There are 22 types of pickling cucumbers in this list including the all popular Kirby cucumber as well as a few you’ve probably not heard of.
There’s just something to that satisfying snap, the sour (or sweet) tang, and the intense crunch of a fresh pickle. Over 5.2 million pounds of pickles are consumed in the United States alone each year!
Pickles are a constant companion to hearty sandwiches, a must-have on grilled burgers, or a satisfying, refreshing anytime snack. Sure you can buy them in your local supermarket, but there’s a profound sense of pride and accomplishment in growing your own cucumbers and then pickling them at home.
Once you have found the perfect pickle recipe, you can experiment with any number of cucumber types. Some cucumbers pickle better than others, and to help you decide what kinds to try, we have compiled a nice list of the best types of pickling cucumbers.
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Can’t Any Cucumber Be Pickled?
You can pickle any cucumber you like. Many types of vegetables and even fruits are pickled all the time. Go to a local farmer’s market and you’ll likely see pickled okra, green beans, watermelon rinds, beets, peaches, pears, and even eggs just to name a few.
Pickling has been a way to preserve food since way before commercial refrigeration. All you need is salt, water, vinegar, sugar (optional), and various spices. Oh, and some type of product, though as I mentioned before, eggs can be pickled. Some meats are frequently pickled too, but let’s not go down that rabbit hole.
Back to the subject at hand, any cucumber can be pickled, but not any cucumber should be pickled. Some don’t hold up well to the canning process and can become mushy. The best cucumbers for pickles are firm (have a good crunch), have small seed pockets, and have thin skin.
In this article, we have listed 22 different varieties that you may or may not be able to find in supermarkets or produce stands, or you can grow in a home garden that makes great pickles. Get your pickling spices ready because these are the best cucumbers for making delicious pickles.
1. Kirby Cucumbers
One of the most commercially available cucumbers, these are found in most supermarkets and are typically labeled as “pickling cucumbers.” Kirby’s used to be a specific variety of cucumber, but they haven’t been available for nearly a century. Now, the name Kirby is designated for most cucumbers that are between 5 and 6 inches in length and don’t have a waxy coating.
These cucumbers make wonderful pickles and are readily available nearly year long. They have thin skins, small, sparse seeds, and are nice and crunchy. Kirby’s are typically less juicy than other commercially available cucumbers.
Because of the reduced water content, these pickles may not be as refreshing raw as other varieties, but they will make excellent cucumbers. They retain their nice crunch even after processing.
Kirby cucumbers are around 5 to 6 inches long, are mostly straight, and have bumpy skin. They are bright green and may have patches of yellow or pale green on them. When picking them from the store, look for plump, firm cucumbers. If they are wrinkly or have soft spots on them, leave them be.
2. Armenian Cucumbers
Though these cucumbers are getting more popular each year, they may be difficult to find in your local grocery store. Sometimes you can find them at your local farm market, if you do see them, go ahead and snatch up as many as you think you’ll eat, then get a few more.
Armenian cucumbers are somewhat sweet, have a nice refreshing cucumber flavor, and are never bitter. They are great to eat raw, but really shine when pickled. You’ll have to cut these into slices or spears because they grow rather long. They haven’t nicknamed the “yard-long cucumber” for nothing.
In a botanical sense, these are actually a variety of muskmelon, but I won’t tell anyone if you don’t. Look for long, sometimes curved, light-colored, or even striped cucumbers. They can be pale yellow, light green, dark green, or nearly white.
I’ve recently been noticing them in places where you can purchase garden seeds. It would be a shame to pass these beauties up without giving them a try. They thrive in the heat and will produce plenty of juicy, delicious cucumbers with minimal care. Just make sure you have a tall trellis, because if they stay on the ground they will get very curved, and can quickly rot.
Pickle these cucumbers like you would any other variety. Add some heat, make them sweet for a bread and butter pickle you won’t forget, or create some dill chips that will elevate your sandwiches and burgers.
