How to Make Bread and Butter Pickles (Canning or Refrigerator)

Close-up of full quart jar of canned bread and butter pickles on a wooden cutting board with fresh pickles beside it.
This post is brought to you by Wholefully partner Ball® Canning.
Recipe At-A-Glance
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Canning Recipe30 minutes
Bread and Butter Pickles are a classic sweet pickle recipe that you can make in the refrigerator or preserve with water bath canning to enjoy all year. With just 4 ingredients, this is the easiest bread and butter pickle recipe you'll find!

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There are few things in life that remind me more of my childhood than the smell of making pickles. The sweet scent of pickling spices, the fresh fragrance of sliced cucumbers, and the oddly comforting way vinegar tickles my nose—it immediately takes me back to helping my parents can quart after quart of pickles as a child.

Now that I’m a grown-up with my own canning operation each summer, I realize why my parents spent so much time canning pickles—they are one of the easiest and tastiest things you can preserve! This is especially true with this bread and butter pickle recipe, which requires only 4 ingredients and gives you the old-fashioned sweet-and-sour bread and butter pickle flavor in just a few minutes!

Close view of a finished jar of canned bread and butter pickles gripped in a jar lifter.

What is a bread and butter pickle?

A bread and butter pickle is a tangy and sweet cucumber pickle made with vinegar, sugar, and pickling spices (a combination of some or all of: mustard seed, turmeric, celery seed, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and/or bay leaves).

What ingredients do you need to make bread and butter pickles?

We have the easiest bread and butter pickle recipe because it requires only 4 (!) ingredients! You’ll need:

Thanks to the Ball® Bread and Butter Pickle Mix, pickle making is super easy and fool-proof. The mix contains all the herbs and spices you need to get that unique bread and butter pickle flavor, but it also contains calcium chloride—an all-natural ingredient that keeps the pickles crisp during the processing time.

Wholefully Protip

Can’t track down the Ball® Canning Bread and Butter Pickle Mix? No worries, we’ve included how to substitute for it in the recipe below.

Overhead of Ball Bread and Butter Pickle Mix in measuring spoon.

What are the best cucumbers to make pickles with?

You’re looking for small to medium size cucumbers, because they typically have smaller seeds and remain more firm during the canning process. There are specific canning varieties of cucumbers that are bred to retain crunch and reduce seeds—they are often referred to as “pickling cucumbers.” You can often find them in bulk at many farmers’ markets and farm stands in the summer. If you can’t get your hands on canning-specific cucumbers, I’ve had great luck canning the mini salad cucumbers from the grocery store. They make slightly smaller pickles, but the great flavor and lack of seeds makes them a good substitute!

Wholefully Protip

It’s important to slice the ends off the cucumbers before canning because the blossom ends contain an enzyme that will soften the cucumber during storage.

Overhead of fresh cucumbers on a tray.

Why do they call them bread and butter pickles?

You might think it’s because these pickles taste really good layered on a slice of fresh sourdough bread with golden butter (they do!), but that’s not the case!

While similar pickles have been around for generations, the original recipe for bread and butter pickles is thought to have come from Omar and Cora Fanning. They were midwestern cucumber farmers in the early 1900s who became quite famous for their sweet-and-sour pickles. During hard financial seasons, they would trade their pickles with the local grocer in exchange for staples— like bread and butter. The name stuck, and the Fannings filed a long-expired trademark on the Bread and Butter Pickles name in 1920.

Overhead of bread and butter pickles on slice of buttered homemade sourdough bread.

What is the difference between bread and butter pickles and sweet pickles?

Nothing! A Bread and Butter pickle recipe is a type of sweet pickle, just like gherkins.

Are bread and butter pickles bad for you?

Bread and butter pickles use granulated sugar or cane sugar in the pickling brine, so people who chose to or need to avoid that kind of refined sugar might want to limit the consumption of bread and butter pickles. For everyone else, bread and butter pickles are a great, natural way to preserve some cucumbers and add some sweet and tangy crunch to your egg salad!

Pouring brine through a wide-mouth canning funnel into a jar of bread and butter pickles.

Wholefully Protip

You can always safely can in a smaller jar than what is listed in a trusted recipe, but never a larger jar. This is because the processing time listed will not properly preserve the higher volume of the larger jar.

What’s the process for canning bread and butter pickles?

Canning pickles is an incredibly easy place to start your canning education. Here’s how you can bread and butter pickles:

  1. Prepare the jars, lids, canner, and tools as listed in our Canning 101 article.
  2. Slice the ends off the cucumbers, and slice into coins between 1/8” and 1/2” thick (depending on how you like them).
  3. Prepare the brine by boiling together vinegar, sugar, and Ball® Bread and Butter Pickle Mix.
  4. Pack the cucumber slices into prepared jars. In these pictures, we’re using the beautiful Ball® Premium Glass Wide Mouth Sharing Jars in the quart size.
  5. Pour the brine over the cucumbers to the correct headspace.
  6. Remove any air bubbles with a rubber spatula, wipe the rim of the jar, and close the lid.
  7. Process according to the recipe. Test for seal after 24 hours.

