Using this incredibly easy recipe for homemade Pickling Spice, you can create your own spice mix that’s better than store bought in 5 minutes or less! Everyday ingredients like black peppercorns, mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes combine to make a delightfully spicy and sweet blend. Whether making cucumber pickles, brining meat, or flavoring soups and stews, this mix will never disappoint.
In my house, we absolutely LOVE to make our own homemade pickles – there’s nothing at the grocery store that can beat that fresh, crunchy taste.
Luckily, my recipe for Refrigerator Dill Pickles is super easy, but I really wanted to find a Pickling Spice recipe that could help bring them to a whole new level!
That’s where this recipe comes in, as an incredibly simple DIY to bring that artisan, farmers market flavor to all sorts of homemade recipes, from pickled vegetables, to soups, to Instant Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage.
And what’s more, on its own it adds NO additional sodium or calories, so you can keep full control of what goes into your food.
What is Pickling Spice?
Pickling spice is an aromatic spice blend, usually made up of dried ingredients like peppercorns, pepper flakes, dried herbs, and various spice seeds. These are usually kept whole or coarsely ground, to help them release their flavors while standing up to being soaked in vinegar long term.
Most recipes and brands, including McCormick Mixed Pickling Spice, tend to follow the same rough lineup of ingredients to lend a spicy and sweet depth to homemade pickles. But once a basic mix like this has been mastered, it can also be used to experiment with an endless variety of flavor combinations to find your perfect, personalized blend.
To make this easy Pickling Spice recipe you need:
- Black peppercorns. Of the black pepper varieties, whole tellicherry peppercorns are recommended. One of the more popular varieties, they bring a bright and almost sweet flavor with their peppery kick.
- Yellow mustard seeds. Lacking the zesty flavor of the condiment for which they’re known, whole yellow mustard seeds have a mellow, slightly bitter, spicy-sweet taste.
- Coriander seeds. Fresh coriander is known for its bold and floral flavor, but coriander seeds are significantly milder, bringing a warm, aromatic, vaguely sweet note of citrus.
- Allspice berries. Popular in Caribbean cuisine, allspice berries have a warm, slightly bitter combination of flavors similar to cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- Bay leaves. When infused in a liquid like broth or vinegar, bay leaves provide an aromatic, bitter flavor that serves mainly as a counter to other, bolder flavors.
- Red pepper flakes. While lacking in much flavor on their own, crushed red pepper flakes provide a simple, subtle heat.
- Whole cloves. Strongly aromatic, whole clove brings a very warm, mildly sweet flavor that plays well with other spices.
- Ground ginger. Slightly more mild than its fresh counterpart, ground ginger is very warm and spicy-sweet in flavor.
- Dill seed. Very fresh and herbal in taste, dill is entirely optional by default, but necessary for making dill pickles.
How to Make Pickling Spice
The basic steps for making Pickling Spice are simple to follow. Please see the recipe card below for more detailed ingredient amounts.
Combine all Ingredients
In a small bowl – or the glass jar intended for storing it – combine all ingredients except for the ground ginger, and mix well. Ensure that the bay leaves are broken up into small pieces when added, so they can combine with the rest.
Add the half teaspoon of ground ginger last, mixing or shaking until it is evenly dispersed through the other spices. Saving the finely ground ginger for last will keep it from settling at the bottom while the other spices are being mixed with each other.
Prep and Storage
- To Store: The spice mix can be stored in an airtight jar or container in a cool, dry place for up to one year. Before use, gently shake or tumble the jar to ensure the spices are still evenly mixed.
The defining characteristic of pickle spice mix is whole or coarse spices, so any combination including the whole, main ingredients can be used as a substitute. This includes black peppercorns, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, dill, and so on.
Pickling salt is made up of 100% sodium chloride without any other additives, which means it’s lacking in any artificial ingredients. Table salts often contain additives meant to prevent caking.
Pickling spices can be used in all sorts of dishes besides pickled cucumbers – you can pickle onions, green beans, and other vegetable medleys. They are excellent in soups, stews, and marinades for protein, too.
Traditional pickle spice is a great default option for pickling eggs, and many recipes call for the addition or substitution of fresh garlic, fresh dill, sliced onions, and other such ingredients, for a more savory blend. Beets and beet juice are often used as well, to give pickled eggs a bright pink color and a sweet, tangy flavor
While allspice berries are a common ingredient in spice mixes for pickles, they are their own individual spice which can come in either whole or ground form. The berries are very aromatic, with a flavor similar to cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. The ground powder is more concentrated, and better suited to tasks like baking.
Lots of the spices included in pickling spice have amazing antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and metabolic properties, among other benefits. Pickled vegetables themselves are also devoid of carbohydrates, can be a great source of fiber, and have a high concentration of nutrients such as vitamin K, calcium, potassium, vitamin C, and more.
Expert Tips and Tricks
- Get creative! Experiment with different amounts of each spice, to taste, or with other whole or coarse spices like juniper berries, fennel seeds, star anise, mace, cardamom, or cinnamon.
- Make what you need. This recipe yields 5 tablespoons of pickling spice, but if you’re just experimenting with making your own, it can be halved or even quartered to make a single batch of pickles.
- Seal it tight. If storing the spices for an extended period, keep them in a fully airtight container like a small Mason jar, to preserve freshness.
- Break it up. For a slightly more intense flavor, you can use a mortar and pestle to very gently crack the peppercorns and seeds open – a spice grinder isn’t recommended.
More Pickling Recipes
Pickling spice is an amazing blend that can add its warm, spicy flavors to all sorts of different dishes, hot or cold:
Homemade Pickling Spice Recipe
Using this incredibly easy recipe for homemade Pickling Spice, you can create your own spice mix that's better than store bought in 5 minutes or less! Everyday ingredients like black peppercorns, mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes combine to make a delightfully spicy and sweet blend. Whether making cucumber pickles, brining meat, or flavoring soups and stews, this mix will never disappoint.
- 2 Tbsp. yellow mustard seeds
- 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
- 1 tsp. allspice berries
- 4 bay leaves crushed
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 4 whole cloves crushed
- ½ tsp. ground ginger optional
- 1 Tbsp. dill seed optional
Add ingredients to a small bowl or jar and mix until well combined.
Store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.
Prep and Storage
To Store: The spice mix can be stored in an airtight jar or container in a cool, dry place for up to one year. Before use, gently shake or tumble the jar to ensure the spices are still evenly mixed.
This recipe yields 5 tablespoons of pickling spice.