3. Lemon Cucumbers
Another cucumber that is getting some well-deserved love in home gardens is the lemon cucumber. If you’ve never heard of them, don’t despair, you won’t find them in the supermarket.
You might be able to pick some up at a local produce stand, or you can grow them yourself. Lemon cucumbers resemble citrus fruits but don’t taste like them. They are harvested when they are about the size and color of (you guessed it) a lemon.
Lemon cucumbers are round, bright yellow, and have black speckles on them that look like pepper specks. Inside the flesh is light yellow, and they have a small seed pocket with soft, translucent seeds.
When consumed raw, these cucumbers have a nice, crispy texture to them, a mild flavor, and a very thin skin. They are great on salads or in salsa, and they make a beautiful, colorful pickle.
If you’re looking for shelf-stable pickles, these will do, but they can get a little soft when they are hot-processed. Find a good refrigerator pickling recipe for lemon pickles and you will have a great snack that keeps the cool, crisp, crunch you come to expect.
There is a lot of confusion around gherkins and pickles. I could write an entire article on the differences, so let’s just say this, gherkins are their own plants and make excellent pickles.
Gherkins are very crunchy, and have a great mouthfeel when pickled, and this is where they shine. They can be eaten raw, but why would you when they are so much better after they have been pickled?
If you can find these in the store, grab a few pounds and get to pickling. Look for small, 2 to 3-inch cucumbers with bumpy skin. They should be a light shade of green and be firm to the touch.
Gherkins like it warm, but not excessively hot, so get them started after the threat of frost has passed. They grow great in containers and raised beds, but they will need something to climb on. A fence or trellis works great.
Harvest gherkins when they are only about 2 to 3 inches long. Keeping your plants harvested will increase production. If you leave a few to get big, the vine tends to focus on these fruits instead of adding more.
5. Amiga Cucumbers
Amiga cucumbers have a few hybrid varieties available, but they are all great for snacking and pickling. These cucumbers can grow up to and beyond 6 inches long, though they are better when harvested before they get too big.
These cucumbers have dark green, thin, spineless skin. When they are picked before they get too big they can be made into whole pickles, otherwise you’ll have to slice them into chips or spears. Amigas have a slightly sweet, mild flavor when eaten raw.
When growing cucumbers, there are a lot of diseases that can beset them such as powdery mildew and cucumber mosaic virus, which amiga cucumbers are very resistant to. If you live in an area that receives high humidity, or heavy rainfall during the summer months, amiga cucumbers are a great option.
Grow them in containers, a raised bed, or directly in the ground, and in 50 to 60 days you’ll be harvesting some delicious cucumbers that will be ready for pickling.
6. Iznik Cucumbers
Another cucumber that you probably won’t find at any market, but you can grow them yourself. One great thing about growing these cucumbers is they have a superior germination rate, and then they produce like champs.
Unlike some plants that will concentrate on the largest veggies left on the vine, the Iznik doesn’t have that problem. If you don’t notice one or two cucumbers while they are growing on the vine, this species will continue to make you more cucumbers.
These cucumbers are smooth-skinned, all-purpose varieties. If you’re looking for pickles (and you must be because that’s what we’re discussing) pick these when they are only 4 to 5 inches long or smaller. If you’re looking for a good-eating cucumber, let them grow a little bigger, then they’re great for salads, salsas, and recipes.
Iznik cucumbers have a smooth, never-bitter taste, and a nice crunch. They are typically emerald green on the outside and have thin skin. This variety is also a seedless variety, which we all know means there still can be seeds, but they’re tiny and insignificant. Just another reason to love them for pickles.
7. Excelsior Cucumbers
These cucumbers were developed for greenhouse planting, but they actually do reasonably well outdoors as long as they have rich soil with plenty of moisture. They can sprawl around on the ground or grow on a trellis.