Wholefully Protip

Use a knife to slice your pickles or a crinkle cutter knife for that classic pickle chip look!

Close view of small spatula removing air bubbles from inside a jar of bread and butter pickles.

How do you make refrigerator bread and butter pickles?

Pickles are an easy item to water bath can, but if you want to make refrigerator pickles, you absolutely can with this recipe! Just pack your jars as listed and then place them in the refrigerator instead of processing in a water bath canner. For the best flavor, you should wait at least a week (and preferably 3 weeks) before enjoying them.

How long do bread and butter pickles last?

Properly canned and preserved pickles will last at least 18 months in a cool, dark storage location. Refrigerator pickles will last up to 3 months in the refrigerator.

Wholefully Protip

You can choose your desired thickness of pickle—anything from 1/8” thickness to a hefty 1/2” thickness works for this recipe.

Two quart canning jars full of bread and butter pickles with finished pickles and spices.

What are some good ways to use bread and butter pickles?

The absolute best way to eat bread and butter pickles is to just…well…eat them! Here are some of our other ideas:

  • Serve them as a side dish or topping for burgers, brats, or barbecue.
  • Layer them on top of sandwiches and wraps.
  • Chop them up and add them to egg salad, macaroni salad, potato salad, or tuna salad.
  • Use them to make burger bowl salads.

Happy pickling!

Want more preserving recipes like this one?

  • Corn RelishThis corn relish is another great canning recipe for beginners—use it anywhere you’d use salsa!
  • How to Store Apples. After you’ve headed to the orchard, learn our best tips for storing apples so you can enjoy fresh fruit all winter long!
  • Mixed Berry Agave Jam. Learn how to make jam with this adaptable beginner canning recipe.
  • How to Freeze CornThere’s nothing better than summer sweet corn, and we’ll teach you how to freeze it to enjoy in the off-season.
  • How to Freeze Basil. While this tutorial shows you how to freeze fresh basil, this method works for a whole range of herbs!
  • 15+ Preserving and Canning Recipes. Check out the rest of our canning and preserving recipes!
 
Close-up of full quart jar of canned bread and butter pickles on a wooden cutting board with fresh pickles beside it.

Bread and Butter Pickle Recipe (Refrigerator or Canning)

Yield: 2 (32 oz) quart jars
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Bread and Butter Pickles are a classic sweet pickle recipe that you can make in the refrigerator or preserve with water bath canning for enjoying all year.

From: Ball® Canning

Ingredients

Instructions

    Canning Directions

  1. Slice ends off cucumbers, then cut into 1/8-inch to 1/2-inch slices.
  2. Combine vinegar, sugar, and Ball® Bread & Butter Pickle Mix in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready to use, but do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set aside with bands.
  4. Pack slices into a hot jar, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace. Ladle hot pickling liquid over slices, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe the rim, and center lid on the jar. Apply band and adjust to fingertip tight. Place jar in boiling water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.
  5. Process jars 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Turn off heat, remove lid, and let jars stand 5 minutes. Remove jars and cool 12-24 hours. Check lids for seal, they should not flex when center is pressed. For best flavor, allow pickles to stand for 4-6 weeks.

Refrigerator Pickles Directions

  1. Slice ends off cucumbers, then cut into 1/8-inch to 1/2-inch slices.
  2. Combine vinegar, sugar, and Ball® Bread & Butter Pickle Mix in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Pour hot pickling liquid over cucumber slices in a large bowl. Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
  4. Pack cucumber slices into quart size jars. Ladle pickling liquid over cucumbers. Place lids and bands on jars.
  5. Refrigerate pickles. For best flavor, allow pickles to stand in refrigerator for 3 weeks.

Notes

  • This recipe scales easily, so you can make as many pickles as you have cucumbers!
  • Can’t track down Ball® Bread & Butter Pickle Mix? No worries. Replace the mix with 1/2 cup pickling salt, 2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds, 1 teaspoon celery seeds, and 1 teaspoon ground turmeric. For pickle crispness, add in 3 teaspoons of Ball® Pickle Crisp® or another calcium chloride additive. 
  • To adjust processing time for altitude: add 5 minutes for 1,001 to 3,000 ft; 10 minutes for 3,001 to 6,000 ft; 15 minutes for 6,001 to 8,000 ft; 20 minutes for 8,001 to 10,000 ft.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 64 Serving Size: 1 ounce
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 33Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 3mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 0gSugar: 8gProtein: 0g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

This post is brought to you by Wholefully partner Ball® Canning.
The content and opinions expressed here are my own. Want to be a sponsor? Let’s work together!

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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