Pickling Spice Substitute – 6 Other Spice Mixes For Pickling

Pickling is a traditional process of preserving food by anaerobic fermentation in brine or immersion in vinegar. Pickled vegetables, meat, or fish with a mixture of spices, oil, and vinegar are tasty appetizers.

A pickling spice mixture is a must-have item to make delicious pickles. You would use pickling spice in any homemade recipes such as beet or cucumber pickles. It can be part of a marinade or stews to add flavor.

What to do if you don’t have pickling spice mix? What to use in place of pickling spices? This article reveals the best substitute for pickling spice and a brief overview of its flavor profile, ingredients, and uses.

What are pickling spices?

Obviously, pickling spice is a blend of spices used to pickle various foods. The ingredients in this blend are carefully chosen and include a sweet and spicy combination of spices.

Pre-made pickling spice kits are available at grocery outlets, and the ingredients in them can vary depending on the manufacturer. If you have the time and patience, nothing can substitute the freshness and purity of homemade pickling spices.

Generally, pickling spices are used for canning pickles, preserving vegetables, making homemade corned beef, and seasoning certain dishes.

Due to a lack of availability or for an allergic reason, you may use a substitute for pickling spice.

What are the ingredients in pickling spice?

As you know, there isn’t a fixed menu of ingredients in a pickling spice blend. Ingredients can vary according to the food used for pickling and the manufacturer.

Ingredients in homemade pickling spice recipe include:

  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into small bits
  • 1 tablespoon dill seed
  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 large bay leaves
  • 6 whole cloves

You may use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to grind them.  Mix the ground ingredients in a small bowl place them in an airtight container (preferably a glass jar) and store it in a dry place.

What does pickling spice taste like?

Pickling spice mixture has a complex flavor profile because of the many divergent ingredients in it. On the whole, it renders a sweet and spicy combination of flavors with the salty-sour notes of the vinegar brine. The specially selected ingredients (whole or crushed) stand up well to the pickling process. They hold up to heat and fermentation and last for up to a year. The taste of the pickle largely depends on the foods used for picklings like mangoes, gooseberry, meat, fish, or others.

Can you pickle with just vinegar?

Is it necessary to use pickling spice at all? Pickling for food preservation does not require any spice. It’s possible to pickle with just vinegar and salt. Any basic vinegar like apple cider, white vinegar, white wine, or rice vinegar is good enough for pickling.

Best substitutes for pickling spice

It isn’t difficult to source pickling spice from any good grocery store. For some reason, if you can’t get it or want to experiment with a different flavor profile, then instead of a pre-made pickling spice mix, choose one of the following alternatives:

1. Homemade pickling spice

There is nothing better than using a homemade pickling spice mix in place of a pre-made spice mix. In fact, most of the ingredients used in this mixture you might already have in your kitchen cabinet for sure. It doesn’t matter if you don’t use one or two minor ingredients in the blend. The core ingredients are cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, and bay leaves. According to the desired flavor profile of your pickle, you may also use substitutes for each of the ingredients.

Above all, crafting a customizable homemade pickling spice gives you the freedom to mix and match flavors to complement any pickled food that is at work.

2. Crab boil spice

Crab boil spice is the spice mix you use to flavor the water that you are using to boil the crab, and it gives a wonderful flavor profile to the crab meat as it cooks. A major portion of the crab boil spice mixture is made up of the pickling spice mix. For this reason, this spice blend is closely similar to pickling spice, and they can be used interchangeably in times of shortage. If you notice, most of the other ingredients used in the crab boil spice blend are those that provide a sweet and pungent kick to the dish. These flavors work well for pickled foods as well. Use crab-boil spice in the same quantity as pickling spice for making a pickle.

3. Baharat

The Lebanese seven-spice mix is simply referred to as baharat and commonly uses the terms interchangeably. This Arabian spice blend is sort of like the Indian mix of garam masala. The key ingredients like cinnamon, peppercorns, chili flakes, allspice, and coriander in baharat are also included in the pickling spice blend. Note that the ingredients in the baharat spice mix can vary according to the region and manufacturer. Please cross-check the ingredients label before you use baharat as a substitute for pickling spice.