Excelsior cucumbers are mature when they reach 4 to 5 inches long which makes them great for pickling. They are deep, rich green with a profusion of bumps from top to bottom. Despite this strange look, they have a great, rich taste that is enhanced by the pickling process.
When you grow these cucumber plants, expect to start harvesting them in around 50 to 60 days. These plants, since they were developed to grow in greenhouse settings, also have a high disease resistance, especially to powdery and downy mildew, cucumber mosaic virus, scab, and vein yellowing virus.
8. Persian Cucumber
Sometimes you can actually find Persian cucumbers in the store. They tend to come packaged in a try together, but if you see them, grab some, and you can thank me later. Persian cucumbers are similar to American cucumbers except they aren’t covered in wax, have thinner skins, and aren’t as watery.
They are picked when they are around 5 to 7 inches long and are narrow like English, or hothouse cukes. They have a delicious mildly sweet flavor, and very few, small seeds. One bite of these cucumbers and you won’t go back to other commercially available cucumbers.
There are so many uses for Persian cucumbers; you can slice them, lightly salt them and enjoy them just like that, you can, of course, pickle them, which makes for a great summertime treat, you can cook them, or serve them on a charcuterie board.
Growing Persian cucumbers isn’t that difficult either. They will grow well in temperate climates, and will even still produce in hotter climes.
Find some Persian cucumbers, slice or quarter them, and make some fine pickles out of them.
9. Unistar Cucumber
The next pickle “star” is the unistar. These little beauties are sometimes called cocktail cucumbers because they are only about 4 inches long when they’re picked.
Unistar cucumbers have dark green, almost glossy skin, firm, juicy flesh, and a small seed cavity. These attributes are what make the unistar a wonderful pickling cucumber. Raw, they have a sweet, succulent, cool flavor, and when pickled they easily take on the sweet or sour notes of your recipe.
If you are growing these cucumbers in your garden you’ll get a big harvest as long as you keep them picked. A great thing about growing unistars is they often grow multiple cucumbers on each node. They are also very disease resistant, just be sure to provide them with a bed of mulch to protect the roots from getting too hot.
10. Watermelon Gherkin Cucumber
Wait a minute…yes, you read that right, watermelon gherkin cucumber is one plant, not three. I know it sounds like someone made a Franken-veggie monster here, but this is a real plant. Of course, when you see them for the first time, you won’t be convinced that this vegetable isn’t having a major identity crisis.
They look like tiny watermelons—they are about an inch or two long, are oval, and have alternating light and dark stripes like the pink-fleshed summer treats. When you slice them open they resemble a cucumber because they have translucent seeds surrounded by a firmer light green flesh.
If you’re asking me where the gherkin name comes in, I couldn’t tell you. It was probably named by the same person who gave the Eastern Redbud its name. This tree has tiny pink, purplish flowers and emerald green leaves, no red in it at all. *Shrugs.
What do these strange little watermelon gherkin cucumbers taste like? Again…confused. These little anomalies don’t have the typical cucumber taste, instead, they taste citrusy, sweet, and cool, with a nice outer shell crunch. Imagine eating a cucumber slice that was marinated in a citrus vinaigrette, that might help to describe it.
Despite being a strange little snack, these are very versatile. They are great raw, can be cooked, and of course, they make an excellent snack when pickled. I suggest using a sweeter recipe, or instead of using white vinegar, use an apple cider, or maybe even a wine or champagne vinegar to really accent the tangy sweetness of these little “melon-cukes.”
11. West Indian Gherkin Cucumber
Let’s continue with the confused veggies as these look similar to the watermelon gherkin cucumber, only they are spiny. Other names for this cucumber are the prickly cucumber or maroon cucumber.
It’s assumed that these cucumbers started in Africa, and then were imported to the West Indies (Caribbean islands) where they got their name. Wherever they came from, these little nuggets are becoming more popular with gardeners and foodies.
