Pickled Carrots and a Quick Brine Recipe

May 14, 2009(updated on August 30, 2021)

pickled carrots

Back when I made the pickled asparagus, I ended up having some brine leftover after I filled the jars. Not wanting to be wasteful, I poured what remained into a quart jar and shoved it towards the back of the fridge, to use another day. Over the weekend, I finally put it to good use.

I trimmed and quartered a pound of carrots, blanched them briefly (for no more than 15 seconds, as I didn’t want them to lose their crunch) and packed them into a wide mouth quart jar. Then I brought the brine to a quick boil and poured it in on top of the carrots. Several days later, they are piquant and a little bit spicy (I tucked a long red pepper into the jar along with the carrots).

quart of carrots

I did not do a hot water process with these pickles and instead chose to keep them in the fridge. I did this for several reasons. The first is that it’s not advisable to use reboiled brine for shelf-safe pickles. Part of the reason that pickled vegetables are safe to eat after a hot water process is that the acidity of the vinegar keeps the nasty bacteria at bay. Regular canned vegetables, the ones that aren’t pickled, must be pressure canned to be safe. I knew that my leftover brine was plenty vinegary in terms of making my carrots taste amazing. However, I didn’t know whether the level of acidity was adequate in terms of keeping those carrots shelf-safe. So I decided to go the safe route, skip the water bath and opt for refrigeration as my means of preservation.

chopping carrots

Additionally, sometimes I just want to make pickles, without hauling out a canning pot. Making a single jar with some leftover brine means that I can do just that. It took all of ten minutes to make those pickled carrots and now I have something delicious to go with soup, a sandwich, salad or just munched alone (and since the pickled asparagus I made a few weeks back is long gone) for the next week or so.

For those of you who don’t have some extra brine sitting around your fridge, here’s a quick formula for making a small batch of brine, so that you can make just one or two jars of pickles at a time.

I know it reads like a lot of steps to follow, but really, it takes no time. So go pickle something already.

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Small-Batch Pickling Brine


  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar make sure it’s commercial vinegar that is at least 5% acidity
  • 1 tablespoon pickling salt or 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

A palmful (each) of at least a few of the following:

  • crushed bay leaves
  • peppercorns
  • hot pepper flakes
  • allspice berries
  • coriander seeds
  • whole cloves


  • Pour the water, vinegar, salt and spices into a small saucepan. As it comes to a boil, pack your veggies into a freshly washed jar (one pound of trimmed and quartered carrots fits nearly perfectly into a wide-mouth quart-sized jar). You can also tuck a slice of lemon, a hot pepper or a garlic clove into the jar as well.
  • When the brine is boiling, pour it into the veggie-packed jar, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. Make sure to run a butter knife around inside the jar, to release any air bubbles trapped behind the vegetables (this isn’t as important in this case as it is when you’re doing a hot water bath, but it’s a good habit to get into anyway).
  • Gently screw a two-part canning lid on the jar (making sure to protect your hands with a towel or potholder) and let it sit until it’s cooled down. The lid may seal during the cooling process. However, this does not mean it’s safe to store it at room temperature indefinitely. Once the jar is fairly cool, it should still go in the fridge. Let them chill out in the brine for at least 2-3 days before you dig in.

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28 thoughts on "Pickled Carrots and a Quick Brine Recipe"

  • I LOVE pickled carrots! By far, my favorite pickled thing EVER!

    Andi, they are seriously delicious! You should make some. -Marisa

  • This looks so appealing. I’ve never canned anything before, but I think I might adapt your method to mimic a dish that the Russians call “Korean carrot salad” (though I’ve never seen anything like it in Korean cooking). I’ll just sweeten the vinegar a little bit, up the spice, and throw in a few garlic cloves, too. (Presumably the vinegar will ward off garlic-botulism?)

  • I also love pickled carrots!

    I have to admit, the whole concept of shelf-stability is what has made me skittish about canning. Your explanation about what processes work is very helpful, and I hope you’ll expand upon this in future posts.

  • Wow, I just stumbled onto your site through Twitter. I feel like it’s Christmas! Your pictures are luscious and the articles are divine. Thank you! I’m bookmarking your site directly…

  • Looking fwd to meeting these pickles again as I tasted them the day after you made them and can imagine with some sitting they’re even better, if that’s possible:)

  • I discovered pickled carrots after reading Molly Wizenburg’s book. Delightful. I’ve wondered if it’s ok to use leftover brine later. Thanks for the info.

