Cucumbers Vs Pickles – What’s The Difference?

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The most popular pickles worldwide are made from cucumbers, but that does not make these two very distinct food items the same. 

So what’s the difference? Both are crunchy, full of nutrition and delicious, but cucumbers are tasty, fresh green fruits that are often eaten raw and called a vegetable, whereas pickles can include any food that has been preserved through a process of natural fermentation or using a vinegar brine.

In the rest of this article, we’ll clarify exactly what a cucumber is vs what a pickle is, elaborating on all the differences and how they’re achieved. 

What Are Cucumbers?

Cucumbers begin their lives as a creeping vine, growing close to the ground or up and around supporting frames. The vine has large leaves that form a roof over the rough, cylinder-shaped fruit. They can grow up to 2 feet in length, but they’re generally considered perfect for eating at half that size, or even smaller. 

Botanically speaking, the cucumber is classified as a fruit because it grows from a flower and contains seeds. Most people consider it a vegetable because of the way it’s eaten and paired with other vegetables commonly misclassified fruits, especially tomatoes.

There are many different types of cucumbers, such as those made for slicing or pickling, and even the burpless varieties.

Many people find that they’re more gassy than usual after eating cucumbers. This is caused by a chemical called cucurbitacin, which also increases the bitter flavor. You can find cucumbers specially grown without this compound and called burpless, for this reason.

Slicing cucumbers, such as you would grow in your garden, are the most common. They’re usually sold and eaten slightly unripe, because when the older they get, the more bitter and sour they become.

The most common burpless cucumbers are also considered slicing cucumbers: the English cucumber. They have thinner skin which makes them easier to digest and slightly sweeter to taste.

These cucumbers are usually grown in a greenhouse to protect their fragile skin. You’ll generally find them wrapped in a layer of shrink wrap, also to protect their skin, and they’ll probably be labeled as seedless or burpless.

Any cucumber can be pickled but pickling cucumbers get their name because they’re particularly useful at being pickled. They’re shorter, thicker, and more irregularly shaped than slicing cucumbers, and they often have bumpy skin. Gherkins and Kirby cucumbers are common pickling fruits.

What is Pickling?

Pickling is one of the most popular ways people have preserved the shelf life of food throughout history. Pickled food can be preserved for months past expiry date.

There are two different ways to make pickles: with vinegar or with salt fermentation.

How to Pickle Cucumbers with Vinegar

Pickling using vinegar is quick and quite simple and creates crispy, juicy pickles within just a few hours. Using a highly acidic liquid is what preserves the fresh fruit or vegetable as it kills off any potentially harmful micro-organisms that may be living in or on your food.

This style is also sometimes called quick pickling or refrigerator pickles. The brine requires white vinegar, salt, and water. Some picklers will also add their own spices, herbs or other flavorings. Garlic and dill are very popular, as are peppercorns or sugar. 

White vinegar is the vinegar of choice because it’s clear and won’t affect the color of your finished pickle, and there is special pickling salt that is ideal to use because it doesn’t have any anti-caking agents added, again creating a clear final brine and lovely looking pickle. 

How to Pickle Cucumbers with Salt

The second method of pickling is by fermenting your fresh food. Naturally occurring healthy bacteria eat the sugar from your fruit or vegetable, or added sugar in some cases, and slowly ferments the food until it tastes like the tangy pickles we’re used to.

Fermentation may sound questionable, but it’s one of the most traditional means of preserving food, it’s incredibly healthy thanks to the friendly bacteria that are present, and it’s also delicious. 

This type of pickling is traditional because it only requires your food to be pickled with salt and water.

And, of course, something to contain the pickles in. It does take a bit longer to get the best preservation and flavor, but it’s well worth the commitment. 

How to make Kosher dill pickles:

Kosher foods are items that are prepared according to traditional Jewish law. The word itself means pure, proper or suitable for consumption.

In general, fruits and vegetables in their natural state are kosher, though insects are not. As soon as the food is processed, it must meet specific requirements for food preparation, namely that it does not come into contact with any equipment used for the preparation of meat or dairy.

Pickles should, under most circumstances, meet the requirements of a kosher food item, however, within Jewish culture, pickling food is particularly popular so ensuring fruits and vegetables are not cross-contaminated by meat is critical.

