That Pickle Juice You Discard Is Your Ticket to Flavor

Think twice before pouring that pickle brine down the drain with these clever uses.

low angle looking at dill pickles in mason jars
Photo: dotdash meredith food studios

Pickles live a double life. Either they are the ultimate treat on consumers' snack lists, or they are the forgotten supporting act to the main star. Pickles have always found their way into many dishes and preparations. However, the most important ingredient is usually wasted and poured down the drain. That concoction of salty, sour goodness has tremendous potential.

Why Pickle Brine Works

Pickle brine, or juice, is essentially three main ingredients; vinegar, water, and salt. Anything else added in counts as aromatics (dill, red pepper, garlic, and so on) that give the brine its charm. Salt is a seasoning, a tenderizer, and a preservative. Vinegar — also a tenderizer — can bring a bright and tangy flavor to almost anything. Here are the many ways it can be used in your kitchen.

Use It as a Marinade

As mentioned before, salt and vinegar have the ability to break down collagen and protein in meats. Marinades not only impart flavor, but they also serve to tenderize. If it is a dill pickle brine, dill goes very well with red meat such as beef and lamb. Let's not forget the wonders pickle brine can do to a piece of poultry. Wanna know how a classic crispy chicken sandwich with pickles gets its mojo? It's marinated in pickle juice. Try this method the next time you want to fry up some chicken. You won't regret it.

Use It as a Salad Dressing

Tangy, buttery, and sour are all great elements for a good vinaigrette. With pickle juice and a little sweetness from honey, you have yourself a balanced vinaigrette. P.S., that vinegary brine will work wonders with a potato, kale, or pasta salad.

Add Other Vegetables

Ever heard of pickled onion? Try adding some radishes. Other vegetables soak really nicely in your leftover brine and it's a great way to provide a unique preparation to typical veggies. This trick works especially well for quick pickling just about anything.

Do Not Forget the Cocktails

Fruity cocktails are not the only stars at the bar anymore. More savory offerings are making their way onto the menu. The O.G., dirty martini, would fare well with a splash of pickle brine. (As would the classic Bloody Mary.) It does the same job as olive brine, and it's cheaper. Or if you're feeling adventurous, you can try a pickle margarita along with us.

It is about time home cooks start up-cycling ingredients. It is better for the environment and better for your wallet. Why not start with pickle brine? And if you're anything like me, you can also reuse that pickle jar.

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