Pickling spice is a spice blend used to flavor (you guessed it!) pickles. Here’s everything you need to know about buying, making, and using pickling spice:
What’s In Pickling Spice?
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Depending on which blend you buy, pickling spice can include different whole and cracked spices. For instance, McCormick lists just cinnamon, allspice, mustard seed, coriander, bay leaves, ginger, cloves, red and black pepper, cardamom, and mace. Meanwhile, The Spice House’s version (which you can buy here) includes a few more ingredients. Their pickling spice is made with mustard, dill, bay leaf, ginger, allspice, pepper, clove, star anise, coriander, cinnamon, juniper, mace, chiles, and cardamom.
Generally, though, these are some of the usual suspects you’ll find in most pickling spice blends:
- Mustard seed
- Bay leaves
Pickling Spices vs. Other Spices Blends
The main difference between pickling spice and other spice blends you may be familiar with (say, pumpkin pie spice) is that pickling spice is made with whole, cracked, and ground spices instead of just ground spices. It’s easier for the spices to infuse the cucumbers (or okra, or peppers, or whatever you’re pickling) with their complex flavors this way.
How to Use Pickling Spice
To use pickling spice, just add it to the salt water mixture you’re using to can your pickles. But you certainly don’t have to use a store-bought pickling spice if you have the spices you need on hand. In fact, our most popular pickle recipe (Easy Refrigerator Pickles, if you’re interested) simply lists the individual spices you need in its ingredient list.
Pickling Spice Substitute
If you want, you could try a crab boil spice blend. Many pickling spice ingredients—like coriander, dill, pepper, and mustard—are found in Old Bay and Zatarain’s bagged blends.
The most accurate substitution, though, is your own DIY pickling spice blend. You can throw it together quickly with ingredients you already have in your arsenal.
DIY Pickling Spice
Avid picklers may want to throw together a homemade blend to keep around the kitchen. Here are the spices and ratios we use in our Easy Refrigerator Pickles recipe:
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine and store in an airtight container.
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