Answer: Yes. Pickles are 100% vegan. The essential ingredient used to make pickles is cucumber, which is vegan-friendly.
Since vegans don’t consume animal food, they might miss out on important nutrients. Fermented plant foods come in handy since they contain and preserve many nutrients.
Most plant foods contain anti-nutrients. These anti-nutrients make it hard for the body to absorb nutrients. Having fermented plant foods like pickles in your diet plan is a great way to reduce the anti-nutrients.
What Is Pickling?
Pickling prolongs the shelf life of food by immersing it in vinegar or through the anaerobic fermentation method. Pickling alters the food’s texture and flavor. Common pickled foods include vegetables, fruits, fish, eggs, and meat.
Pickling also prolongs the shelf life of perishable food by lowering the pH so harmful bacteria don’t grow. Some spices and herbs have antimicrobial properties that inhibit the growth of microorganisms. These are mustard seed, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, and many more.
Brine is added so the food can absorb excess water to ensure its durability. But, if the food has sufficient moisture, dry salt is added instead of brine. An excellent example of such a case is kimchi.
Another way of pickling is immersion in vinegar or lactic acid bacteria, which is significant in fermentation. The lactic acid bacteria (LAB) contribute to the variation in nutritional value, flavor, and texture in fermented foods.
LAB also produces lactic acid, which provides the required acidity. This acidity inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria, which may cause spoilage of other agents.
In lactic acid or lacto fermentation, the right amount of salt concentration promotes LAB’s growth. During the initial fermentation stage, salt prevents the development of harmful bacteria, enabling LAB reproduction.
If your container isn’t airtight or you have used too little salt, the bacteria thrive and cause your food to spoil. Again, too much salt will kill off the good and the harmful bacteria.
Why Are Pickles Considered Vegan?
Pickles are considered vegan because all the ingredients found in them are vegan-friendly. The essential ingredients include:
Cucumbers are plainly vegan friendly because they’re plant-based food. Buying cucumbers from a farm market is way better than purchasing from supermarkets. The latter tend to be heavily waxed.
Vinegar is also vegan-friendly. It is made from plants like apples, grapes, cherries, peaches, or barley.
Brine is a highly concentrated solution of salt in water. Salt is used to draw out water from cucumbers to prolong their shelf life. Also, salt is used to control the growth of bacteria and yeast during the fermentation process.
Cucumbers tend to lose their firmness during the pickling process. For this reason, calcium salts are added to pickles to help them maintain hardness. These salts come from calcium chloride, which is vegan-friendly.
Baking Soda/Sodium Bicarbonate
It is added to control pH or as a leavening agent. Baking soda is also used to cure pickles. It comes from sodium carbonate, a mineral mined from the earth, making it vegan-friendly.
Sorbic acid is a preservative. It’s chemically produced with non-animal products, which makes it vegan-friendly.
Calcium Disodium EDTA
It is a synthetic preservative that prevents crystal formation and slows down the loss of color. It’s chemically produced, thus 100% vegan friendly.
The flavorings used in pickles are vegan-friendly. Some of them include:
- Turmeric is added for flavor and gives pickles a yellow color.
- Tarragon is a flavoring agent and herb, which makes it 100% vegan.
- Anise is a flavoring agent popular in pickles, and its flavor is similar to fennel.
- Dill is a herb, and its seeds are used for their aromatic flavor. They’re common in dill pickles, salads, sauerkraut, beef soup, etc.
- Cumin is one of the main spices in curry powder and is widely used in commercial pickle-making.
- Mustard is a spice commonly used in pickle making. It adds a spicy, sharp taste to pickles.
Nutritional Value of Pickles
Pickles have several nutrients. A serving of 100g contains:
- Calories – 11 kcal
- Total Fat – 0.2g
- Saturated Fat – 0.1g
- Dietary Fiber – 1.2g
- Sodium – 1208mg
- Total Carbohydrate – 2.3g
- Dietary Fiber – 1.2g
- Sugar – 1.1g
- Protein – 0.3g
- Vitamin D – 0.00mcg
- Potassium – 23mg
- Calcium – 0.00mg
- Iron – 0.40mg
Common Types of Pickles
Genuine Dill Pickles
These are the most popular type of pickles. They’re packed with whole cucumbers, and real dill seeds and are heavily fermented with vinegar.
The basic dill pickles are made using the traditional fermentation process through which the pickles are immersed in flavored vinegar and then stored at room temperature.
Genuine pickles are taken as a snack or alongside a hot dog or a burger.
Bread and Butter Pickles
These pickles don’t taste as the name suggests. Their primary ingredient is cucumbers. The cucumbers are mixed with white vinegar, salt, mustard seeds, sugar, celery, and coriander seeds. You add sliced onions to make the pickles crisp and sweet.
This mixture gives them a perfect combination of a sweet and sour taste. Bread and butter pickles are the perfect dips for fries and spring rolls.
These don’t need the traditional canning method though you can still go along with it. You store your homemade pickles in a refrigerator for a few days. With this storage method, you can’t store them for a long time.
Sweet pickles are layered with a sweetener. A good example is the candied pickles – they have an intense sugary taste.
Gherkin is way smaller compared to cucumber pickles.
You can take them raw or cooked. They belong to the gourd family and are widely confused with the mouse melon. It’s easy to make them at home using fresh gherkin, spices, vinegar, sugar, and salt.
Kosher Dill Pickles
Traditionally, kosher pickles are combined with dill, kosher salt, spices, and garlic. There are then fermented for some time to give them a sour taste.
There are two types of kosher pickles: full-sour and half-sour pickles. The full-sour pickles are fermented in long spears, while half-sour pickles are not fermented fully, giving them the super crisp flavor and the bright green color.
Kosher pickles are best served alone. However, you can take them alongside a sandwich or coleslaw.
Cinnamon pickles, also known as Christmas pickles, are unique for their vibrant and intense color.
Health Benefits of Pickles
Pickles provide antioxidants. They’re fermented, which makes them rich in antioxidants. The antioxidants also prevent cell damage by removing free radicals. This study shows that antioxidants reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Pickles can relieve muscle cramps. According to a 2010 study, drinking pickle juice is a great way to soothe muscle cramps.
They can help you control your blood sugar level. Vinegar, according to a study, helps to manage insulin and glucose responses. So adding pickles to your meals can regulate blood sugar levels.
Pickles help you restore electrolytes in your body. Electrolytes are essential for healthy functioning. If you’re vomiting or dehydrated, you might lose electrolytes.
The electrolytes also treat restless legs syndrome. The high concentration of electrolytes in pickles is believed to soothe the symptoms.
Finally, they can help you lose weight. Since pickles are probiotic foods, they contain bacteria that help manage weight.
Pickles contain probiotics that:
- Promote dental health by treating gingivitis and cavities.
- Reduce urinary tract infections or diseases.
- Reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.
- Reduce blood pressure.
- Improve food digestion.
- Boost skin health. Probiotics contain bacteria that promote skin health.
Pickles can also help in relieving morning sickness during pregnancy. Their sour and tart taste reduces nausea.
Pickles are rich in sodium, making them unsuitable for people with high blood pressure and cardiovascular issues. To control the level of sodium in your pickles, it’s best if you make them yourself.
Homemade pickles are way better than processed pickles since the former are made with chemicals harmful to your health.
A study conducted in India shows that overconsumption of salty foods may cause gastric and esophageal cancer.
Fermented foods like pickles provide vegans with a nutrient-rich diet.
They’re low in calories and a rich source of vitamin K. Pickles are also high in probiotics, which provide many health benefits.