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I’d say a good 20 to 30 percent of my refrigerator space is given over to pickles. I love anything pickled—onions, cabbage, cauliflower, zucchini, and chile peppers. If it’s pickle-able, you’re likely to find a jar of it buried away in the far, deep recesses of my refrigerator. In fact, all of the above (and more) are in there right now, marinating as we speak. Or as I type, I should say.

Unfortunately that doesn’t leave much room for anything else, which is something I have to live with. I suppose I could start canning them, but then I’d have to find somewhere to put all those jars. But there’s no way I’m giving up a single pair of the thirty-two sets of shoes in my closet, or a single space on my groaning cookbook shelf, to give way to a place to store them.


I think I’m almost at risk of turning into one of those people who die, and afterward, pictures of my apartment filled-to-the-brim with stuff, appear on websites and daytime talk shows, to the horror of readers from coast-to-coast.

As the camera scans, folks will be shocked to see everything from hundreds of pairs of orange socks (and Trippen shoes) to a closet-load of back-up oven handles to a stockpile of kimchi jars that would stun even the most jaded Korean grandmother. That’s my apartment, folks. You read it here first.

no shoes

I don’t know where I got that “bunker” mentality. Perhaps from my own grandmother, who died and left behind a twenty-five year retrospective of plastic bags – meaning, basically, every plastic bag and twist tie that ever crossed her path. During her declining years, she finally got her house in Los Angeles air-conditioned, which she intimated cost a pretty-decent amount of money. Her last words about it to me were—“So you’re all gonna to get a little less when I’m gone. Well…too bad!

washed peppers

But another thing that I remember about my grandmother is that she did love to eat and she enjoyed pickles as much as I do. When I was in the states recently, I brought back a few pounds of jalapeño peppers. You can get chile peppers at the Arab markets in Paris, but there’s something irreplaceable about having jalapeño peppers on hand to chop up and add to a batch of guacamole or serve alongside carnitas. Other chiles just aren’t really the same.


I was inspired by Michael Ruhlman’s pickled chilli recipe that was not only beautiful to behold (a worthy addition to my “collection”) but simple. I also liked reading his explanation of brining from his new book called Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, which breaks down all the kitchen basics into simple formulas, including brine, which you can adapt as you wish.

dish of peppers

I’m adding it to my well-stocked cookbook bookshelf after it leaves my bedside table, as I love reading about the how’s and why’s of cooking and baking. Kinda like “normal” people make, say…fiction or biographies, their bedside reading.

Or keep their refrigerator stocked with things like milk, vegetables, eggs, and other necessities…instead of cramming it full of pickles. Which in my mind (and stomach) fits perfectly into that group.

Pickled Jalapenos

Adapted from Michael Symon’s Live to Cook by Michael Symon and Michael Ruhlman Like Michael says in his book, you can use a brine for everything from roast chicken to green beans to curing your own homemade pastrami. Now that’s something that would make my grandmother proud.
Servings 4 servings
  • 1 pound (450g) fresh jalapeno peppers, washed (see Note)
  • 2 1/2 cups (625ml) water
  • 2 1/2 cups (625ml) vinegar, (I used white distilled vinegar)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons coarse salt, such as kosher
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • Stab each pepper three times with a sharp paring knife and place them in a large glass preserving jar.
  • In a non-reactive saucepan, bring the other ingredients to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.
  • Remove from heat and pour the brine over the peppers. Place the lid on the jar and let cool. Once cool, refrigerate for at least a week before using, if possible. (You can use them sooner, but Michael says they’re worth the wait.)


Serve whole, with Mexican dishes, or remove the seeds then chop and use to season any recipe that is improved by a little bit of sweet heat. Storage: I’ve kept pickles like this for up to a few weeks, under refrigeration, without any problems. But like anything preserved, you should take precautions. If you wish to preserve them longer, you can use these canning instructions and guidelines. Note: You can use another chile pepper in place of the japeños.

