I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of pickle juice substitutes to find the best one for every cooking or baking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best substitute for pickle juice is to make a homemade mix of vinegar, sugar, water, and flavorings like pickling spice. If you want an instant solution, you can dilute any light colored vinegar with water. Caper and kimchi juice are great options too if you have them.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made small batches of deviled eggs to test out several pickle juice substitutes.
Pickle juice is the vinegar-based brine that comes in your jar of pickles. It has a lightly tangy, salty flavor with a hint of sweetness that makes it a great addition to salads, cocktails, and more.
I was looking for a substitute that was just as versatile and could infuse my dishes with the same flavor.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Homemade pickle juice||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|White vinegar||Use half the amount diluted with water||8/10|
|Lemon juice||Use half the amount diluted with water||7/10|
|Seasoned rice vinegar||1/3 cup water + 2/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar||8/10|
|Other kinds of vinegar||Use half the amount diluted with water||8/10|
|Caper juice||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Kimchi juice||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Prepared yellow mustard||1 tbsp pickle juice = 1/4 tsp prepared yellow mustard||8/10|
Common uses of pickle juice
Here are some common use cases for pickle juice and the best substitutes for those situations:
- As a flavor enhancer: Any light colored vinegar will do the trick for a quick fix of acidity. But you’ll need to use half the amount and dilute it with water to temper the sourness. For saltiness, add more salt or try something like soy sauce.
- For marinades, brines, and dressings: You can make your own pickle juice blend with vinegar, salt, water, and spices. Seasoned rice vinegar also works, but again you’ll need to dilute it.
- For cocktails: Making your own pickle juice brine is a good option here. You can also use caper juice for a floral touch. Kimchi juice may seem odd, but it’s a good alternative if you want to switch things up.
Homemade pickle juice
If you have a few minutes to spare, it’s really easy to make your own pickle juice.
It’s as simple as mixing vinegar, water, and salt together (1 cup water, 1/2 cup vinegar, 2 tbsp salt).
And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can jazz it up with things like ready-made pickling spice, dill, mustard seeds, garlic, or ginger
Fancy a bit of a kick? Try throwing in a dash of red pepper flakes or some jalapeños!
For best results you’ll want to gently warm the mixture to let the flavors marry and bring out their full potential.
How to substitute: replace store-bought pickle juice in a 1:1 ratio with homemade pickle juice.
Got no time to mix up your own pickle juice? You could use white vinegar or rice wine for an instant solution.
The catch is pickle juice isn’t as sharp or acidic as white vinegar, so you should only use half the amount of vinegar and make up the rest of the liquid with water.
It’s also missing the saltiness, but this is easy to fix with a pinch of extra salt for seasoning.
This swap sounds simple, but it added the perfect tang to my deviled egg filling.
How to substitute: replace pickle juice with half the amount of white vinegar mixed with water.
Lemon juice mixed with water is another easy stand in for pickle juice.
It doesn’t taste the same. But it brings a tart, citrusy zing that will uplift your dishes in the same way as pickle juice.
Like with white vinegar, you’ll need to throw in some extra salt to recreate the savory edge.
And I also added a dash of hot sauce for a bit of heat! It went really well with the lemony flavor.
Quick tip: go slowly and taste as you go with the substitute. It can quickly overwhelm a dish.
How to substitute: replace 1 cup pickle juice with 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup water.
Seasoned rice vinegar
Seasoned rice vinegar isn’t just for sushi rice making — it’s also a great stand-in for pickle juice.
The seasoning is salt and sugar.
This tempers the vinegars acidity and gives it less of a sour edge than most vinegars, which means it’s closer to pickle juice in flavor!
And it’s already salted! Win-win.
With the popularity of Japanese food nowadays, you can easily find a bottle of this at your local Walmart’s international aisle.
Psst… it’s also a great addition to Asian-style sauces and marinades.
How to substitute: replace 1 cup pickle juice 2/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar and 1/3 cup water.
Other kinds of vinegar (+ which ones to avoid)
If you’re feeling adventurous, why not explore the wide world of vinegar?
Varieties like white wine or apple cider vinegar can replace pickle juice too.
These have slightly less acidity than white vinegar, but they’re still more sour than pickle juice and need to be mixed with water.
There are some I would avoid too!
More complex and heartier vinegars like sherry vinegar or malt vinegar will quickly change the flavor of your dish.
Balsamic vinegar is another vinegar that’s too strong to use in the place of pickle juice. And it will change the color of your dish.
How to substitute: replace pickle juice with 1/2 the amount of your choice of vinegar mixed with water.
This brine used to preserve capers is made from similar ingredients as pickle juice, so it’s a no-brainer to have it on the list.
It offers a tangy, salty, and slightly sweet flavor profile like pickle juice.
And there’s an added bonus: capers lend a hint of floral tartness, adding more depth and nuance to your dish.
I absolutely loved the tangy, briny flavor of the caper juice in my deviled egg filling.
How to substitute: replace pickle juice in a 1:1 ratio with caper brine.
Though kimchi juice isn’t related to pickles, it’s a surprisingly good alternative if you’re up for a change.
Unlike other substitutes on the list, kimchi juice doesn’t have an acidic base.
But it has a distinct sour flavor, similar to pickles thanks to the lacto-fermentation process.
Another thing that sets kimchi juice apart is its umami kick and mild heat because of additions like fish sauce and gochugaru.
This substitute was quite a revelation for my deviled eggs. They were so moreish! I had to really resist polishing off the whole batch.
How to substitute: replace pickle juice in a 1:1 ratio with kimchi juice.
Prepared yellow mustard
Yellow mustard is nothing like pickle juice, but it’s an unlikely candidate you can use in a pinch.
It has vinegar in its ingredients, which gives it a sharp, tangy flavor (along with the familiar pungent heat).
Just a head’s up, though – this stuff is potent. You’ll only need a small amount to bump your dish’s flavor. And if your recipe already includes mustard you might not want to double up!
How to substitute: replace 1 tbsp pickle juice with 1/4 tsp prepared yellow mustard.
Soy sauce, miso paste, fish sauce
More left field suggestions I know!
But if the only role of pickle juice is to add saltiness to your dish, then these Asian condiments can fill the gap.
They’re super salty and have loads of umami flavor which will add depth to your food. They don’t have the same acidity, but you can always pair them with a spritz of lemon juice or a splash of vinegar.
Like with mustard, you only need to add very small amount of these substitutes to get the flavor.
How to substitute: replace pickle juice with a few drops of your favorite asian condiment.
Substitutes for pickle juice as a recovery drink
As well as being used as a flavor enhancer, pickle juice is often consumed as a recovery drink because of its salt content (although there’s still no clear science to back this up).
If the thought of drinking pickle juice makes your stomach turn, don’t worry! There are plenty of other great drinks you can use for rehydrating.
Sports drinks like Gatorade are the popular options that are pretty tasty. And coconut water will also help replenish lost electrolytes.
You also can’t go wrong with plain old water. It’ll hydrate you and won’t add any calories to your diet (unlike pickle juice)!
Best Pickle Juice Substitutes + 3 To Avoid
- 2 cups white wine vinegar
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 tbsp salt, add more if preferred.
- your choice of spices
- Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat to warm up everything.
- Use immediately.