Make the most of the summer harvest by turning piles of cucumbers into delicious pickles! These Instant Pot Refrigerator Pickles are an ultra easy way to get started with preserving: no special skills or equipment needed!
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Before my son was born, I was an avid gardener. I just LOVED growing vegetables, and I absolutely loved putting them up for the winter. It was so much fun to go down into my basement and see all the pretty jars and my summer harvest lined up.
The romance of such an impressive larder was enchanting, however it was tempered by the exhausting work that had to be done in the heat of summer to get to that point. I would be sweating up a storm in my non-air-conditioned kitchen, with steam rising from every big pot I could possibly fit on the stove. At the end of the day my back would be aching and I would be absolutely pooped!
A Cooler Way to Preserve
While I LOVE canning, and would even consider it a hobby, I am slightly resentful of the fact that the harvest coincides with the hottest time of the year. And cucumbers wait for no one. They demand to be preserved right now, or else.
Which is why I'm totally loving this EASY peasy recipe for Instant Pot Refrigerator Pickles! Not only are they a great way to make a small batch of homemade pickles, but the Instant Pot keeps my kitchen totally cool! All the heat is contained in the Instant Pot, and since it only needs to cook for about 2 minutes it hardly uses any electricity. I can still store some delicious pickles, but without all the sweat and toil!
I don't know about you, but I am all about that!
Canning with an Instant Pot
A common question I see come up in Instant Pot groups is whether or not you can use your Instant Pot for canning. The answer is, at this time you cannot. Canning is a skill that requires experience and using tested recipes. The Instant Pot has not been tested for safety for canning foods, and therefore should be avoided for such a purpose.
You can, however, use the Instant Pot to prepare freezer and refrigerator preparations of your favorite canned foods. This recipe for Instant Pot Refrigerator pickles is just that. You can even make your very own Instant Pot Strawberry Jam! The benefit is that you don't have to haul out of a bunch of canning equipment and you can usually eat it very soon after preparation.
- Cucumbers: If it is the harvest season in your area, opt for local pickling cucumbers that have been picked in the last 24 hours. If you don't have that option, purchase the mini cucumbers from the grocery store that are sold in flats or in bags. They are approximately 5-6" long.
- Vinegar: Seek out a white vinegar that is at least 5% acidity, but no more than 8%.
- Dill: Fresh dill is an absolute must for this recipe! You can purchase some at the grocery store, but farmers markets often offer fresh dill weed and fronds alongside their fresh pickling cucumbers. That is the best option if available to you.
- Garlic: Since I like my pickles extremely garlicky, I went with 6-7 large cloves. For the average person, 2-3 cloves would suffice.
- Pickling spice: This can be purchased in bulk bins, or with the canning supplies in your local supermarket if it is canning season. If you can't find pickling spice, you can make your own with this recipe from Foodie Crush.
- Mustard seeds: These are often available in the seasoning section of the grocery store, but can also be purchased in bulk bins or at health food stores.
- Kosher salt: A coarse and flaky salt like kosher salt is ideal for pickling. You can also use pickling salt if that is what you have on hand. If you only have table salt you can substitute it for the kosher salt in this recipe, but cut the amount in half to avoid an overly salty recipe.
- Sugar: This isn't a sweet pickle by any means, but a little bit of granulated sugar helps balance out the acidity of the vinegar in these Instant Pot Pickles.
- You will also need some drinkable quality cool water to add to the brine.
Get started by adding white vinegar and some kosher salt to the inner pot of your Instant Pot.
Whisk well to dissolve the salt a little, and then the secure the lid and set it to "sealing." You can use the yogurt setting (if your Instant Pot has one) or set it for 2 minutes on manual pressure.
Once the cook time is through, hit the cancel button.
Use a long spoon to carefully switch the valve to "venting" and let the Instant Pot do a full manual pressure release.
Once the pin drops, open the lid.
Add in the sugar and whisk well until it dissolves.
Then, add in 2 cups of cool water.
Transfer your brine to a heat proof glass bowl and place in the fridge to chill while you prepare your cucumbers.
Add the mustard seeds, pickling spice, and garlic cloves to the bottom of a clean wide mouth glass jar. A like to use the stout quart sized ones from Ikea with the swing top lid, but you can use anything you have on hand.
Add in a few sprigs of fresh dill weed.
