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Pickle Juice Is Liquid Gold for Cooking: Use It to Bake, Marinate + Sauté Favorite Foods

It's the secret to Carla Hall's delicious fried chicken — we've got the recipe!

When you finish a jar of tasty dill pickles, you shouldn’t be so quick to pour the liquid down the drain. It turns out that pickle juice is a gem for cooking. You can use it to marinate meat, sauté vegetables and even elevate your bread baking. Plus, as long as the brine’s color or odor hasn’t changed, it’s okay to incorporate in a range of dishes. Keep reading for tips and ideas to transform leftover pickle juice into a secret ingredient weapon for your cooking needs!

The ingredients in pickle juice

Classic pickle brine consists of vinegar, salt, sugar and water. Other seasonings like whole mustard seeds, fresh dill and peppercorns are sometimes added for hints of nutty and earthy flavors. The process of pickling involves allowing cucumbers to sit or ferment in the brine for anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. A longer pickling time makes the veggie and the brine more flavorful.

Is pickle juice good for you?

Although fermented pickles are linked with containing gut health-boosting probiotics, the juice’s sodium content is something to be mindful of. “For all its possible benefits, pickle juice also has a significant drawback: It contains a lot of sodium,” registered dietitian Matthew Black MS, RDN, LD says. In fact, an ounce of pickle juice contains about 180 milligrams of sodium. So, consider using this brine sparingly to avoid spiking your daily sodium intake. (Click through to this story on using green salt as a low-sodium seasoning option.)

How do you know when pickle juice is bad?

You don’t need to use the juice the very second you finish off the pickles. Just store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. As long as the liquid has a bright green color with no floating mold and the smell isn’t rancid, it’s perfectly fine to cook with.

3 ways to use leftover pickle juice for cooking

The best part about pickle brine is that it’s versatile to add to a variety of dishes. Start with these three ideas as the juice’s zesty and tangy flavors will liven up your everyday dishes.

1. Use it as a marinade.

The herbs and spices — like fresh dill, mustard seeds, allspice and red pepper flakes — that turn a bunch of bland cucumbers into flavor-packed pickles can also take your favorite savory dishes to the next level. Here, the experts at Lifehacker offer one method for using this brine as a chicken marinade.

  1. Place a couple of chicken breasts in a plastic bag and enough pickle juice over the meat to cover it entirely.
  2. Seal the bag tight and let it marinate for about 8 hours in the fridge.
  3. After marinating, it’s ready to grill, pan-fry or roast in the oven. When you cook it, make sure the internal temperature reaches 165°F.

This marinade trick also works for other meats like pork and beef. Just keep in mind that the pickle juice is super flavorful on its own, so you won’t need to add a ton of extra salt or spices for tasty results. Then, be sure to discard the pickle juice once the meat is marinated to prevent any cross-contamination.

2. Create tasty satuéed vegetables.

Many of us default to using the same seasonings over and over again when cooking veggies, but pickle juice can help liven things up. We love Food52’s recipe for Mushrooms in Pickle-Brine Butter, which involves sautéing mushrooms in pickle juice with butter and shallots to achieve a rich, slightly acidic flavor. You can also try adding the juice to zucchini, green beans or radishes to turn a simple side dish into the star of your next dinner.

3. Bake delicious bread with a twist.

We all know pickles on top of a sandwich are a match made in heaven. But have you ever thought about using the liquid while baking bread? If not, then it’s time to take a look at King Arthur Baking’s recipe for Sandwich Rye Bread. According to their experts, adding ¾ cup of pickle brine makes for a yummy addition to the dough. They explain, “Its secret ingredient is dill pickle juice, which gives the bread delightful tang and contributes to its moist texture.”

The salt and vinegar from the brine boosts the fermented flavor that yeast provides throughout the bread making process. This will leave you with a deliciously robust loaf that can be sliced and toasted with a smear of butter. Or, use this tasty bread to make a patty melt, pastrami, fried bologna or corned beef sandwich

Bonus recipe that uses pickle brine

Chef and TV host Carla Hall shares her Hot Fried Chicken recipe, which uses a flavorful marinade containing pickle juice and a DIY seasoning blend. “My seasoning mix packs enough spice to make the chicken super tasty on its own,” she says. Drizzling hot sauce and honey over the fried chicken creates a sweet and spicy coating that complements the savory meat!

Hot Fried Chicken

A recipe for Hot Chicken as part of a guide on using leftover pickle juice for cooking
Getty

Ingredients:

  • 2 (3 lb.) whole chickens
  • 2 Tbs. onion powder
  • 2 Tbs. garlic powder
  • 2 Tbs. + 2 tsp. paprika
  • 3 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup dill pickle juice (from jar of pickles)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Hot sauce and honey (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cut each chicken into 10 pieces; place onion and garlic powders, 2 Tbs. paprika, 2 Tbs. salt and 1 Tbs. cayenne. Sprinkle over chicken; massage into meat. Pour juice over; massage. Let stand 15 minutes.
  2. In another plastic bag, mix flour with remaining cayenne, salt and paprika. Toss chicken in flour mixture until well coated. Transfer to baking sheet.
  3. Heat ½-inch oil in large cast-iron skillet over medium heat to 340°F. In batches, add chicken, skin side down. Cook, turning often, until cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain.
  4. Drizzle with hot sauce and honey.

Read on for additional ways to use up leftover ingredients!

13 Deliciously Easy Ways to Use Up Leftover Sweetened Condensed Milk

Don’t Throw That Leftover Rice Out: Fry It Up Into a Delicious, Unusually Healthy Side Dish

Don’t Throw Away That Salmon Skin — Use It to Make Tasty 2-Ingredient ‘Bacon’ Instead

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