Asian-Inspired Refrigerator Pickles

June 24, 2009(updated on August 30, 2021)

finished fridge pickles

I had the first incarnation of these pickles at a potluck I hosted nearly two years ago. My friend Wendy brought them to the party, and by the end of the night, the once overflowing bowl was reduced to a puddle of brine and with three little spears bobbling amidst the hot peppers and onion slivers. Crisp, fragrant and flavorful, they seemed to pair perfectly with every other dish on the table.

When the evening wrapped up, Wendy gave me permission to pour the leftover brine into a jar to save and reuse. The next day I added a fresh batch of cucumber spears and let the sweet/sour liquid work its magic. These days, I make these quick fridge pickles regularly during the spring, summer and fall, when kirby cucumbers are readily available (these do okay when made with English cucumbers, but not so well when made with waxed cukes). The brine can be reused several times (trash it when it gets cloudy).

Feel free to alter this recipe to your liking. Wendy’s original recipe calls for shallots and cilantro. I used scallions and mint because that’s what I had. If you don’t want your pickles to be too spicy, use half a hot pepper (or none at all if you can stand the heat). The recipe is after the jump.

ingredients for fridge pickles

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Asian-Inspired Quick Pickles


  • 5-6 kirby pickling cucumbers, each cut into six spears
  • 1 chili pepper
  • 1 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar look for a brand that uses sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, Trader Joe's makes a good one
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 3-4 scallions chopped (greens and whites)
  • 2 garlic cloves sliced
  • 4 sprigs of mint chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • Pack the cucumber spears into a quart jar. Slide the chili pepper down in among the cucumber spears.
  • In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine the rice wine vinegar, lime juice, scallions, garlic cloves, mint and salt. Pour over the cucumbers. Using your fingers, poke some of the garlic slivers, mint and scallion down amidst the cucumbers.
  • Screw a lid on the jar, and holding the over the sink (in case of leaks) invert the jar and give it a good shake, in order to distribute all the delicious bits.
  • Let your pickles sit in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before eating.

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48 thoughts on "Asian-Inspired Refrigerator Pickles"

  • This recipe looks good. I love briny, salty things – especially in the summer. I could manage to make this!

    I have a question about your jar and lid. Tell me about them! Is the jar a vintage jar? Are these plastic lids readily available? I am on a quest to round up wide mouthed quart jars and lids for storage in the refrigerator and pantry.

  • Let them sit at least 24 hours, but AT MOST ???? How long will they stay in the fridge? And could I can them?

    1. I make them and have eaten them over a couple of months and they seem to be just fine….no one’s died yet! Taste pretty much the same at week 8 as week one but garlic gets a bit more pronounced. I do a combo of peppers and cucumbers. They have a nice crunch the whole time too.

  • This looks like something I could make after visiting the Italian Market next weekend when I’m there. Woo hooo! Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Deanne, many places that sell canning supplies also carry the lids (they come in both the regular mouth and the wide mouth sizes). You can also order them online (I know Amazon has them) if you can’t find them locally.

    Regarding jars, has anyone used this type: ? I’m a little wary because it’s not the familiar system I’m accustomed to, but they are *so* pretty and would be great for gifts…

  • Deanne, here’s the link to where you can order those plastic lids on Amazon. They are super handy and great for turning your jars into storage. The jar is vintage, but I do see them around pretty regularly, so keep your eyes peeled, I’m sure you’ll come across one eventually.

    Meadowlark, you can keep these in the fridge for a couple of weeks. You could can them, but you’d need to check into the acidity of the rice wine vinegar in order to ensure that it was high enough to keep things safe.

    diselboi, do it!

    Marisa, I’ve never tried those jars, but I would imagine they’d be no different from regular jars. As long as you soaked the lids to soften the sealing compound and checked the seal when you were done, I think they’d be safe.

  • Sounds delicious. I always have pickles in my fridge because I am addicted to the sour taste. It would be great to have a quick and easy way to make some and this recipe fits the bill!

  • I love a crisp, spicy pickle.

    I think, even if the acidity in rice wine vinegar is at a level safe for canning, the heat would soften the pickles and it would lose something that seems essential to this snack. I bet Thai basil would be a good herb choice here as well.

  • I love that these pickles have become a staple for you! They are always a favorite. I do use shallots and cilantro instead of scallions and mint (mostly because I have a serious aversion to spearmint and peppermint is hard to find unless it is growing in your yard). The original recipe (for a salad, not pickle spears) is from the delicious cookbook Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham.