They are usually about two inches long, and about an inch to inch and a half in diameter, they have a bumpy or spiny texture. You can eat them whole, even though they look a little daunting if you’ve never seen them before.
They have a slight cucumber taste with a tangy, sour bite. It’s almost as if they were already partially pickled, or maybe it’s a hint as to the best approach with these little strange veggies. Go ahead and pickle them just as they are for a delicious snack.
West Indian gherkin cucumbers are one of the earliest known vegetables to have been pickled, so don’t break the tradition!
12. Boston Pickling Cucumber
As the name suggests, these are another great pickling cucumber. These got their start in 1877 from the Detroit Seed Company. They are a fast grower that produces a ton of veggies. Plant them directly in the ground, and in as few as 55 days, you’ll start harvesting armfuls of cucumbers.
If you’re not looking to do a lot of pickling, you’ll be offloading tons of them to your friends and family. If you really love pickles and want a huge harvest, you can start these early in the season, and when they finish, you may still have time to plant a second crop before it gets too cold.
Boston pickling cucumbers are best picked when they are 3 to 7 inches long, but if you want bigger ones for eating, they will still retain their smooth, sweet flavor instead of getting woody and bitter.
These cucumbers have black spines, thin skin that doesn’t need to be peeled, and crisp, crunchy flesh. Seeds in these cucumbers are small and almost unnoticeable. These characteristics are great for pickles, but they are also great varieties for sushi, gazpacho, and other recipes that call for crunchy cucumbers.
13. Boothby’s Blond Cucumbers
As the name suggests, these cucumbers are very light yellow in color. The creamy skin has a speckling of black spines that makes them look very similar to salt and pepper cucumbers. Boothby’s Blond cucumbers came from the Boothby family in Livermore, Maine.
These plump cucumbers have a delicately sweet taste with none of the usual bitterness you might find in other yellow or white cucumbers. Because of this pleasant sweetness, these cucumbers make some of the best bread and butter pickles. They readily absorb the sweetness along with the spiciness of the herbs.
Pick them when they are about 4 inches long when you’re planning on canning them. If you want a good-eating cucumber, you can let them mature until they are about 7 inches long and they will still be remarkably delicious.
Being an heirloom variety, Boothby Blond cucumbers aren’t as disease resistant as some hybrids. You can still grow them in your garden though, just be sure to give them plenty of space to help stave off powdery mildew, and be sure to only water the ground, don’t soak the leaves or vines.
Containers and raised beds are great ways to grow these cucumbers. Just be sure to support the vines and you’ll have some of the best-tasting pickles you’ve ever had.
14. Honey Plus Cucumber
If Boothby Blond cucumbers just sound too difficult to grow, or you’ve had problems with them, no matter, a very close facsimile is the Honey Plus cucumber. They are small, yellow, thin-skinned cucumbers with a “sweet as honey” flavor.
Honey plus cucumbers have firm flesh and a decent-sized seed core. Don’t worry about the seeds though because they are soft, and cucumber seeds are absolutely packed with nutrition.
To keep the crisp texture of these veggies, pick them when they are no bigger than 4 inches long. Beyond that size, they start to lose their crunch.
When picking these beauties, for added visual appeal, add some red pepper slices and long sprigs of fresh dill. These jars can be so pretty that you won’t want to open them, but when you do, the jar will seemingly empty itself.
Honey plus cucumbers may be the fastest-growing variety in this list. They can be ready to pick in as little as 40 days after sowing. They may not produce as much as some others, but just grow a few more plants, or stagger planting so you have fresh cucumbers all season long.
15. Miniature White Cucumbers
Continuing with small white cucumbers, we have the aptly named miniature white hybrid. These sweet crunchy cucumbers are great straight off the vine or pickled. You might even want to grow one vine for raw eating, and another (or two) for pickling.
Miniature whites are best when harvested at 3 to 4 inches long. They are plump cucumbers that can be pickled whole or sliced. They have small black spines and are typically more narrow at the ends. Miniature white cucumbers have a mild flavor and none of the bitterness that white cucumbers are known for.