Related Links and Recipes

The Unambiguous Chilli (

Pickled Red Onions

Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking (by Michael Ruhlman)

Chile, Chili or Chilli (

Petite Choucroute (Married With Dinner)

Easy Pickled Carrots

Chile Rellenos Bake (Kalyn’s Kitchen)

Zuni Café’s Zucchini Pickles (Wednesday Chef)

Quick Pickled Radishes (Cooking with Amy)

Arthur Schwartz’s Kosher Dill Pickles

Persimmon Pickles (Rookie Cookery)

Tatiana’s Dill PIckles (Martha Stewart)

D.I.Y. Hot Sauce (Bitten)

Marinated Feta with Herbs in Olive Oil

Chile Verde (Simply Recipes)

Wahoo Escabeche (Matt Bites)

Moroccan Preserved Lemons



    • Michelle in NZ

    I love the first instruction in this recipe – stab each pepper three times……

    My favourite recipe for a boned out and butterflied leg of lamb instructs the cook to open out the lamb leg on a clean bench (counter) top, cover with plastic cling film and “whack all over with a rolling pin”

    More brilliant stress relief, thanks David!

    • maggie (p&c)

    In these times, maybe pickles are the new _____. Maybe it was reading Molly’s book, but I’ve been craving pickles in a big way. I pickled fennel, red peppers, onions, and carrots last night, but jalapenos sound so good!

    • Arundathi

    I recently pickled beets and pearl onions. They were delicious. Next up, Peppers.

    • Sandra

    I’m not so much into picking a pound of pickled peppers….. but I just wanted to comment about some wonderful memories of your maternal grandmother and grandfather and their wonderful home …. they were really great and had great sense of humor and family as well!!

    • craig

    “1. Stab each pepper three times” … That line caught my attention also. I got a full blown visual of the peppers being stabbed in the shower scene of “Psycho” COMPLETE with sound effects. That is some powerful prose for piercing peppers, David!

    • Alta

    I will definitely have to try this again! (tried it once, a long long time ago, when I didn’t really know what I was doing in the kitchen…and they weren’t that tasty) I just planted jalapeno seeds in the garden the other day, and with a little luck, I’ll have more than I can handle in the coming months. Definitely see pickling in my future!

    • Barbra

    Thanks, David. Now I want to go shoe shopping and drink Bloody Marys with pickled peppers, and it’s not even 9am.

    • Suzen

    So it is true! There are no jalepno peppers here in Paris. I have been looking for them everywhere. My guacamole is not perfect without them. My French friends here don’t mind so much because they can not take so much spice but I miss it. What a pity.

    • Stephanie

    I didn’t like pickles before I went to France, but after being there I fell in love with them.

    • Laura

    It never occurred to me that you wouldn’t get jalapenos in Paris! Quelle horeur! I adore pickles (although apparently not quite as much as you do) and make tons of them in the summer. I occasionally become obsessed with bread and butter pickles…the recipe from “Aunt Flossie” out of the Doubleday Cookbook is not to be beat!

    • Vivian

    I made Ruhlman’s version when he first posted it (Donna’s photos make everything so enticing) and it turned out extremely well. I love pickles too. We have a ton of fresh asparagus that I am going to pickle this weekend but I think I might have to do some jalapenos as well.I loved Elements and I have been waiting, forever it seems, for Ratio to come out and I will definitely add it to my collection too.

    • michaela

    what about pickled beets? my mom makes a basic, yet addictive, recipe.

    • Gigi

    My cookbooks are the most read thing n the house. Absolutely nothing compares to reading a great cookbook. What other book can turn your kitchen and pantry into a giant science experiment? Reactions! Proportions! Emulsions! Mixtures! State Changes. I love it.

    So you didn’t share. Why does produce become pickled when it sits in a brine? :D

    • Kathleen

    Please beware of handling jalapeno peppers with bare hands, especially if you wear contact lens. Jalapenos have an oil that stays on your hands and burns after many, many hand washes. I live in Louisiana where jalapenos are very common and I’ve seen friends in agony because they didn’t take precautions. I use the thin plastic produce bag to protect the hand that holds the jalapeno down and then use the flat of the knife to transport to the bowl or container.

    Now I’m going to look at that pickled radish recipe. That’s a new one on me.

    • deb

    I know exactly how many pairs of shoes are on that rack and how many jars of pickles are in the fridge. I wonder if David will pay me off (in pickles, please) to keep quiet…

    • Lars@grydeskeen

    Pickled everything is a must! Its so easy, and you have tasty treats long after summer has gone away. And shelfspace is a problem here too :(

    @Kathleen: plastic gloves are nice, but jalapeños aren’t really that strong. When you handle habaneros/scotch bonnets even touching thin skin with your fingers will make it burn.

