbies can make a fermented crunchy pickle every time, you can too!

Here are my:

5 Simple Tips to Ensure Crunchy Fermented Pickles

  1. Use small cucumbers. Make sure that the pickles you are using are specifically pickling cucumbers. The larger, fresh eating ones simply won't cut it if you want to ensure a crunchy pickle.
  2. Use SUPER fresh cucumbers. As fresh as you can possibly find.
  3. Add tannins. This step is extremely important for ensuring crunchy pickles. You can find tannins in lots of different plants, but typically for making pickles I use use either a few fresh grape leaves or a 1/4-1/2 tsp black tea leaves for a quart-size jar. 
  4. Use cold cucumbers. I've heard of people soaking their cucumbers in an ice bath before they ferment them. Even if you don't go that far, just make sure that your pickles aren't limp from being warm before you ferment them. 
  5. Trim off the blossom ends of the cucumbers. You don't need to trim off much, just the very tip. Why? On the blossom end of pickles there is an enzyme that can make the cucumbers slimy. I actually trim off both ends just for good measure. 

Those are my tips. I've found that if I do all five, I always end up with crunchy pickles. Sometimes I get away with only a few, and still get crunchy pickles. But that's a gamble...

If I've learned anything in my (almost) ten years being around fermentation fanatics, it's that everybody swears by their own tricks. So what's yours?

Wanting to learn more about FERMENTATION? 

Check out these books I use and love!

Wanting to have on hand a simple guide to all things fermented? This is THE book for your kitchen. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fermenting Foods covers the basics of everything from simples cheeses, meats, vegetables, fruits, sourdough, simple beer, kombucha and much more. The recipes are very easy to follow, and most contain variations to give you room to play end experiment. I reference this book ALL the time for both information as well as recipes. I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you could only have one book on fermentation, this is the one I would suggest. 
This book, The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the Worldby Sandor Katz (author of Wild Fermentation) will take your grasp of fermentation to the next level and beyond. It is a veritable tome of fermentation knowledge. This is not the book to have if you are looking for recipes. It is however the book to have if you want to know a little more about all things fermentation. It contains history, lore, science, and a cultural overview as well as tips for making and selling ferments. I love this book. I use this book both as a reference for information and for kitchen inspiration.

True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Homeis your go-to book for learning about beverage ferments. It covers everything from homemade ciders to beer, wine, kombucha, soda pop and much more. As the cover shows, it has absolutely gorgeous images that will inspire you! The recipes are laid out in a straightforward manner, and there are trouble-shooting sections that are very helpful when you have questions or when something doesn't go quite the way you thought it would in your fermentation kitchen.

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Photo sources for collage: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 


  1. Add ~control ambient temp during the counter phase between 65F and 72F~ and you'll have 6 tips. I believe this tip is way more significant than tannins or size. Both pickles and kraut seem not to do well on hot, fast ferments....

    1. I'm not sure any ferments do, really. Yes the counter phase definitely needs to be at room temp.

  2. Great tips. I only knew the tannins ones. Oak leaves also work for the tannins and that is what I usually use.

    1. Great! Yes. Just don't use red oak leaves! I've never tried oak leaves myself, but have heard other say this, too.

  3. Thanks for the insights! We love crunchy pickles. :) Your photos at the top of the page of all your pickles look great! :)

  4. I add Pickle Crisp from Ball...... Really simple!

    1. Hey. Thanks for stopping in and commenting! :) This post is specifically talking about fermented cucumber pickles which are very different than canned vinegar pickles. Are you meaning the latter? Even still, I wouldn't feel comfortable using pickle crisp since it is made from calcium chloride, an ingredient which is questionable in my opinion.

  5. Yep, good tips. I use 'em all and they work!

  6. I have yet to explore and try my hand at fermenting, but pickles would definitely be at the top of my list if / when I do. Fermenting sounds so easy, yet I am so intimidated lol. It's silly and I should just get over that.

  7. Awesome...I love crunchy pickles! Can't wait to try some of these tips. :)


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