Pickling and perserving food has always been an important tradition, especially to northern cultures with short growing seasons like Russia. Pictured are just some of the many items you find commonly pickled in Russia: tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic and garlic shoots, carrots, peppers, and cabbage.

Pickling Russian Style

Published: August 5, 2018

The process of pickling (соление) is well-known in Russia, and any traveler visiting Russia, Ukraine, or Belarus will undoubtedly come across several traditional pickled dishes that seem strange and exotic. With a relatively short growing season, preserving food has always been of special importance in Russia, where you can easily find pickled cucumbers, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, eggplant, apples, and more.

The Origins of Pickling

(И почему соленья носят такое название?)

Also known as brining, corning, or salting, pickling has been around for nearly 4 millennia, and remains a favorite method for preserving food. In general, pickling is the process of preserving foods by storing them in a pickling solution or brine. This solution or brine can be either salt water or an acidic solution, such as weak vinegar. In Russia, salt is generally the preferred method and, thus, the Russian word “соление” is derived from the root word соль (salt).

Historically, pickling has been used by a number of societies, due to its value in the cold months, when fresh food is hard to come by. Also, those going away for long stretches of time prepared for their journey by salting meats, such as pork and beef, which gave them a much needed source of protein.

Traditionally, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine developed their own original methods of preservation without using vinegar. Besides “соление” (salting, pickling), these cultures also often use “квашение” (fermentation), and “мочение” (steeping). Even in the 12th century, the people of old Rus’ salted their cucumbers and fermented their cabbage.

The differences in the types of salting are connected to the various types of brine. If the brine is made from salt, and its concentration is no lower than 6-8 percent, but no more than 20-30 percent, then we have a case of pickling. When the salts make up 2.5-3 percent of the mass of the given product, and the brine is made from vegetable juices, then it is a case of fermentation. Finally, if the brine is made from a very small quantity of salt (1.5-2 percent) and the solution is 6-8 percent sugar, then this form of conservation is called steeping.

Pickling recipe history culture origin
В соления щедро добавляют чеснок и укроп. Photo: BankReceptov.ru

When and How to Eat Pickled Food

(Как правильно есть соление)

The true value of pickling is that it activates the body’s metabolic processes, even in small amounts. Pickling facilitates the digestion of meat and fatty foods. It not only enriches food, but accelerates and strengthens the fermentation process in digestion.

Cолёные oгурцы” (pickled cucumbers or simply pickles) are also incredibly popular and considered healthy in Russia ‒ in moderation. Lactic acid, which develops in the process of cucumber salting, can improve the digestive tract. However, it’s not good to eat pickles in large quantities, as too much salt is bad, especially if you have a bad liver or kidneys. They are also not recommended if you have hypertension or heart disease. Pickled cucumbers can increase your appetite; therefore they can have a negative effect on people with a tendency towards obesity.

A very famous Russian dish is “солёные помидоры” (pickled tomatoes). You can hardly find a person in Russia who hasn’t once tried a pickled tomato with fried potatoes, a dish that is enjoyed by nearly all Russians – but especially those celebrating some event with a bottle of vodka. Pickled cucumbers, or simply pickles are also incredibly popular both as an appetizer, a side dish, and an indispensable vodka companion.

After a long night of drink, the pickling liquid, known as “рассол” (brine) in Russian is a popular hangover cure. Even for those Russians who are not drinkers, brine can be saved and made into a popular soup called “рассольник” (rassolnik).

How to Properly Pickle

(Как правильно готовить соление)

Pickling recipe history culture origin
Маринованный чеснок подают к любому
мясному блюду.

In a weak brine or a pickling medium, special groups of bacteria develop, which add not only flavor, but life to the products. Thus, pickling and fermenting are valued in Russia because they create “живой” (living) products where conservation is coupled with promoting living organisms. In the case of pickling with vinegar, however, everything is the opposite. Vinegar kills all bacteria that might affect the product, but also results in decay in the product itself. Vinegar will more rapidly break down the cellular structure of the product being preserved, resulting in a limp, less nutritious food.

The rest of the secret to good pickling depends on the spices, the cleanliness of the materials and dishes in preparation, the accuracy in calculating the brine’s strength, and, last but not least, on the correct care of the salted foods in the first week of their creation. The basic process of fermentation happens in the brine in the first few days (the process is slightly different for each product you might pickle). During this time, the pickling (or fermentation) should take place in a warm room and you will need to occasionally add brine to it. Once the critical period passes, the salted food should be stored in a cool place. After approximately a month (20-40 days), it will have absorbed the full flavor from the brine and will be ready to eat.

Pickle Recipes

(Давай приготовим!)