    1. Wendi, I think it’s okay to use leftover brine as long as you’re making refrigerator pickles with it. I wouldn’t trust it if you wanted to hot process those pickles for room temp. storage.

  • Just made a pint of these and a pint of cuke slices with the small-batch brine. Can’t wait to try them!

  • Oops, I just realized I never answered Pam’s question about leftover brine in the fridge. I’ve found that it lasts at least a month. The rule of thumb is to discard it if it begins to look cloudy or discolored.

    And when I mean leftover brine, I’m not talking about used brine that has been emptied of its veggies. I’m talking about brine that was extra when making a larger batch of pickles. So it’s excess, used brine.

  • Hello-Can you tell me if I need to trim the veggie to be pickled down bellow the brine line? In the past I have trimmed them down, but I notice that yours stick up in the pictures. Can I leave them like that for shelf stable pickling?
    Thanks! And of course I love your blog. blah blah blah 🙂 d

  • Danielle, when I make pickles for canning, I do trim the veg down so that it will be completely submerged. I you read this post, you’ll not that these were refrigerator pickles, meaning I was just making a small amount to keep in the fridge for fairly immediate consumption.

  • My mom used to put sliced carrots into leftover dill pickle brine whenever we ended a jar of dill pickles. (Likely her own homemade pickles, too.) We just kept them in the fridge and nibbled on them.

  • Hi Marisa –

    Love the site! I’m new to canning, and have a few questions regarding pickling. From my garden I have carrots, zucchini, squash, onions, cucumber and beans, all of which I’d like to pickle for future enjoyment.

    I’m not sure I understand the best means of preservation for pickling. Is there a difference between water bath, and the hot-water process? Which one is shelf safe, and for how long is it safe for on the shelf (unopened)? Also, can I mix and match these veggies?

    I know that was a lot of questions, and thanks in advance! If you have any specific “beginners” posts you can point me to that would also be great!


  • wondering if i were to hot water bath process this recipe how long you would recommend processing for pint sized jars. thanks.

  • I just made these with Indian-inspired seasonings: a clove of garlic, some fresh ginger, peppercorns, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and some cardamom pods. Came out great, though next time I’ll only use 2-3 cardamom pods instead of 6-8.

  • I’m a newbie, so I’ve been lurking (obsessively) on several canning blogs before dipping my toe into the water bath. I’m curious about pH. Why not just check it before processing to make sure it’s low enough?

  • I’m a beginner when it comes to pickling, and all preserving for that matter, and I was just wondering if you have to blanch the carrots, and, if so, why? Also, the few times I’ve refrigerator pickled before I’ve always let the brine cool so as not to crack the jar, do you have a specific reason for pouring it in quick?

  • Just made a beautiful batch for Christmas gifts. I added sliced hot red peppers and some garlic. Looks beautiful! I think I maybe making more of these!! Thanks for the recipe! How long do they keep in the fridge?

  • I have been wanting to experiment with beer brining. I thought carrots would be a good this subject this time of year. If I wanted a shelf safe product, how might I work beer into the recipe? Have you tried beer brining?

  • I had a bit of brine leftover after making Gingery Pickled Beets (from the Food in Jars book), and so I used it to make a jar of pickled carrots. The gingery brine is to die for with slim carrot sticks! Yum!

  • Hello Marisa, you are my canning hero! This is an old post but would love to revisit. Fridge pickles rock; but I am confused about the danger in re-heating prepared pickling brine for water bath canning. I always make extra brine when canning large batches (nothing is worse than running out when packing jars). The brine is standard ratio vinegar/water/salt. I never let the brine boil too long to prevent evaporation. It has not been in contact with any of the produce. If I poured the unused, leftover brine into a clean jar and put it in the fridge, why would it not be safe to bring back to a boil and water bath process a few more jars? (Within a reasonable time frame, maybe a week or less?) Would love to hear your take on it. Thanks for all your sage advice!

    1. There is a difference between making an excess of brine and reheating it as needed and reusing brine that you’ve already pickled vegetables in. The first case is totally fine, the second only works once.