Do you have to refrigerate pickles? (+3 storage practices)

In this article, we will answer the question “Do you have to refrigerate pickles?”, and how to tell if the pickles have gone bad?

Do you have to refrigerate pickles?

It is important to refrigerate the pickle once the jar is opened if the pickle is unpasteurized. An unopened jar of pickles can be stored at room temperature. Read on if you want to know how to store pickles safely.

How to store pickles safely?

Pickles are enjoyed as a quick snack or added to savory meals including sandwiches, salads, and burgers. The pickling solution contains vinegar, salt, sugar, spices, and herbs. The preservative action of salt and acid inhibits the growth of microbes while giving pickles a savory flavor profile.

Pickles can be either kept in the pantry or stored in the fridge. First, find out if your store-bought pickle is pasteurized or not.

Fermentation is a thermal treatment, frequently used for juices, milk, sauces, and ketchup, etc to get rid of microbes. Pasteurization halts the fermentation process.

  1. Unopened pasteurized pickles jars can be stored at room temperature away from heat. Once opened, refrigerate it with a tight seal.
  2. Unpasteurized pickles have the fermentation process still going on. They are sold refrigerated and must be kept in the refrigerator at all times. Refrigeration temperatures slow down the fermentation process.
  3. If the unpasteurized pickle jars are kept at room temperature, the fermentation will speed up making the pickle sourer. The pickle should be completely submerged in pickling solution at all times. The pickle portion that stays out of the brine dries out quickly, losing flavor and eventually becoming spoiled.

The shelf-life of pickles

The following table shows an estimated shelf-life of pasteurized and unpasteurized, opened, and unopened pickles under different storage conditions.

In the pantryIn the fridge
Pickles (pasteurized, unopened)3 months or more past the Best-by date 
Pickles (pasteurized, opened)3+ months
Pickles (unpasteurized, unopened)3 months past the Best-by date
Pickles (unpasteurized, opened)3+ months

How to tell if the pickles have gone bad?

The white sediment at the bottom of the pickle jar is normal. The pickling solution should have a pale amber color and the vegetables should stay in the brine solution at all times.

  1. The vegetables that stay out of the brine solution are the first ones to go bad. Look out for these and discard them immediately.
  2. If you see any sign of mold growth near the lid of the container or the surface of the pickle, discard it immediately. It is, however, rare.
  3. If the pickle smells oddly acidic or tastes too tangy or the color of the pickling solution changes, it should be discarded.
  4. If the pickle has been sitting for too long, the vegetables are bound to become soggy. Such pickle is safe to eat but might be discarded for quality reasons.

How to quick-pickle any vegetable?


  • 1 lb fresh vegetables, such as cucumbers, carrots, green beans, summer squash, or cherry tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs of fresh herbs, such as thyme, dill, or rosemary (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp whole spices, such as black peppercorns, coriander, or mustard seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp dried herbs or ground spices (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed or sliced (optional)
  • 1 cup vinegar, such as white, apple cider, or rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt, or 2 tsp pickling salt
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar (optional)


Prepare the jars

This step includes washing and rinsing the jars, their rings, and lids in warm soapy water. After that, let the jars dry completely.

Prepare the vegetables

Wash and peel the vegetables. Trim if needed and cut into desired shapes and sizes.

Prepare the flavoring 

Divide the flavoring components like herbs, spices, and garlic.

Add the vegetables

Carefully pack the vegetables tightly into the bottom of the jar without smashing it and leaving a ½ inch headspace.

Make the brine

Prepare the brine in a saucepan by heating water, vinegar, salt, and sugar together. Make sure the salt and sugar dissolve. Transfer the pickling solution to the jar. Do not pour all at once and keep a ½ headspace on top.

Remove air bubbles

By tipping the jar against the counter will pop the air bubbles that were created while pouring the solution. After removing the bubbles, add more brine if it is needed.

Seal the jar

Place the ring and lid on top of the jar and seal tightly.

Cool and refrigerate 

Let the pickle come to room temperature before refrigerating. Use after 48 hours to allow the flavors to develop.


In this article, we answered the question “Do you have to refrigerate pickles?”, and how to tell if the pickles have gone bad?


Sana Ameer

Hello, I'm Sana Ameer. I'm a student of Food Science and Technology at UVAS. I like to bake and I aspire to become a Food blogger.

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