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Easy Pickled Cauliflower Recipe (canning or refrigerator)

Pickled cauliflower is a crunchy, tangy snack or addition to a relish tray. This pickled cauliflower recipe is safe for canning to make shelf-stable pickles or to make quick pickles for the refrigerator. 

three pint size mason jars of canned pickled cauliflower

In winter when we’re harvesting head after head of cauliflower, I like to use one or two heads to make a batch of pickled cauliflower. By this time of year, our pickle supply is running low (how does that happen?!) spicy pickled cauliflower makes a great substitute for pickled cucumbers or other pickled vegetables. 

If you’re growing your own cauliflower, be sure to harvest the heads when they are full, once they’re harvested the plant stops producing. However, you can sauté the leaves to get the most of the plant. 

This same recipe can be used to make pickled brussels sprouts. 

pieces of cut cauliflower on cutting board with knife in background

Ingredients

Cauliflower – Any variety of cauliflower will work in this recipe. Since this recipe uses turmeric, if you have some that are more yellow than white, this is a good way to use them. If you grew or bought purple cauliflower at the farmer’s market, you can use that just know that the color will leach into the brine – which is still pretty.

Vinegar – In order to be shelf stable, you have to use a proper vinegar mixture. We like a mix of white wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar. But you can certainly use white vinegar or white wine vinegar, just make sure label states that it’s 5% acidity. 

If you use a darker vinegar like apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar, the cauliflower will turn a yellow or brown, which isn’t a big deal and isn’t a safety issue. If you want white pickled cauliflower use a white vinegar (and omit the turmeric in this recipe.)

Sugar – Sugar helps cut the tangy flavor of the vinegar. It can certainly be reduced or omitted but the pickled cauliflower would be quite tart. This recipe uses a 100% vinegar brine, unlike pickled carrots which has some water in the brine. I cannot find a tested recipe for pickled cauliflower that has water in the brine, to use as a reference.

If you want to substitute some of the vinegar with water and reduce or omit the sugar for a less sweet pickle, that’s fine BUT the pickled cucumbers will need to be stored in the refrigerator as refrigerator pickles. 

Spices – I use a mix of turmeric, mustard seeds, celery seed, black peppercorns and red pepper flakes for this recipe. You can change up the dried spices if you like. Some people like to add coriander seeds, cumin seeds, bay leaf, garlic cloves or a bit of curry.

You can also use a bit of homemade pickling spice instead of individual spices.

Onions and Peppers – This recipe calls for onions, you can use white onions or red onions which are sweeter. The red color will leach into the brine, so if you want white cauliflower, use white onions. I use dried pepper flakes but if you like bell peppers or fresh hot peppers, you can use them without compromising the safety of this recipe.

How to Make Pickled Cauliflower

In order to be safely canned, pickled cauliflower needs to be processed using the hot water bath canning method. There are recipes for “canning” pickles without processing them, however, that is not recommended by USDA guidelines. Just because a jar seals does not mean the contents are safe. 

If you don’t want to water bath can this recipe, that’s fine, just store the pickled cauliflower in the refrigerator.

Preparing Vegetables for Pickling

To prepare cauliflower for pickling, wash the cauliflower head. Using a sharp knife and cutting board, cut into bite-sized florets. If the florets are quite large, you can cut them in half, ideally the florets should be 1-2 inches. 

Peel, wash and slice onions and wash and slice the peppers (if using.)

Preparing Pickling Liquid

In a large saucepan, combine vinegars, sugar, and spices. Bring to a boil.

Canning Pickled Cauliflower

  • Wash water bath canner and fill halfway with water. Put the pot on the stove and heat over medium heat. (The water shouldn’t boil, but should get too hot to touch.)
  • Wash jars and look for any nicks or cracks. Put the washed jars in the canning pot so they stay hot while you prepare the ingredients. Wide mouth, pint size jars are recommended. There are no processing times available for making pickled cauliflower in quart jars.
  • Wash lids and rings, and set aside. Manufacturers no longer recommend boiling lids, so just set them aside. 
  • Prepare the cauliflower, onions and peppers (if using).
  • Prepare the pickling brine and bring to a boil.
  • Add cauliflower and onions to the bring. Bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the jars from the canner with your canning tongs and place them on a towel on the counter.
  • Add a few slices of fresh peppers to jars, if using.
  • Fill the jars with cauliflower and onions.
  • Top off the jars with the brine, leaving 1/2-inch headspace (the area between the food and the top of the jar)
  • Using a bubble removal tool (or chopstick), gently remove the air bubbles from each jar.
  • Recheck headspace and add more brine if necessary. If you don’t have enough brine to fill each jar to the recommended headspace, you can either add a bit of vinegar to make up the space or just put the jar that’s not filled correctly in the refrigerator.
  • Wipe jar rims with a clean, damp cloth. 
  • Add lids and rings (just like you’d put on a mayonnaise jar lid, don’t crank it down)
  • Put the filled jars back into the canner and make sure the water level is 1 to 2 inches above the lids. Add more hot water, if necessary. 
  • Bring water to a rolling boil and process jars for 15 minutes, adjust for altitude if necessary by adding 1 minute for every 1000 feet above sea level.
  • After processing, turn off the heat, and let the jars remain in the canner for 5 minutes.
  • Using canning tongs, remove the jars and put them on a towel on the counter.
  • Let the jars cool to at room temperature for 12-24 hours. 
  • Remove the rings and check the seals. If any jars didn’t seal, put them in the refrigerator to use first. 
  • Wipe the sealed jars with a clean cloth, label and store in cool dark place.
  • Use within a year or so. As long as the jars are sealed they’re safe to eat but the quality and crispness will deteriorate over time. 
chopped cauliflower in the foreground and an open recipe book in the background