4. Ras el Hanout

Ras el Hanout, a North African spice blend, consists of over a dozen spices in different proportions. Almost every ingredient used in pickling spice mix shows up in Ras el Hanout and a few more as well. It isn’t a perfect replacement for pickling spice because of its complex flavor, but it is still a viable alternative when other better options don’t exist. Also, some of the substitutes for Ras el Hanout may work for your recipe.

5. Jamaican jerk seasoning

Jamaican food lovers agree that there are three jerk spice ingredients that are key: Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, and thyme. Also included in this seasoning are allspice and cinnamon, which are core ingredients in pickling. In a pinch, Jamaican jerk seasoning is a manageable spice blend that will work in pickling. Be mindful of the sugar, salt, and pepper included in this blend. You may also consider for recipes one of the suitable substitutes for Jamaican jerk seasoning in your cooking.

6. Garam masala

Garam masala is a traditional spice mixture used in Indian cooking, especially in savory dishes. Whole spices of cinnamon, mace, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cumin seeds, and cardamom pods are the original ingredients in this blend. Most of these ingredients are part of a pickling blend of spices. Note: ingredients may differ in pre-made garam masala according to the manufacturer. Still, garam masala is a possible alternative to pickling spice, though not perfect. Have a look at garam masala substitutes as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much pickling spice to use?

For pickling:
1. Mix 1-2 teaspoons of pickling spice per pint of vinegar brine.
2. For larger quart jars, use 1-1½ tablespoons.
3. Adjust to your taste, but using too much can overpower the other flavors.

How much ball pickling spice per pint jar?

For each pint jar of pickles or pickled veggies, use 1.5 teaspoons of Ball pickling spice. This amount gives great flavor without being too strong. Start with less and add more if you like a stronger taste.

Where to buy pickling spice?

You can find pickling spice at common grocery stores like Walmart, Target, and Kroger or specialty spice shops like Penzeys Spices and The Spice House. It's also available online from Amazon and other retailers.

Is pickling spice gluten-free?

Pickling spice, made of spices like mustard seeds and black peppercorns, is usually gluten-free as these ingredients don't have gluten. But always check the label, as some brands might add ingredients that contain gluten.

How to use Ball mixed pickling spice?

Using Ball mixed pickling spice is easy. Just add 1 to 1.5 teaspoons for a pint jar or 2 to 3 teaspoons for a quart jar of pickles. It's also great for pickling other veggies like cucumbers, beans, and beets.

Can I use pickling spice for corned beef?

Yes, you can use pickling spice for corned beef. It's commonly added to the brine or cooking liquid to infuse the meat with a rich, aromatic flavor. The blend of spices complements the savory taste of corned beef, enhancing its overall flavor profile.

How much pickling spice to use per quart?

For a quart of vinegar brine, use 2 to 3 teaspoons of pickling spice. Adjust the amount based on your taste preference, but remember that using too much can overpower the flavors of other ingredients.

Is pickling spice the same as a corned beef spice?

Pickling spice and corned beef spice are basically the same, both being mixes of spices for flavoring and preserving meat. Corned beef spice might have extra ingredients like curing salt and sugar.

How much pickling spice per liter of vinegar?

For every liter of vinegar, use 1.5 to 2 teaspoons (10.56 to 15.85 ml) of pickling spice. Adjust to your liking, but avoid using too much to prevent overpowering the flavors of other ingredients.

Final Thoughts

The best substitutes for pickling spice include homemade pickling spice, crab boil spice, baharat, Ras el Hanout, Jamaican jerk seasoning, and garam masala.

Each of these alternatives offers a unique flavor profile, with key ingredients like cinnamon, mustard seeds, and peppercorns, allowing for customization in pickles. While not perfect replacements, they provide diverse options to experiment with different taste nuances in pickled foods.

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