There’s nothing like the slap of heat and bracing acidity of a pickled pepper. “Pickling mellows the grassiness that fresh peppers can sometimes have,” my colleague Aaron Hutcherson wrote recently in an appreciation of pickled jalapeños, noting that the brine lends a puckery pep to the pickled vegetable’s warmth.

While you can buy a jar for a few dollars at any supermarket, I’ve gotten into the habit of quick-pickling my own jalapeños. It takes only a few minutes, lets me support my local farmers and gives me room to play around with the easy recipe.

Here’s the process: Slice jalapeños into rounds. You could pluck out the seeds, but I leave them in for extra heat. Put the slices into a clean jar, add vinegar, water, salt and — if you want to tame the chiles’ spice — a bit of sugar, though this is optional. Seal the lid tight, and shake it up, to give the salt and sugar a chance to dissolve. Then, leave the jar in your fridge for around 8 hours. That’s it.

After you’ve made them once, the method becomes second nature. And, you can use it on any kind of pepper or vegetable. The most important part is that you store the jar in the refrigerator.

That’s why it’s not necessary to boil anything — these are refrigerator pickles.

“Basically, all you’re trying to do is let the spices and vinegar infiltrate the vegetable, and you don’t have to boil anything to do that,” says Julie Garden-Robinson of the National Extension Association of Family & Consumer Sciences, who regularly advises home canners on best practices. “These are fridge pickles, so it’s totally safe.” Plus, if you pour boiling liquid over the vegetable, they’re more likely to soften and turn a muddy shade of green. That’s what happens with the grocery store’s shelf-stable pickled jalapeños.

If you’re like me and go through pickled jalapeños quickly, you might want to give this formula a shot. As Aaron described, they’re great on so many things, including salads, sandwiches, pizza, dips and tacos.

I make them so often, I’ve memorized the recipe. I’ve also tweaked it endlessly. I like my pickles on the salty side, so I use 1 tablespoon of salt and skip the sugar. But why stop at salt when you have a whole cabinet of spices and seasonings right there? I almost always add sliced onion or cloves of garlic to each jar.

While sugar tames the heat, a pinch of red pepper flakes will increase it. Whole cumin seeds, coriander pods or bay leaves can add extra flavor. Use the leftover brine for marinades and dressings, so not even a drop of the zippy green heat goes to waste.

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Make Ahead: The jalapeños must be pickled at least 8 hours in advance.

Storage Notes: The pickled jalapeños can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 1 month.


  • 4 medium jalapeños (about 8 ounces total), sliced into 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon fine sea salt or table salt
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)

Step 1

In a clean 16- to 20-ounce jar with a tightfitting lid, combine the jalapeño slices, 1/2 cup vinegar, water, salt and sugar, if using. If necessary, use a fork to help the jalapeño slices fit tightly into the jar. If the liquid doesn’t completely cover the jalapeños, add more vinegar until it does.

Step 2

Tightly seal the jar and give it a few good shakes. Refrigerate the pickled jalapeños for at least 8 hours before using.

Nutrition Information

Because we cannot determine the absorption of the salt and sugar, the ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.

From staff writer G. Daniela Galarza.

Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to

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