Another great thing about this plant is they only grow to about 2 to 4 feet tall so they are great for container gardens, rooftop gardens, or other areas where space is limited.
Miniature white cucumbers grow quickly, for this, they will need plenty of water and fertilizer to keep them healthy. Plant them when all threat of frost disappears and you’ll soon have great snacks ready to go. The miniature white cucumber really shines when they are dill pickled.
16. Calypso Cucumbers
If you’re looking for a disease-resistant cucumber that is a heavy producer, Calypso is the variety you need to check out. This hybrid has been bred to scoff at most diseases and viruses that plague cucumber plants.
Not only that, but the Calypso cucumber plant will produce exceptionally well for you. These cucumbers are dark green, firm-fleshed, small cucumbers that were developed by the University of North Carolina for commercial growers.
They have a thin skin, and crunchy texture that begs to be pickled. Even after heat processing, Calypso cucumbers retain their snap and crunch for a nice crunchy treat.
You’ll have to trellis this cultivar with some heavy-duty hardware because they produce so much. After 50 to 60 days you’ll be getting plenty of 3-inch long cucumbers ready for the pickle bath.
17. Salt And Pepper Cucumbers
Similar in shape and coloration to Boothby’s Blond, and Honey plus cucumbers, the salt and pepper cucumber is yellow to white with black spines. They have firm, cream-colored flesh with a very small seed cavity.
Again, the variety has none of the bitterness that can be present in some varieties. They have a solid crunch, decent juiciness, and a sweet flavor. This crunch along with the thin skin is one of the many reasons these cucumbers make excellent pickles.
Growing these little cucumbers isn’t difficult as long as you wait until after the soil is consistently 60 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Cucumbers don’t do well with cool temperatures, and salt and pepper cucumbers are no exception.
Using a thick bed of mulch is a great way to help keep these vines healthy. Trellis them and you’ll have plenty of cucumbers to process into gorgeous and delicious pickles.
18. Parisian Cucumbers
These cucumbers are a French heirloom variety that was introduced to the United States in 1892. They are also known as Improved Bourbonne, but whatever you call them, be sure to pickle them.
These dark green, spiny cucumbers have crunchy, firm flesh and minuscule seeds that are excellent for pickling. They can grow to 6 inches or longer, but they are best when picked at the 2 to 4-inch mark.
If you do let them grow larger, they can still be pickled, especially if you slice them thin and make a type of dill chip, but they really shine when picked small and pickled.
One great thing about planting Parisian cucumbers is they have a bushing growth habit. They tend to max out around 2 to 3 feet tall, but some can reach heights of up to 5 feet.
19. Adam Gherkins
Adam gherkins are small cucumbers that are covered in small bumps similar to European cornichons. These cucumbers are nearly uniform in color and shape. They are solid green, cylindrical, and tapered at both ends.
Picked at 2 to 3 inches, Adam gherkins retain firm flesh, and small seeds, and have a mild, crisp flavor. These cucumbers are great on their own, but really shine when they get the full pickle treatment. They can be cold pickled, or hot processed and they will still retain their firm, snapping crunch.
When growing these little cucumbers, they do great outdoors or in a greenhouse, and are moderately disease resistant. Be sure to pick these cucumbers daily after about 50 to 60 days for continued production.
20. Burpee Pickler Cucumbers
The seed giant Burpee cultivated this variety as if the name didn’t already give that away. This disease-resistant, easy-to-grow cucumbers make great pickles. They are also great straight off the vine as they have a firm texture and a mildly sweet flavor.
These thin-skinned cucumbers are light green with lighter striations and a few spines. They are great when picked at 3 to 5 inches long and pickled whole. They can also be sliced or cut into spears as they still retain a firm crunch.
