What the Heck Is a Kool-Aid Pickle?

And are they any good?

In the summertime, Kool-Aid in all of its various saccharine flavors is a key seasonal staple. Pool parties, beach days, and cookouts just wouldn't be the same without that brightly colored bowl of punch.

Likewise, some people feel like pickles take on a special significance as the days get longer. There's just something about that vinegar-y crunch that goes down better when served along outdoor-cooked burgers or oceanside-boiled seafood.

Though both Kool-Aid and pickles have their purposes, most might assume there's no way that a briny pickle spear and a sweeter-than-sweet jar of Kool-Aid could peacefully coexist. Well, the existence of Kool-Aid pickles, or the "Koolickle," is here to show you that just about anything is possible if you add enough sugar.

It's time to pucker up and learn what this fusion of sweet and sour is all about.

red koolaid pickles on a white plate on a background with an orange burst and yellow background
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The History of Kool-Aid Pickles

The Koolickle supposedly got its start somewhere in the Mississippi Delta, that riverside region of the state that roughly stretches from Vicksburg in the south almost all the way up to Memphis, Tenn. in the north. According to the New York Times, these sweet and salty delights are often sold rather informally on convenience store counters, school fundraisers, and even just from older folks in the neighborhood who sell their homemade specialties. You'll also find them in slightly more formal settings like Double Quick convenience stores, where they're sold as "Pickoolas."

Between that somewhat homemade, ad hoc nature of its distribution and the reliance on an already-trademarked product as a key ingredient, nobody's trademarked the "Koolickle" or made a bona fide claim to have invented it themselves (though "Pickoola," which dodges the outright reference to Kool-Aid, was trademarked by Double Quick in 2007).

Similarly, its exact age is hard to determine. The Times claims it emerged as a culinary force sometime after Bill Clinton won the presidency, making it the kind of thing that Millennials and Zoomers are more likely to munch on. It exists as a sort of spiritual successor to the older regional concept of spearing a dill pickle with a peppermint stick. Say what you will about immersing pickles in Kool-Aid, but at least it doesn't involve a candy we normally associate with Christmas.

Regardless of its age, the Kool-Aid soaked pickles are a regional hit. It's hardly a scientific poll, but the New York Times' 2007 exploration of the sweet and sour snack found that 29 out of 29 students in an Indianola, Miss. classroom professed their adoration for Kool-Aid pickles.

Its popularity has started to spread beyond the Magnolia State's borders, too. The Kool-Aid pickle has popped up as far away as Dallas and St. Louis, suggesting there may just be something to this weird and wondrous treat after all. Perhaps most importantly, it's gotten the Kool-Aid seal of approval as a viable use for their product.

How to Make Kool-Aid Pickles

So how do you make yourself a Koolickle, Kool-Aid Pickle, or Pickoola? To state the obvious, there's a pretty massive clue about the ingredients hidden right there in its name. In addition to your preferred flavor of Kool-Aid (ideally enough to make the resulting solution twice as concentrated as a typical pitcher you'd drink), you'll need half spears of kosher dill pickles and sugar.

  1. Strain the brine from that jar of dill pickles into a bowl, and set aside the pickles for the time being.
  2. Next, you're mixing in the Kool-Aid powder and sugar, stirring that mixture until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Once that's taken care of, dump that zhuzhed-up brine back in the jar with the pickles, and let it do its thing.
  4. Finally, shake that mixture up and place it in the refrigerator so the now-sweetened brine can mingle with the pickles. Ideally, that steeping process goes on for about a week.

Get the Recipe: Carolyn's KOOL-AID® Pickles

If all goes well, those dills will sport a bright hue that hints at whatever color of Kool-Aid you've chosen to soak them in. Though they won't totally shake off that underlying shade of green, it's much more of a vibrant take on a pickled vegetable than you're used to — and the fact that it has no real analogue in nature is definitely part of the fun.

So if you find yourself with some excess Blue Raspberry Kool-Aid and a jar of pickles that you can't quite bring yourself to enjoy in their current form, you might as well take the time to see if two great tastes do in fact go together.


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