Everything You Want To Know About Pickling Chillies

There are no real limitations to this technique. It is suitable for any size chillies and works with both thin and thick fleshed varieties.

Your chillies should remain crisp until the following year's harvest, a feature you do not get from dehydrating them. Freezing also tends to soften the chillies due to bursting of the plant cells as they freeze.

I don't recommend ornate bottles and jars for the actual pickling process.  Use wide-mouthed jars instead as it makes everything a lot easier. If you want to give these away as gifts or use them as a display, complete the pickling process first and then transfer the chillies to the bottle or jar that you want. 

Ornate jars and bottles can be located at many of the discount stores and craft stores that cities around the world all seem to have.  

Another option is supermarket specials where they are heavily reducing stock to get rid of it. There may be something else in the jar but you can either use that yourself or just throw it out – the end result is that the gift cost you $2.50 plus some chillies and your time.

Take note here also that you will get some colour change in your chillies once they are pickled in the jar - particularly green ones. This is will take place over time as chlorophyll is soluble in vinegar.

OK, here we go !

Pickling Your Chillies

As with the other preserving techniques, make sure you wash your chillies and eliminate any bruised or seriously blemished fruit. They will only go mushy in the pickle and you won't want to use them. Also, if you are pickling for presentation, blemished chillies will really spoil the effect.

Stuff You Need To Remember

  • Sterilise your jars in boiling water or an over set 110°C for approximately 10 minutes. Take care handling hot glass as it retains it's heat for quite a while.
  • If you don't want to slice your chillies up, you will need to put a hole or slit in each of your chillies. This will allow the vinegar to get in and complete the pickling process. It also prevents the chillies from floating.
  • Make sure you use pickling salt not table salt - they're not the same thing! If you can't find it, you're not looking hard enough - even many supermarkets carry it. Cooking shops, spice shops, continental stores, online ....
  • If you are pickling for presentation purposes, use white vinegar as it does not affect the colour excessively. If you are pickling for yourself, i.e. maximum flavour, and not worried about colour, use cider or malt vinegar as they have a better flavour.
  • Don't use caps/lids that will result in metal being exposed to the vinegar. The two will react and can cause toxins to be produced - it will also taste like crap.
  • Air is a major spoiler of food. When pouring in the brine, leave little or no roomat the top of the jar. Caps should fit well to prevent air entering the jar.
  • Once you've poured the pickling brine over the chillies, little bubbles that get stuck can usually be removed by tapping the side of the jar with the back edge of a knife.
  • If the bubbles will not move, you can stick a knife blade into the mixture between the fruit and the glass to get rid of them.  Put some effort into this as those bubbles contain bacteria that could spoil the batch.

A Few Recipes To Get You Started

Don't limit yourself to these two - use your imagination. Try adding other spices to the brine, layer the chillies by colour, put some vegetables in as well, .....

Basic Pickled Chillies

Red & Green Pickled Chillies

This recipe is for approximately 900g of chillies. 

I soak the chillies overnight in the brine first as it keeps the chillies crisper when pickled.


  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup pickling salt

Combine the salt and water. You don't want holes/slits in your chillies yet.

Cover the chillies with the brine in a bowl and put a plate or something similar over them to keep the chillies submerged. 

Soak the overnight then drain, rinse well, and dry. 

Pickling Solution

  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 teaspns pickling salt

Poke two or three small holes in top of each chilli and pack them tightly in sterilized jars leaving 1cm (½ inch) at the top of the jar. 

In a saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, and salt. Bring the solution to a boil and then pour over the chillies, leaving no space at the top. Remove trapped air bubbles. 

Store for 4 to 6 weeks in a cool, dark place before serving.

Pickled Vege Garden

In this one I leave the amounts and particular ingredients up to you.

  • Chillies, try and get some different colours in here
Pickled Vegetables
  • Cauliflower and or broccoli, in florets
    • Zucchini, unpeeled, thinly sliced
    • Carrots, cut into rounds or use baby carrots
    • Small, pickling onions, peeled and left whole
    • Garlic cloves, whole
    • Celery, cut into 3cm lengths
    • 1 part water
    • 1 part vinegar
    • 2 teasp pickling salt per litre of liquid

    Arrange your choice of vegetables and chillies in sterilized jars. 

    Boil the water, vinegar and salt to a boil for about a minute. Pour over the vegetables, leaving no room at the top, and cover. 

    Allow the mixture to pickle for at least 3 weeks in a cool, dark place before serving.

    Indian Chilli Pickle

    A little variation I use on a recipe that I originally found in a book by Charmaine Solomon.

    Indian Chilli Pickle

    1 kg (2 lb) fresh red or green chillies - your choice of varieties

    125 ml (4 fl oz) vinegar

    2 tablsp chopped garlic

    500 ml (1 pint) mustard oil - most asian stores sell this

    1 tablsp fenugreek seeds

    1 tablsp ground turmeric

    2 teasp nigella seeds

    2 tablsp black mustard seeds

    2 teasp crushed asafoetida  - all asian stores sell this

    2 tablsp salt

    Wash and dry the chillies. 

    Cut off stalks and slice chillies across into 1 cm (1/2 in) slices.

    Sprinkle with salt and turmeric, toss to mix evenly, cover and leave for 2 days in the sun or place in a very low oven for 2 hours each day.

    Soak the mustard seeds in vinegar overnight, and grind in an electric blender with the garlic. 

    Heat oil in a large pan and add the fenugreek and nigella seeds. 

    Heat, while stirring, until the fenugreek is golden brown, then add the asafoetida, stir, and add the blended mustard seeds and the chillies together with any liquid that is there.

    Cook, stirring now and then, until the oil rises to the top and the chillies are cooked but soft.

    Let it cool and put into sterilised jars. 

    Easy Chinese Pickled Chilli

    The fish sauce obviously adds a different dimension to this however, the flavour is different from western pickles because of the rice vinegar which is less acidic and of milder flavour. 

    Indian Chilli Pickle
    • 1 kg (2.2 lb) sliced chillies
    • 1 cup rice wine vinegar
    • 3/4 cup white sugar
    • 6 teaspoons fish sauce

    Place the vinegar and sugar in a saucepan, and stir over low heat, without boiling, until sugar is dissolved.

    Then simmer, uncovered and without stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until mixture is slightly reduced.

    Remove from the heat, stir in fish sauce and then add the chillies.

    Store in a sealed jar in the fridge - it's ready to start eating after about 1 week and will keep for months.

    That should be enough to get you started, or you can check out other options at;

    Preserving Chillies Main Page

    Using A Dehydrator

    Freezing Your Chillies

    Search chillies-down-under.com