As with all cucumbers, plant them when there is no threat of frost, and in around 55 days you’ll start harvesting them. Since they are a hybrid variety, they are tolerant and disease resistant to most prolific cucumber maladies.
Be sure to provide a tall fence or strong trellis as these vines can grow as tall as 8 feet. They are also heavy producers so make sure you have plenty of canning jars ready.
21. Supremo Cucumbers
Let’s say you really want to try out the Burpee pickler cucumbers but you just don’t have the space for a massive 8-foot vine. Don’t fret, Burpee has you covered because the Supremo cucumber plant is a small bush that only reaches 1 to 2 feet tall. These cucumber bushes do wonderfully well in containers and make great patio veggie plants.
These cucumbers are dark green with lighter, pale stripes and grow 3 to 4 inches long. They have thin skins that don’t need to be peeled, even when eaten raw, they have a sweet, never bitter, mild flavor with a satisfying crunch. Cucumbers with these characteristics are just begging to be pickled.
Grow a couple of these bushes, and try out different recipes to find out which ones you and your family love the most. You won’t have to wait for long because they are ready in about 2 months after planting them.
To make sure you have enough to last all summer and winter, be sure to stagger planting. Before you know it, you’ll have fresh, delicious, homemade pickles that will last even during the bleak winter months.
22. Homemade Pickles Cucumbers
Our last entry isn’t the least in any way. The homemade pickle cucumber variety was cultivated specifically for the pickling process. In fact, you can pick them early for tiny, satisfying sweet or dill gherkins, or let them stay on the vine and make larger whole pickles, or dill spears.
The cucumbers are a nearly uniform emerald green with small white spines. The firm flesh works perfectly for any pickling process you want to use.
These cucumbers will produce throughout the season for a hefty harvest. They are ready at about 55 days after sowing and only grow to about 4 or 5 feet tall on a trellis. You can let them sprawl along the ground if you have the space.
If you don’t have much space, plant them in a bucket and fasten them overhead. They will drape down and won’t have the need for a trellis or support.
Another great thing about these plants is they are very disease resistant. Go ahead and plant these vines and get ready for some wonderful homemade pickles.
What is the best type of cucumber for pickling to use?
The best type of cucumber for pickling is typically the Kirby cucumber due to its small size, firm texture, and minimal seeds.
What is the best way to make homemade pickles?
Here’s a basic step-by-step guide for making homemade pickles:
1. Gather your ingredients: fresh pickling cucumbers, salt, vinegar, water, and your preferred pickling spices (dill, garlic, mustard seed, etc).
2. Clean the cucumbers thoroughly and slice them if desired, though you can also pickle them whole.
3. Prepare your pickling solution by combining vinegar, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil to dissolve the salt.
4. Place your spices and cucumbers into a clean, sterilized jar.
5. Pour the hot pickling solution over the cucumbers in the jar, ensuring they are completely covered.
6. Seal the jar and let it cool at room temperature.
7. Once cooled, store the jar in the refrigerator.
8. Allow the pickles to ferment for at least a week for the flavors to develop, though they often taste better after two to three weeks.
Remember, this is a basic recipe and there are many variations out there, including fermenting at room temperature without the use of vinegar, but this should provide a good starting point.
How long does it take to grow a pickling cucumber?
Pickling cucumbers typically take between 50 to 70 days to mature from the time of planting, depending on the variety and growing conditions.
Wrapping It Up
You don’t have to be stuck getting the same old varieties of store-bought pickles. Though there’s nothing with snacking on commercial pickles, if you can pickle your own—especially when you use some of the varieties here—the world of pickles grows exponentially.
It doesn’t matter if you like sweet pickles, the zesty tang of a dill, or spicy pickles, peruse the above list and you will definitely find something you absolutely love. For sweet bread and butter pickles, try out Armenian or Honey plus cucumbers. If you like a tart, big dill pickle, try pickling Calypso, or Boston pickling cucumbers.
When the world gives you cucumbers, make pickles!
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