Quick Pickled Cauliflower Recipe

If you don’t want to can the pickled cauliflower you can use these instructions to make quick refrigerator cauliflower pickles. 

  • Wash jars and lids (you can use whatever glass jars you want since you’re not canning it)
  • Prepare cauliflower, onions and peppers
  • Prepare brine and bring to a boil.
  • Add vegetables to brine and bring back to a boil. 
  • Fill jars with vegetables and hot vinegar solution, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace
  • Put lids on jars.
  • Let jars cool to room temperature and then store in the refrigerator. 
  • Use refrigerated pickled cauliflower within 3 months. 

How to Use Pickled Cauliflower

You can use pickled cauliflower wherever you would use other types of pickles…

  • A perfect garnish for sandwiches or hamburgers
  • Add to a charcuterie board or relish tray
  • Chop and add to tuna salad or chicken salad
  • Use the leftover pickle brine to marinate meat
  • Add pickle brine to deviled eggs
  • Make a quick salad dressing with pickle brine

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Yield: 4 pint jars

Pickled Cauliflower

three pint size mason jars of canned pickled cauliflower

Pickled cauliflower is a great addition to a relish tray, salad, or snack. This recipe is safe for canning or use as an easy refrigerator pickle.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 cups chopped cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup sliced onions
  • ​1/2 cup sliced bell pepper (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar (5%)
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar (5%)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp celery seeds
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Wash water bath canner and fill halfway with water. Put the pot on the stove and heat over medium heat. 
  2. Wash jars and look for any nicks or cracks. Put the washed jars in the canning pot so they stay hot while you prepare the ingredients.
  3. Wash lids and rings, and set aside. Manufacturers no longer recommend boiling lids, so just set them aside. 
  4. Wash cauliflower and cut into 1-2 inch pieces. Peel and slice onions. Wash and slice peppers (if using)
  5. In a medium saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar and spices. 
  6. Bring it to a boil. 
  7. Add prepared vegetables to brine and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  8. Remove the jars from the canner with your canning tongs and place them on a towel on the counter.
  9. Using a slotted spoon, add vegetables to each jar, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
  10. Ladle hot brine into each jar, keeping 1/2-inch headspace
  11. Using a bubble removal tool (or chopstick), gently remove the air bubbles from each jar.
  12. Recheck headspace and add more brine if necessary. If you don't have enough brine to fill each jar to the recommended headspace, you can either add a bit of vinegar to make up the space or just put the jar that's not filled correctly in the refrigerator.
  13. Wipe rim of the jars with a clean, damp cloth. 
  14. Add lids and rings 
  15. Put the filled jars back into the canner and make sure there's enough water so that the water level is 1 to 2 inches above the lids. Add more hot water, if necessary. 
  16. Bring water to a boil and process jars for 15 minutes, adjust for altitude if necessary by adding 1 minute for every 1000 feet above sea level.
  17. After processing, turn off the heat, and let the jars remain in the canner for 5 minutes.
  18. Using canning tongs, remove the jars and put them on a clean towel on the counter.
  19. Let the jars cool to at room temperature for 12-24 hours. 
  20. Remove the rings and check the seals. If any jars didn't seal, put them in the refrigerator to use first. 
  21. Wipe the sealed jars with a clean cloth, label and store in cool dark place.
  22. Use within a year or so. As long as the jars are sealed they're safe to eat but the quality and crispness will deteriorate over time. 

Notes

** For quick pickled cauliflower use the following instructions...

Wash jars and lids in hot water. Prepare cauliflower, onions, peppers and hot brine according to instructions above.

​Fill hot jars with cauliflower, onions and peppers. 

Ladle hot brine into jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace.

Let the jars cool to room temperature. Shake a few times to mix up the brine a bit. Put cooled jars in the refrigerator. Try to wait a week before eating. This gives the flavors time to combine. Use within three months.

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This pickled cauliflower recipe is one of 100 recipes in my book, The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables. Check out the book for more delicious ways to safely can, dehydrate, ferment and freeze vegetables.

pint size jar of canned pickled cauliflower

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