Use Leftover Pickle Juice To Amplify Your Vinaigrette

The humblest ingredients can often be surprising flavor enhancers in the kitchen. Think about how a dash of salt completely transforms silky caramel sauce. For one of our favorite game-changers, look no further than your refrigerator jar of pickles, because if you're not using the juice from your empty pickle jars, you're really missing out. You could use it to brine chicken or make a savory cocktail. But how about swapping it out for the acid in your vinaigrette? 

That's right, the cloudy liquid that remains in the glass jar is more than just plain vinegar. It's a goldmine of flavor, with the leftover, sweet, savory, and sugary notes left behind from the pickles, the aromatics, and the herbs and spices. A vinaigrette's main components are oil and vinegar, so using the leftover pickle brine is just a jump start to a flavorful salad dressing that's perfect for a fresh salad.  

What's the Big Dill?

Dill is an herbaceous, grassy herb that's a classic pairing with pickled cucumbers, popularized in the USA in the early 1900s. Classic pickle brine itself includes salt, vinegar, water, and sometimes sugar, but many dill pickles recipes also include garlic, dill (of course), and pickling spices. The exact type of spices in a pickling spice combination may vary, but Simply Recipes recommends mustard seeds, black peppercorns or red pepper flakes, and one sweet spice, like allspice, cinnamon, or cloves. That said, other add-ins could include yellow mustard seeds, coriander seeds, ginger, dill seeds, and more. Per Simply Recipes, these spices are kept whole, not ground (except for cinnamon sticks and, if used, bay leaves), and are often included right in the brine as the cucumbers are set to pickle. 

When the crunchy pickles are but a delicious memory (pickles go fast in everything from lunchtime sandwiches to midnight snacks), keep that savory brine. All the tangy, salty, garlicky flavor is a total flavor bomb for vinaigrettes. So don't toss that jar (just wash it and use it again) and definitely don't toss the liquid gold the pickles leave behind.

One Dillicious Vinaigrette

Instead of a classic vinegar-based salad dressing, why not punch up the wow factor with that garlicky leftover pickle brine? Substitute it for the vinegar (or any acid) in your favorite salad dressing recipe or use Chef Curtis Stone's favorite iteration. The result will still have that vinegar punch but with added sweet and salty notes from the seasoning used in the brine, as in Sinful Nutrition's version

Besides green salads, dill pickle vinaigrette is also delicious on steamed vegetables like potatoes and carrots. Definitely don't shy away from using dried dill either, increasing the vinaigrette's dilly flavor. The dried dill is a flavor powerhouse and that leftover pickle brine transforms from something that might have otherwise been discarded into the secret star of the show. Who could ever look at a jar of pickles the same way again? Pickle brine, to know you is to love you.