What Is Pickling Spice?

How to Make Pickling Spice In a Snap

Pickling Spice
Pickling Spice. Photo © Molly Watson

Pickling spice is actually a mix of spices that are used, as you might guess, when pickling. Pickling spice can also be added to the salt water when brining meats for extra flavor. Pre-made pickling spice is available in the spice aisle of many grocery stores, of course, and a selection may even be on display at specialty stores. Yet, for my money, nothing beats homemade pickling spice, since you can customize it to match your palate. For example, I like to use a fair amount of red pepper flakes in my mix for a nice kick of spicy heat (I've included them below, but they're optional!).

This pickling spice is a favorite of mine. I tend to keep this combination around to add to brines - note the optional ingredients and use them or adjust their amounts to reflect how much you like those flavors.

Homemade Pickling Spice

Combine the following in a small bowl or pint jar:

  • 1 Tablespoon allspice berries (only whole allspice berries work here; ground allspice will be entirely too sharp and bitter)
  • 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns (again, whole peppercorns, not ground pepper)
  • 1 Tablespoon black mustard seeds (yellow are fine, but I like how black mustard seeds look in the mix)
  • 1 Tablespoon cloves (again, only whole cloves work; ground cloves don't add the right flavor)
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon red pepper flakes (optional; I add them for some heat, but if you don't like spicy, feel free to cut the amount down or leave them out entirely)
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger (not fresh, it will be too sharp)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional, the warm homey flavor of nutmeg adds some depth of flavor I like a lot)
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1 cinnamon stick, smashed or crumbled (optional, but I highly recommend the earthy aromatic element cinnamon adds

If you like, you can toast the allspice, peppercorns, mustard seeds, cloves, and coriander seeds in a dry frying pan for a few minutes for a deeper flavor before adding the other ingredients. In any case, mix everything together and store whatever you don't use that day in a glass jar or similar vessel.

Makes about 1/2 cup Pickling Spice.

Use this pickling spice to make homemade corned beef or add them to the brine for pickled okra to fabulous effect, or to this spicy pickled garlic for extra flavor.