    • Kelly

    Can you use this recipe to make just regular pickles?

    • Kate

    I think I might love your grandmother.

    I can’t help but think of Peter Piper …

    • Amanda from Mrs.W’s Kitchen

    I’m with you–I keep pickled fresh cherry peppers in my fridge, too. Only I make them the easy way. Chop. Cover (and keep covered) with white vinegar. Refrigerate. Super spicy and yummy, especially when I make eggplant puree or chicken riggies.

    • Mary

    MMMM pickled anything is right up my alley these days as a preggers lady.
    Thanks for this recipe

    • Irene

    David, if there is a Russian store in Paris, ask them to make you pickled watermelon. I do not really like pickled stuff myself, but I have heard that it is like the height of wonder for pickle-lovers. :)

    • cdelphine

    well, I may not love pickles but I love this post and your lol-inducing writing. I also love Room for Dessert from which I am about to make chocolate idiot cake, whipped cream and raspberry sauce. mmmmm…

    • Paula Maack

    David, I love the story about your grandmother! How cool that she lived in L.A., and drank whiskey on the rocks every day – mine too!!!

    I thought Jewish grandmothers never drank anything but Manischevitz…? Hmmm… She must have be a rogue. I love it!

    I actually associate whiskey breathe (or scotch) with my grandma, since that’s what she smelled like. It was always the cheap stuff, and she refused any of the good stuff my dad would bring over. But, she got a little sweeter (and just a tiny bit sloppier in her speech) as she drank. She was a single mom with four kids, and worked two jobs a day from the age of 8 to 65, so I have never judged. Honestly, I wouldn’t have judged, either way. I’m not that type.

    My grandma lived in East L.A., where I was born, actually, and I am guessing yours lived closer to Fairfax/Hancock Park/Beverly Hills..? Man, I wish I had a Jewish grandmother!!! But, being born in East Los Angeles means I was born with a jalapeno firmly tucked in my mouth, instead of the obligatory silver spoon. So, I can totally relate to your jalapeno craving. It runs deep.

    I never thought about pickling my own peppers. How very Peter Piper of you!! Now you are making me think about those tasty pickled melanges you see in taquerias with carrots, onions, jalapenos, cauliflower and garlic. Hmmm…
    I wonder if my husband would really leave me if I pickled anything in the house?

    But my, my… those are some sexy pepper shots!!!


    ~ Paula

    • Jane L

    David,You inspired me to fill my fridge with pickles. I plan to grab jalapenos and do it next time I go to my farmers market. Pickles always add a touch to the meal that can be very boring. thanks for the inspiration !! 32 pair of shoes Wow !! you really like to walk well. Jane

    • Hillary

    David Lebovitz picks a pack of pickled peppers. Doesn’t have the same ring as Peter Piper :)

    But either way, I love pickled hot peppers on just about everything so I might have to take up pickling!

    • Jenni

    You are allowed to have heaps of whatever you want lying around in your apartment. That makes you “that Eccentric Ex-Pat American Gentleman!” I read the whole WTF oven handle story, yelling the “important parts” across the house to my beloved husband, (who really didn’t care at all, sad to say)! Looking forward to your coverless, indexless book whenever it comes out!

    • Carolyn

    Have you considered the possibility that by eating so many pickles, you may preserve yourself and never die? That way, no one would ever have to see the hoarding. Among other benefits.

    • margie

    I wonder if pickling jalapeno peppers will cure my pickle juice drinking teen? …justa thought.

    I love reading about a man who collects shoes. This brings hope to us women.


    • nithya at hungrydesi

    I love pickled jalapenos! My husband doesn’t understand why but I like them better than fresh jalapeno peppers. Pickled jalapenos, pickled radish and regular pickles taste great on falafel sandwiches…mmm.