Preparing the Cucumbers
Trim your cucumbers to size by removing the blossom ends and testing them against the size of the jar. Cut them so that they will be 1-1 ½ inches below the top of the jar when standing upright. Then, quarter each cucumber into spears.
Fit the spears tightly into the jar. They should be firm, but not packed so tightly you can't pull them out easily.
Add the remaining dill sprigs and tuck them into the cucumber spears so they don't rise when you pour in the brine.
Transfer your chilled brine to a glass measuring cup and pour the brine into the cucumber spear packed jar. Use a butter knife to remove any air bubbles that appear. The brine should fully cover the cucumber spears.
Place the lid on the jar and seal so it is airtight. Move to your refrigerator. Let rest for at least 3 days before eating, and use within one month of preparation.
Sugar free, keto, and low carb: Substitute the sugar in this recipe for a keto-friendly sweetener that measures cup for cup with sugar (like Swerve).
Gluten Free: The ingredients are already gluten-free for this recipe. As usual, be sure to check packing to be absolutely sure they do not contain cross contaminants.
Apple Cider Vinegar: If you like a stronger tasting pickle, feel free to substitute a portion of the white vinegar with some apple cider vinegar. I would advise against substituting all of the vinegar, as that would create an undesirable flavor.
Zucchini pickles: pick zucchini that are small (5-6" in length) and seed free. Trim the ends off and quarter as you would standard cucumber pickles.
Jalapeno pickles: Slice fresh jalapeno peppers into rounds and pack into a quart sized jar. Cover with the prepared brine. You may omit the pickling spices, mustard seeds, dill, and garlic if desired.
Leftover Brine from Instant Pot Pickles
This recipe makes enough brine for leftovers. This is to ensure you don't come up short if you use a different sized jar or you don't pack your cucumbers as tightly as I did. You can discard any leftover brine or you can use it to make any of the variations above, or an additional jar of Instant Pot Pickles.
If you'd like to make more than one jar of pickles, feel free to double, triple, or quadruple the recipe according to how many cucumbers you have to preserve.
If you don't have an Instant Pot with a yogurt setting, I highly recommend one! I love using this recipe for Instant Pot yogurt and it saves so much money! This is the Instant Pot I use for my yogurt (and many of my recipes) and I love it because I can fit a full gallon of milk or liquid in it!
More Instant Pot Recipes for Summer:
Instant Pot Refrigerator Pickles
- 1 ¼ cup white vinegar 5-8% acidity
- 3 tablespoons kosher or pickling salt
- 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
- 2 cups cold water
- 6 mini cucumbers about 1 ½ - 2 pounds
- 2-3 garlic cloves trimmed and peeled
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon pickling spice
- 6-8 sprigs of fresh dill weed
- Add the vinegar and kosher salt to the inner pot of an Instant Pot.
- Whisk well to dissolve the salt.
- Set the Instant Pot to "boil" by using the yogurt setting OR cook on manual pressure for 2 minutes.
- Once the timer has beeped, indicating the Instant Pot has finished the cooking time, hit the cancel button. Use a long spoon to move the valve to "venting" and allow the pressure to manually release.
- Once the pin drops, indicating the pressure is completely released, carefully open the lid.
- Add the sugar to the hot liquid and whisk well to dissolve the sugar into the brine.
- Pour in 2 cups of cold water and whisk again. Pour the contents of the Instant Pot into a heat safe glass bowl and chill in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Add the mustard seeds, pickling spice, and garlic cloves to the bottom of a clean wide mouth glass jar. A like to use the stout quart sized ones from Ikea with the swing top lid, but you can use anything you have on hand.
- Add in a few sprigs of fresh dill weed.
- Trim your cucumbers to size by removing the blossom ends and testing them against the size of the jar. Cut them so that they will be 1-1 ½ inches below the top of the jar when standing upright. Then, quarter each cucumber into spears.
- Fit the spears tightly into the jar. They should be firm, but not packed so tightly you can't pull them out easily.
- Add the remaining dill sprigs and tuck them into the cucumber spears so they don't rise when you pour in the brine.
- Transfer your chilled brine to a glass measuring cup and pour the brine into the cucumber spear packed jar. Use a butter knife to remove any air bubbles that appear. The brine should fully cover the cucumber spears.
- Place the lid on the jar and seal so it is airtight. Move to your refrigerator. Let rest for at least 3 days before eating, and use within one month of preparation.