Zesty with red bell pepper and onion, these homemade bread and butter pickles can be made as refrigerator pickles or canned for later.
I am a picklehead and recipes like my quick dill pickles and my homemade spicy garlic dill pickles profess my love. Growing up, everything I ate had to have a pickle on it. Tuna sandwiches weren’t complete without long slices of kosher dills and my after-school snack of Triscuits, liverwurst, mustard, and dill hamburger chips was my favorite treat.
It wasn’t until later that I experienced my first taste of spicy-sweet bread and butter pickles. Standing on the dirt floor of my husband’s grandmother’s root cellar with just a bare light bulb shining the light, we used a screwdriver to pry open a jar of her famous bread and butter pickles. We dipped in right then and there. Those zesty pickles changed me and inspired this version of Grandma Tilly’s recipe.
What’s in Bread and Butter Pickles?
As with any homemade pickle recipe, these bread and butter pickles require a variety of pickling spices to give them their unique flavor.
Here’s what you need for homemade bread and butter pickles:
- Cucumbers with a thick skin such as Kirby cucumbers
- Red bell peppers
- Cider vinegar
- Mustard seed
- Celery seed
- Whole cloves
- Ground turmeric
What Type of Cucumbers Should I Use?
You can use really any variety of cucumber for this bread and butter pickle recipe but those with a thick skin such as Kirby cucumbers work best.
How to Make Bread and Butter Pickles
- Slice the cucumbers and other veggies quite thinly. Don’t cut the cucumbers so thin they turn to mush in the hot brine, but thin enough to easily soak it up. If you have a mandoline, definitely use it to slice the cucumbers.
- Use red bell pepper and yellow onions for flavor. I don’t recommend using other kinds of bell pepper in this pickle recipe. The sweet red bell peppers perfectly complement the tangy pickle brine.
- Salt the vegetable mixture to keep the cucumbers crisp. Give the mixture a good stir and let it sit for three hours. Adding salt releases some of the cucumber’s water so they stay crisper in the hot brine.
- Drain the cucumber mixture and give a quick rinse in cold water.
Start the Pickling!
- In a separate Dutch oven or saucepan, add the vinegar, sugar, and spices and bring to a boil. Add the cucumber mixture to the boiling vinegar then remove from the heat just before they come back to a boil.
- Don’t overprocess the pickles. You don’t want to cook the pickles. Process just long enough for the cans to seal.
- Transfer the homemade bread and butter pickles to sterile jars and either refrigerate or can for later.
How to Can Pickles
- Fill a canning pot with water and bring to a boil. Allow enough room so that when the bottles are added the water doesn’t overflow.
- Wipe the rims of the jars and use tongs to place the sterilized lids and rings on top of the jars.
- Process in a canner water bath for 10 minutes.
- Remove the jars from the pot to the counter topped with a dish towel to cool.
- Make sure the lids pop down to show they are sealed. Refrigerate the jars of pickles that don’t pop and eat as refrigerator pickles.
Why are These Called Bread and Butter Pickles?
Contrary to the name, neither butter nor bread are ingredients you’ll find in these pickled cucumbers. Bread and butter pickles can be traced back to two Illinois farmers — Omar and Cora Fanning, who in 1923, filed for a patent for the name to use for their family pickles. The story goes, when Omar and Cora fell on hard times, they exchanged their pickles with their grocer for ding ding: bread and butter!
However, these pickles didn’t really begin to catch on until around the time of the Great Depression, when bread and butter pickles started appearing in American newspapers. Soon after, they could be found on the shelves of Piggly Wiggly Food Stores, and by 1943 they were recognized as an American pantry staple.
What is the Difference Between Bread and Butter Pickles and Dill Pickles?
Bread and butter pickles skip the dill and have a sweeter flavor profile than dill pickles. Dill pickles are usually thicker-cut rounds or spears, less sweet, tend to have a crispier bite, and boast flavors of garlic and (you guessed it) — dill. I love both, so don’t make me choose!
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a star rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Zesty Bread and Butter Pickles
- 25 cucumbers , cut into ¼-inch slices
- 6 onions , thinly sliced
- 2 red bell peppers , thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic , chopped
- ½ cup salt
- 3 cups cider vinegar
- 5 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons mustard seed
- 2 teaspoons celery seed
- ½ teaspoon whole cloves
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- Mix cucumbers, onions, red bell pepper, garlic and salt in a large bowl or dutch oven and let stand for 3 hours.
- In a large dutch oven or large saucepan bring cider vinegar sugar, mustard seed, celery seed, cloves, and turmeric to a boil. Drain the liquid from the cucumber mixture and give a quick rinse under cold water. Add the mixture to the boiling vinegar. Remove from the heat just before the mixture comes back to a boil so as not to cook the cucumbers.
- Transfer the cucumber mixture with pickling broth to sterile jars. Wipe the rims of the jars and use tongs to place the sterilized lids and rings on top of the jars. To process, fill a canning pot with water and bring to a boil. Allow enough room so that when the bottles are added the water doesn’t overflow. Process in a canner water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the pot to your counter topped with a dish towel to cool. Make sure the lids pop down to show they are sealed. Refrigerate the jars of pickles that don’t pop and eat them as refrigerator pickles.
More Pickle Recipes to Make
- Killer Spicy Garlic Dill Pickles
- Sweet and Sour Asian Pickled Cucumbers
- Pickled Green Beans (Dilly Beans)
- Pickled Beets
- Spiralized Refrigerator Quick Dill Pickles
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Great recipe! I really like these. To be honest, back in the days when I did a lot of canning I always stuck to dill pickles. I made a batch for the refrigerator, and I just can’t get enough of them. So much better than store bought ones.
I never knew the reason for their name. Thanks for all the fun information and tips you always include in your posts.
Hey just tried this with an added addition of a single dried Thai chili pepper to the jar… Can i say oooh yum!!!
These look so delicious! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! Your pictures do a fantastic job of outlining how everything should look during the process. They do a great job of making me want to make the recipe as well! I’ll report back with how it turns out!
This is a delightful site! I want to tell the world about it. So very excited to make my favs: Bread an Butter, and so totally chose this site because you love your B B’s with tuna fish. The combo for sure adds to my happiness! Be Great and keep on pickling!
How much does this recipe make? I want to be sure to have enough jars, but also be able to divide it down if needed. Thx!
would love to try your zesty bread & butter pickles but you don’t mention how long before they are ready to eat or how many jars it makes.
Annie, A Visual Artist
I love B&B’s like all the others on here so it would be natural that my fanily would also enjoy Candied Dill Strips. My Oma would make them from scratch and I wanted to replicate that same crunchiness and unique flavor but was unable to… until I figured out to let someone else do the pickling and I will do the “candying”.
So what I do is by a good brand of Dill Strips (it doesn’t have to be an expensive brand, some store brands work very well), pour out almost all of the pickling juice leaving somewhere between 15 to 20% of the juice in the jar then slowly pour in about 1 cup of sugar. You will need the remaining pickle juice to help dissolve the sugar and you have to turn it either upside down or right side up everyday but you will have something really special to add to your pickle addiction in about a week. The pickles remake the juice and your pickle jar will be almost full again. But W.O.W., will you ever have something to get your salivary juices flowing once you bite into your first one! I hope you enjoy my super-simple-all-the-hard-work-done Candied Dill Strips. Pickleheads UNITE!