    • David

    Carolyn: Ha ha! Thanks for the laugh this morning.. : )

    • Barbara

    In the last two months, I am finding jalapeno peppers available in the grand surface and I live in Bretagne!! A couple of months ago I wanted some and they were not to be found anywhere. Thanks for the idea of pickling them. I can have them anytime I want now. Dave, you are a god send to us American expats who need some culinary guidance a la American. By the way, can’t find corn syrup around here. Would you suggest subbing Lyle’s Syrup, especially in baking?

    Hi Barbra: Check out my post American Baking in Paris for tips on where to find stuff and substitutions. -dl

    • krysalia

    daveed said > “basically, every plastic bag that ever crossed her path”

    hahaha :).
    my grand mother stocks les papiers de soie, and also any pieces of string, cord, or straw thread that she can get her hands on, because “string is expensive and always handy” : la ficelle, C’est cher et ça sert toujours !.

    bah, this bunker mentality has at least one good side : if there’s some kind of nuclear war next week, we’re assured to survive a long time (and to feed the whole neighborhood for ages actually :D).

    • noble pig

    You are funny…I raise you 28 pairs of shoes and wonder where I shall keep all my cookware. No one is going to tell me I don’t need tose pink strappy heels I wore once in 1997.

    Love the peppers too, very, very nice.

    • Sunny

    Darn. You brought them back with you — here I was hoping there was a place to BUY jalapenos.

    BUT — jalapenos in Bretagne? Maybe there’s hope! I’ve sent away for mail order packets of seeds, so I hope I’ll have some of my own this summer….salsa, here we come! (THAT I will can — in huge quantities. I have a hard time getting motivated to make confiture and gelee when Bonne Maman can provide any flavor I want for a pittance. But good salsa? You’ll be able to smell my kitchen all the way in Paris, David!)

    Off to go troll the rayon des legumes at the grand surface…

    • Pam

    What do you use all these pickles in? I made some pickled garlic and peppers last year, and then never used them. They sat in my fridge, till I finally found them later and threw them out.

    • ritanyc

    I find it interesting that you speaking of pickles in France. My friend Choi told me that Koreans eat kimchi for the same reason French eat cheese (subliminally or otherwise)… the fermented quality aids in digestion.
    BTW, David, how did you bring home lbs. of produce through customs…in your shoes?

    • The Antiques Diva

    I wasn’t sure if you were describing your fridge, or mine, your grandmother in CA or mine in OK – both apparently could be characters in The Grapes of Wrath! My Grandma’s canned food pantry (an entire room in the basement) sustained me during my frugal university days when I would go to grandmas and go shopping.

    My obsession is mustard, while my husband on the other hand, obsesses over honey. Anywhere we travel, he buys some… sometimes on the same trip, he’s picking up honey ever 30km so he can taste test the difference in the pollen. It’s an addiction and just as I have a one shelf of coveted space in our dorm-sized (read as European) refrigerator, he has one shelf in the cupboard devoted to his addiction. Sometimes I open that cabinet and find open jars with spoons sticking out of them… what will they say about us, when we die?

    Regarding shoes, let’s not even go there…

    • Ms B

    DH adores pickled sliced jalapenos and we buy the economy sized jar for him to add to tacos, burritos, quesadillos, nachos, cheese dip, pizza, burgers, sandwiches and just about anything he deems insufficiently spicy. Do you think the recipe would work with sliced peppers instead of whole?

    I do have an “extra” garage refrigerator (plus one in my basement guest suite) that has lots of space for pickled product storage . . . feel free to bring some of your jars of pickled produce on over!!!

    • David

    Ms B: Yes, I think the recipe would work with pepper slices. They’ll pickle faster, although may lose a bit of their crunch.

    ritanyc: The chiles were in my suitcase and no one seemed to mind. I don’t think the airport customs folks knew what they were!

    Pam: Mine are still working, but I chopped two up and made and Indian dish of fried spiced potatoes, called Aloo Bahjee, and will likely be adding them to guacamole and other Mexican treats.

    • Denay

    I am so glad this recipe was posted. I absolutely love pickled peppers and really all things pickled…although I do have to watch my salt intake these days. I was recently at a marketing event sponsored through the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs. The event was for home-food processors from around the state and there was a lady there that made pickled okra and pickled collard greens. No, really. Why you might ask? Good question. You know collard greens are seasonal and usually best after that first frost in the fall, well she has learned to pickle them so you can have them all year round and they are best served with barbecue, potato salad and cornbread. All I can say is amen…this southern gal is going to learn how to pickle collards. If you have a recipe for those…please post it.

