Cornichons are one of the best sides that you will commonly find in most charcuterie platters.
They offer a contrasting flavor and texture to balance out the meats and cheeses— plus you can use them in many other delicious recipes! But if you don’t have them in your kitchen, then we have just the substitutes for you.
What are the best cornichons substitutes? The best substitutes for cornichons will provide a great texture with tart and lightly sweet flavors. Luckily, you can find a lot of these characteristics in substitutes like capers, relish, dill gherkins, pickled vegetables, celery, zucchini, and more.
Read below to learn more about the characteristics of cornichons and some of their close substitutes that you can use in virtually any recipe!
What Are Cornichons?
A French classic, cornichons are pickled gherkins that are flavored using aromatic herbs and spices.
These pickles are extremely easy to make and can add a refreshing dimension of flavor with their sharp and subtly sweet notes.
Cornichons are usually paired with savory food and are traditionally served with French sausages, pâté, or cold cuts. You can even use them in sandwiches and other recipes that require a zing and deliciously savory flavor!
Characteristics Of Cornichons
Let’s take a look at a few key characteristics of cornichons — this will help you pick the best substitute for your particular use!
Cornichons have an acidic and tangy flavor. Since they are brined using white vinegar and herbs, you can expect them to also have a mildly earthy, spicy, and savory flavor, depending on how they are prepared.
In most cases, a generic cornichon recipe will usually include bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic, onion, red pepper, and mustard seeds. These ingredients are added to a brine along with, of course, small cucumbers (a.k.a. gherkins).
The bay leaf develops and maintains a crunchy texture while the other seasonings work their magic to add a deep flavor to the cucumbers.
Depending on what you are pairing the cornichons with, you can mix up the seasonings and add any type of condiment to your brine to give the cucumbers a slightly different flavor profile.
Texture is extremely important in any cornichon recipe! These pickled cucumbers have a distinctly crispy and crunchy texture that can contrast any type of meat dish.
When you bite into cornichons, you will notice them to be pleasantly firm and they will have a considerable bite which will subside as you continue chewing them.
Although their crunchiness also depends on the quality of the gherkins, most cornichons will still provide a distinct texture due to how they are prepared and brined!
Commonly served as a side, cornichons can also be diced and used in many different recipes.
You can use them to make tangy and chunky sauces. For example, even though tartar sauce is made using relish, you can also use cornichons as a substitute to add an even crunchier texture to it.
Diced cornichons also pair extremely well in burgers and sandwiches, while sliced cornichon strips can add a delicious texture to wraps, gyros, and even shawarmas.
Even if you don’t pair them with other food, they also make for a great-tasting snack that can certainly refresh the senses and prime your palate for upcoming meals!
Why Substitute Cornichons?
The most common reason why someone would want to substitute cornichons is their lack of availability.
Even though they are easy to make, they are usually consumed quickly, especially in households that frequently enjoy pickled vegetables.
A culinary reason why you would want to substitute cornichons may ironically be their distinct texture as some recipes can require a tangy flavor without a chunky texture — this is where you can opt for its substitutes!
Finally, some people may just want to substitute it for the sake of variety.
Since these pickled cucumbers have been around for generations, it is understandable that one would want to try out different substitutes to explore new flavors and textures.
Best Cornichon Substitutes
Without further ado, here are the best substitutes for cornichons!
Capers are a great option for people who want a distinct and flavorful pickle flavor without a loud crunch!
This ingredient can be diced or minced and can be used in sauces, sandwiches, or as a topping for meaty dishes.
On their own, capers have an earthy and grassy flavor and you can play around with their subtle flavor and textures by trying out different varieties, such as caper berries that offer a seedy texture!
Zucchini comes from the same family as cucumbers, so you can expect a lot of similar flavors and textural characteristics!
You can slice or chop zucchini in different ways and they can add a subtle crunch and a whole lot of flavor, especially when they are brined.
Although they will be less intense than cucumbers, they can be customized to taste just like cornichons!
Relish is another great substitute for cornichons because they can add a variety of flavors and textures depending on how you make them.
Another reason why they make a great substitute is that they are readily available and you can buy them for cheap in virtually any supermarket.
You can even try sweet relish that can add a chunky texture and a subtly sweet flavor to your recipes!
While cornichons are usually made from pickled gherkins, you can try virtually any type of cucumber to add more or less the same flavor and texture.
Pickled cucumbers are a classic and there are hundreds of ways to prepare a delicious jar of pickles at home.
Dice or slice them and add them to your sandwiches, wraps, or serve them as a side in any meat platter to add a flavorful contrast!
5. White Vinegar
Want a pickle flavor, but without any texture? Then just add a dash of white vinegar to your recipe!
Take it a step further and prepare a flavorful white vinegar by brining your favorite seasonings.
You can make a subtly spicy, aromatic, and delicious white vinegar mixture at home and use it as a garnish in meat dishes — and you can also use this seasoned white vinegar as a condiment to make a wide variety of sauces.
Add a zesty flavor to your dish without the accompanying bite!
Chutney is a classic condiment that can be prepared in thousands of ways. Basic chutney can be made from fresh herbs, spices, and virtually any type of vegetable and even fruit!
You can use it as a spread or add dollops of it on your plate to add a visually pleasing and tasty side that can pair well with any type of food.
7. Dill Gherkins
Dill gherkins are more or less the same when it comes to mimicking the texture and flavor of cornichons with one exception: they are usually larger and are cut into round slices.
Needless to say, apart from their shape, they can be used in the same way as cornichons in almost every recipe that calls for pickled sides.
For the best experience, we recommend chopping or slicing these gherkins in half before serving them to give them an even neater presentation.
Looking for a healthy substitute? Then try out brined olives!
Green olives make for a great-tasting side that adds flavor, texture, and a lot of nutrition. They are readily available and can also be prepared in a customized brine at home.
We recommend adding a few brined olives as a side to any meat dish to complement the flavor of the meat and add a classy look to your plate!
Celery will add a far juicer and crunchier bite thanks to its narrow shape and firm texture. This vegetable has been a favorite for many people around the world — and for good reason!
It is loaded with antioxidants and other micronutrients that can help strengthen your immune system — pickling it just unlocks its full potential in terms of flavor and texture.
Use celery in any recipe that calls for cornichons and we guarantee that they will instantly become your new favorite!
Bonus: Pickled Vegetables
If all else fails, then you can always fall back on any type of pickled vegetable.
Pickled vegetables are extremely common in many stores and you can even prepare your very own batch of pickled vegetables at home by combining chopped onion, carrots, cucumbers, chilies, and more!
Go with firm and crunchy vegetables and pair them with seasonings to add a delicious dimension of flavor to your recipes.
Cornichons are a delicious and crunchy addition to many meat platters, but they can also be easily substituted using arguably better sides!
Now that you know the best substitutes for them, here are some related questions we thought you might have.
Do cornichons last longer than other pickled vegetables?
No, they do not have an advantage when it comes to their shelf life.
Once you open a jar of cornichons, you will have to consume them within a few days or store them in the fridge to extend their shelf life, much like any other homemade pickle product.
Can you use salted cucumber instead of cornichons?
Yes, you can use salted cucumbers to get more or less the same crunch and flavor as cornichons.
We recommend marinating the cucumbers in salt to draw out the moisture and then adding white vinegar (after rinsing the cucumbers) to give them a similar flavor and textural profile.