  • I am fairly new to the whole canning, preserving world … can you just reuse the brine the way it is or is it something that needs to be heated up?

    1. Jenn, you’d never reuse brine if you were planning on hot water processing pickles for storage. However, if you’re just making refrigerator pickles (pickles made with a cold brine that simply live in the fridge) there’s nothing wrong with reusing the brine through a couple of batches of pickles. You want to discard it when it becomes excessively cloudy or develops an unpleasant taste. However, when I make these pickles, I’ll often replace the pickles I eat with fresh cucumber spears, so that the jar never empties, there are just pickles in different stages of sourness in the jar. Eventually, the brine level will drop too low to do this and that’s when you know it’s time to start a fresh jar. This takes me about a month.

  • This is just my kind of pickle. I’m a huge fan of the plastic replacement tops for canning jars. I often write the date on the top, so I can remember when I made whatever’s inside.

  • I just saw kirby’s at my csa so I picked some up thinking of this post. I am wondering if cilantro would work as well. I can’t wait to give this recipe a try.

  • Lydia, I think those plastic caps are the best. I have about twenty of them in the two sizes.

    Jess, cilantro in place of the mint would be just fine. That’s actually what the original recipe called for.

  • I made these and they are fantastic! A perfect wait to use the loads of cukes already bursting forth from our wee community garden plot. One thing I noticed: they aren’t spicy at all, despite containing a whole pepper. I wonder if it makes sense to slice the pepper into strips so that the oils eek out. Any thoughts?

  • Tenaya, I had the same problem with lack of spiciness this time around too. Thing is, I did it the same way last year and had seriously spicy pickles. It’s one of those mysteries of the kitchen, I guess. Next time, I’m going to slice the pepper in half lengthwise to release the spicy essence, just as you’ve suggested.

    Another thought on adding spiciness to pickles. This weekend, I made a batch (four pints) of pickled string beans and added a teaspoon of cayenne to the brine. It made me sneeze repeatedly as I stirred it in, but it gave the brine some seriously wonderful spice. I’ll be blogging about that soon, but I thought I’d pass along the tip now!

  • These look wonderful – as do all of your recipes. I discovered your blog recently and am really enjoying it (great name, too). I love the idea of making refrigerator pickles with rice wine vinegar and can’t wait to try a batch up these. All I need if for my cucumbers in the kitchen garden to grow grow grow! 🙂

  • Terrye, jars do not have to be sterilized if you’re just making refrigerator pickles. They just need to be well-washed.

  • I made these last week and my co-worker is begging for more, so I’m making some tonight for her. I subbed cilantro for the mint and green onions for the shallots. I couldn’t find chili peppers, so I slivered jalapenos. I’ll put more jalapeno slices tonight. And I’ll add more garlic (LOVE the garlic).

    I preferred mine with less lime juice and I think I’m going to cut the rice wine vinegar with a little white vinegar (I think my rice wine vinegar was just a tad too sweet).

    Overall, a very yummy recipe. Everyone I offered them to liked them!

  • These look so tasty! I’m on an Asian cucumber kick lately so these will have to be next on the list. I have already done cucumber kimchi and ginger soy cucumber salad the last two weeks.

  • Just tasted some refrigerator pickles that I had made in August using finely grated zucchini and hope that I might find the recipe again. Of course thinking of you first and hoping you were putting out a pickle cookbook. I made 3 different jars :the zucchini, a yellow squash/cauliflower and one with cucumber spears. Fantastic, unique flavors. Thanks

  • What I didn’t realize was how much better Asian food could be than what my experience of it was. A lot of Chinese cuisine in America is actually nothing like the traditional style. It is much too greasy, and dominated by a simple array of flavors that doesn’t really capture the complexity of Asian cooking.;

    Remember to take a peek at our favorite web portal

  • YUM!!!! I was looking for something that was neither dill nor bread and butter. Fantastic! I seasoned plain rice vinegar (Trader Joe’s, though!) as raw sugar usually makes me sick-I substituted that with Splenda. Used mild ‘hot’ peppers from the garden so added a little crushed red pepper for color and bite. Did I mention- YUM??!! I will use the last of my cukes only for this recipe the remainder of the season. Will chop and freeze my garlic scapes next year to use in place of scallions. WONDERFUL RECIPE! Thank you.

  • Made these, but wasn’t able to fine fresh mint in my store so went with fresh dill & OMG were they ever good. Had a few cukes leftover so am brining a 2nd batch with original brining liquid.