Moreover, Jewish picklers follow a very specific process and recipe that ferments the pickles in a salt brine, usually flavored with garlic and dill. Many non-Kosher pickle makers will pickle their fruits and vegetables in vinegar, which is often made with wine and is not Kosher.

I highly recommend watching this tutorial by CookingGuide on YouTube for the best kosher pickle recipe!

What Can Be Pickled?

The most common foods to be pickled are fruits, vegetables, fish, as well as eggs. 

Pickling is best done with fresh food, but other than that, there aren’t many rules when it comes to pickling. You can pickle any vegetable you want and it could be in any thickness or shape, though it’s most common to either use small items or thinly slice the foods for quick results and more consistent flavor.

There are probably almost as many types of pickles as there are edible plants as you can bet someone has tried to pickle just about everything at some point. Some are obviously more popular than others. 

By far the most common pickle is a cucumber. Pickled cucumbers go by many names: dill, baby, sweet or bread and butter, gherkins, cornichons and Kosher. Baby pickles simply refer to tiny-sized cucumbers, whereas dill or bread and butter refer to the type of flavoring used to make the pickle.

Kosher pickles are made to fit within Jewish customs and cornichon is simply the French word for pickle. Pickle vs gherkin, however, is more contentious. A gherkin is a very specific type of cucumber, picked young for the specific purpose of pickling.

Cucumber And Pickle Nutrition Facts and Data

Cucumbers and pickles are both surprisingly nutritious, but they each have unique benefits for your health. 

Per 1 Cup Cucumber, with peel Dill Pickled Cucumbers
Calories 15.6 7.8

Grams Daily Value (DV) Grams Daily Value (DV)
Fat 0.2
Carbohydrates 3.8
Sugar 1.8
Fiber 0.6
Protein 0.6
Vitamin A
2% 5%
Vitamin C
4% 2%
Vitamin K
22% 70%
2% 6%
2% 3%
0% 52%

Cucumber Benefits

Cucumbers are a very popular weight-loss food because they’re high in water, helping a dieter feel like they’re eating, but without consuming a ton of calories.

There’s even a cucumber diet, which we don’t recommend, that suggests replacing almost all plant foods with cucumber and eating them almost exclusively with proteins.

Cucumbers do have some nutrition, but certainly not enough to replace all other fruits and vegetables, though it may or may not help you lose weight in the short-term.

Cucumbers do have a variety of good antioxidants and the water content helps to make you feel satiated and refreshed.

These two factors alone are the main benefits of cucumber juice, which can be added to any smoothie or juice to thin out a thick liquid with more flavorful and nutritious than just plain water. 

Are Gherkins Good For You?

Gherkins and other pickles are arguably even more beneficial for your health than fresh cucumbers, especially if they’re made through fermentation.

When fruits and vegetables are fermented, they play host to a colony of undetectable healthy bacteria, that can improve the environment of your gut.

These types of probiotic foods have been shown to help with everything from improved insulin sensitivity to reducing the risk of cancer.

Pickles that are made using vinegar are still healthy, though they’re not considered probiotic. They will simply pass along the benefits of vinegar and whatever vitamins and minerals are inside the pickled food. 

When eating pickles you do need to pay attention to the sodium content. While sodium is an essential mineral, anyone eating a standard American diet (SAD) or Western pattern diet (WPD) is likely consuming too much sodium daily, so eat pickles in moderation.

Related Questions

Is a cucumber a fruit or a vegetable?

Cucumber is a fruit, though it’s one of the most commonly miscategorized plants because it is used as a vegetable and not nearly as sweet as many people have come to think of fruits as being.

When it comes to categorizing plants, any edible plant that grows from a flower and contains seeds within it is considered a fruit. Vegetables, on the other hand, are a part of the plant itself, such as the roots, stems, or even leaves.

What are the benefits of eating cucumber at night?

Snacking at night while you relax and watch tv or read a book is very common, though it can be hard on your body. Digestion takes a lot of work so eating shortly before you try to sleep can keep you awake and interfere with the quality of your sleep.

Not only that, but many people will make poor choices about the quality of their snacks at night when their will-power is worn down.

Cucumbers to the rescue! Cucumbers are 95% water, which can help absorb and clean the body of toxins, as well as helping to curb hunger. They’re easy to digest so they shouldn’t interfere with your sleep, and they have a truly satisfying crunch factor.

Up Next: How To Reheat Fried Pickles – The Best Way

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