    • Loreto

    Yummy!!! In Mexico we call pickled Jalapeños “Chiles en Vinagre”. They are great! Here we also usually add different veggie. Mostly whole heads of garlic, cauliflower, carrots, new potatoes, and mushrooms. Depending on the region of Mexico some people cook the veggies with the brine but in my family we just add the brine while it is still hot. This recipes pretty close to my family recipe, and this is the second recipe I’ve read from this book which I just might buy.

    • Susan

    For Denay: I found this recipe for pickled greens on Saveur’s Web site:

    It should work well with any greens, and I’m going to try it with collards from my garden (leaving out the stems).

    Thanks for the pickled jalapenos recipe, David! I will definitely try it. The last pickle I made was pickled shallots and they were wonderful. All of the shallots are gone now, but I still have the jar of pickling brine in my frigo which I’ve been using in vinaigrettes and on steamed vegetables.

    • esther

    oh, man! for a minute there are thought you had found these in paris. bummer.

    • ChileBravo

    Nice article, Pickled habaneros are my favorite peppers in a jar. They start out smooth and finish w/ a mellow kick. Thanks for the recipe, ok if I add it to our website?

    • Ed

    Brining chicken is definitely the way to go for juicy and flavorful results. Just don’t leave it in the brine too long. I get great results with pork as well.

    Trying the jalapeno recipe now. The only worrisome thing is that, even though I stabbed the peppers, they still float, exposing the top ones to air. It’s been only one day. Will they eventually sink? Time will tell…

    Can’t wait to try them. Thanks for the article.

    • James

    People have been cold packing pickled peppers, and storing them for more than a few weeks (at least 3 months in my personal experience), for many generations. If you hot pack (pressure cook) them they can go to mush easily.

    Not sure about all the stringent directions I have seen recently for pressure cooking peppers. I grew up around farming and ranching families in the Western U.S. who have been pickling this way (cold packing) for generations with no problems.

    Keep in mind I am not referring to low acid vegetables.

    • Ed

    I sampled my first batch after one week. They were bright green and very crisp and fresh-tasting and hot as hell. I decided to let ’em sit a spell. After about four weeks they have turned to an olive green and have mellowed a bit, but they’re still very crisp and delicious and hot. At this point I believe they’re ready for nachos. In fact, I’ll be making some in a little while. Cheers!

    • Hope

    can anyone tell me if you absolutely must seal your jars when pickling peppers?
    can you simply fill the jar with cold vinegar and salt and screw the lids on tightly without boiling the filled jars?

    • Ed


    You don’t have to boil the filled jars for this recipe. Just cook the brine as directed and pour over the peppers in a sterilized jar. I used a regular pickle jar that I sterilized (rinsed out with water, 2 minutes on high) in my microwave oven. If the cooked brine is hot enough the lid will vacuum seal itself. Shake out as much trapped air as you can, and then put the lid on immediately. Good luck.

    • Denise

    We have an abundance of jalapenos from our family garden. This sounds like the perfect use for them. Thank you so much!

    • Cookiemaker

    Your story brings back memories, some of them anguished, of my Polish Jewish Bubby and her hoarding of plastic bags. I thought she had dementia but maybe it’s a cultural thing?! Kidding. Love your pickles. Sounds like your roots and mine may overlap, as pickling is a national sport in eastern Europe.

    • Wendy

    David-I adore your website and your recipes. I discovered your pickled peppers recipe this past summer to use on my garden jalapenos. Everybody just loved them. However, I have a friend that wishes they were sweeter like his favorite brand that is now defunct. He had an old jar and told me that it included corn syrup. I read your posting on corn syrup but it did not address my issue. Would the corn syrup change the taste/type of sweetness? I am inclined to think that I should just add another Tbsp of sugar but wanted your opinion. Thank you.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Wendy: I would imagine the corn syrup is added just as a cheaper sweetener to pre-bought pickled peppers. Corn syrup is generally sweeter than sugar so if you decide to use it, keep that in mind. But for this recipe, I would stick with sugar and just add more. Happy pickling!


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