Gjelina's Spicy Sweet Pickles

If folks still addressed me by my childhood nickname, "Pickle", I probably wouldn't mind. I'm a forever fangirl when it comes to briny cucumbers. Why it took me this long to try Gjelina's Spicy Sweet Pickles is a mystery but they're definitely a new favorite.

These pickles are a touch sweet with a mellow vinegar flavor that allows the delicate cucumber to peek through. You can throw in a couple of fresh cayenne or Fresno chiles for some heat and then repurpose those peppers as a pizza topping. I've used Gjelina's Spicy Sweet Pickles on pulled pork sandwiches and patty melts, as a small side dish, and have been known to just stand at the counter with a fork and the jar. They would also be great paired with turkey, avocado, and red onion, similar to a sandwich GTA serves. I have it on good authority that the restaurant uses this brine (or something very similar) for a number of vegetables so it's adaptable.

Gjelina occupies one of the of the four VIP cookbook spots in my kitchen. Additional recipes I've posted from the book include Pomodoro Sauce, Tomato Confit, Pan-Roasted Romanesco, Garlic Confit, and the Kabocha, Olive Oil, and Bittersweet Chocolate Cake.

Original vs. Adapted


The original recipe calls for white wine vinegar but I had a bunch of champagne vinegar in the pantry (also a mystery) so that's what I've been using. I'm not sure if this is a perfect swap but taste testers can't always tell the difference between the two. I suspect the pickles will have a little more acidity if you use white wine vinegar.


I double the red pepper flakes from 1/8 teaspoon to 1/4 teaspoon when there aren't any fresh hot peppers in the jar. I roll back to 1/8 teaspoon when adding fresh hot peppers. Chef's discretion.


I increase the sugar by 3 grams when adding fresh hot peppers to balance the additional heat . Admittedly, this is a ridiculously small thing to mention given the recipe but figured it might as well be documented.

Recipe Tips


Let the brine cool completely or close to completely before pouring it over the sliced cucumbers. I also wait to slice the cucumbers until the brine is ready but don't have any scientific research to back up that decision.

Are They Ready Yet

I've used these pickles a few hours after making them and they were delicious. That being said, the flavor is more developed after 24 hours or so and continues to improve as the days go on.

    Farmers | Artisans

    I make an effort to source my food from California artisans with a special focus on the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Below is a list of the folks who contributed to this dish.


    My Favorite Cooking Tools spotlights the kitchen equipment I have owned and used for years.

    Ingredients (Adapted from Gjelina - Almost Fills a 34 Ounce Jar)

    • 1 pound (405 grams) pickling cucumbers, cut into rounds Note: I like to use a mix of Persian cucumbers and the regular pickling variety. I use the largest setting on Rösle mandoline. Alternatively, you can slice the cucumber lengthwise which is fun for sandwiches.
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
    • 3/4 teaspoon dill seeds
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/2 cup white wine or champagne vinegar Note: I use champagne and add an extra splash.
    • 2 tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons (32 grams) sugar. Note: As mentioned under "Original vs. Adapted", I use a pinch more (35 grams) when adding fresh hot peppers.
    • 1 tablespoon flake-style salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
    • 1/4 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes Note: I reduce this back down to original recipe's 1/8 teaspoon when adding hot peppers
    • 3 sprigs (4 grams) fresh dill
    • 2-3 small/medium (10 grams after prep) garlic cloves , thinly sliced
    • (Optional) 2 fresh hot peppers such as cayenne or Fresno


    • In a small stainless saucepan, toast the seeds over medium heat until very fragrant but not burning.
    • To the pan, add the water, vinegar, sugar, salt, turmeric, and red pepper flakes.
    • Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir once or twice to dissolve the salt and sugar.
    • Remove the brine from the heat and let it cool.
    • In whatever container you plan to store the pickles in, add half of the of the garlic and dill.
    • Place half of the cucumbers on top.
    • Lay the rest of the garlic and dill down, the fresh hot peppers if using, and then top with the remaining cucumbers.
    • Pour the cooled brine over top. The cucumbers will not be fully submerged and that's ok.
    • After 10 minutes, move the cucumbers around and get them to wiggle under the brine so that almost all of them are submerged. Repeat in another 10 minutes.
    • Refrigerate for 3-5 hours before using. The flavor gets better as the days go on.
    • If you think of it during the initial few hours, take the jar out, turn it over, and give things a gentle jiggle. I only do this once or twice to distribute the flavors.

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