See below for a free recipe for various Russian pickles. See also the free videos online. If you are interested in cooking from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, and other places in Eurasia, make sure to see our full, free Eurasian Cookbook online! You might also be interested in the following specialized cookbooks we’ve enjoyed:

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Огурцы солёные
Pickled Cucumbers
  • Огурец (зависит от размера) — 8 шт
  • Лист смородиновый — 2 шт
  • Лист хрена
  • Хрен
  • Чеснок — 2 зуб.
  • Укроп (зонтик) — 2 шт.
  • Соль


  1. Литровую банку помыть содой. На дно банки положить: 1 лист чёрной смородины, 1 вишнёвый лист, половину листа хрена, небольшой кусочек корня хрена (3-4 см), 1 зубчик чеснока, 1 зонтик укропа.
  2. Уложить в банку огурцы и сверху положить то же самое в том же порядке.
  3. Если хотите,чтобы огурчики были остренькие положите 1 маленький кусочек кайенского перчика. В банку насыпаете 1 столовую ложку соли с горкой, заливаете холодной водой.
  4. Закрываете прокипячённой пластмассовой крышкой.
  5. 1 сутки держать при комнатной температуре для начала брожения.
  6. Потом убрать в прохладное место или холодильник.
  • Cucumbers (depending on size) – 8
  • Currant leaves – 2
  • cherry leave – 2
  • 1 horseradish leaf
  • Horseradish root
  • Garlic – 2 cloves
  • 2 dill heads, can be substituted with dried dill seed
  • Salt (pickling or kosher, not iodized)


  1. Clean a one liter (quart) jar with baking soda. Place the following into the jar: 1 black currant leaf, 1 cherry leaf, half a horseradish leaf, 3-4 centimeter slice of horseradish root, 1 garlic clove, 1 dill head.
  2. Add the cucumbers to the jar and place the same ingredients in the same order on top of them.
  3. If you want the cucumbers to be a bit spicier, add 1 small piece of dried hot pepper or red pepper flakes. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the jar, and fill it with cold water.
  4. Seal it with a plastic lid that has already been boiled.
  5. Keep it at room temperature for one day during the beginning of fermentation.
  6. Then move it to a cool place or the refrigerator.


Огурцы малосольные хрустящие Crunchy, Lightly-salted Cucumbers 
  • Огурец — 1,8 кг
  • Чеснок (головка) — 2 шт
  • Укроп (зонтик) — 1 пуч.
  • Хрен (лист) — 1 шт
  • Лист вишни — 5 шт
  • Лист чёрной смородины — 7 шт
  • Зелень (любая по вкусу, можно петрушку, сельдерей)
  • Вода (кипячёная) — 1,5-1,7 л
  • Соль — 2 ст. л. с горкой
  • Сахар — 1 ч. л. с горкой
  • Уксус (9%) — 1 ст. л.

Количество продуктов — на одну трёхлитровую банку.


  1. Огурцы хорошо вымыть и обрезать края.
  2. 2 головки чеснока почистить и разделить на зубчики.
  3. Зелень помыть и начинать складывать в банку: сначала уложить укроп, на дно положить чеснок, зелень, листья вишни и смородины.
  4. Плотно уложить огурцы в банку.
  5. Приготовить маринад: в кастрюле вскипятить 1.5-1.7 л воды с 2-мя столовыми ложками соли и сахаром.
  6. Как только пар уйдет, залить содержимое банки маринадом и добавить 1 столовую ложку уксуса. Накрыть банку марлей и поставить на широкую тарелку.
  7. Поставить на окно на 1 -2 дня.
  • 1.8 kilograms of cucumbers
  • 2 garlic heads
  • Dill heads, dill seed or 1 bundle of dill
  • 1 horseradish leaf
  • 5 cherry leaves
  • 7 black currant leaves
  • Greens (any flavor, for example, celery or parsley)
  • 1.5-1.7 liters of boiled water
  • 2 rounded tablespoons of pickling salt
  • 1 rounded teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (9%)

All products go in one three-liter jar.


  1. Wash the cucumbers well and cut off the ends.
  2. Clean the 2 garlic heads and separate the cloves.
  3. Wash the greens and begin to add them to the jar: start with the dill, then add the garlic, greens, and cherry and currant leaves on top of that.
  4. Place the cucumbers in the jar tightly.
  5. To prepare the marinade: in a pan bring to boil 1.5 – 1.7 liters of water with 2 tablespoons of salt and sugar.
  6. When the water stops steaming, pour the contents of the marinade into the jar and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Cover the jar with a gauze/cheese cloth and set it on a wide plate.
  7. Set the plate in a window for 1- 2 days.


Помидоры солёные Pickled Tomatoes
  • 10 кг помидоров
  • 100-200 гр зелени укропа
  • 50 г корня хрена
  • 100 г листьев чёрной смородины
  • 100 г листьев хрена
  • 20-30 г чеснока
  • 10-15 г красного острого перца
  • 10 л воды
  • 500-700 г соли


  1. Всю зелень и помидоры тщательно промойте в проточной воде.
  2. На дно банок уложите половину укропа, перца, чеснока, листьев смородины, листьев и корня хрена.
  3. Наполните банки помидорами и уложите оставшуюся зелень.
  4. Приготовьте рассол из 10 литров воды и 500-700 граммов соли. Залейте банки холодным рассолом так, чтобы помидоры были полностью им покрыты.
  5. Накройте банки крышками и оставьте при комнатной температуре на 2-3 дня, после чего уберите в прохладное место.
  • 10 kilograms of tomatoes
  • 100 – 200 grams of fresh dill
  • 50 grams of horseradish root
  • 100 grams of black currant leaves
  • 100 grams of horseradish leaves
  • 20 – 30 grams of garlic
  • 10 – 15 grams of red, spicy pepper
  • 10 liters of water
  • 500 – 700 grams of salt


  1. Thoroughly clean all of the greens and tomatoes in running water.
  2. Lay half of the garlic, peppers, dill, currant leaves, horseradish leaves and root on the bottom of the jars.
  3. Fill the jars with the tomatoes and add the remaining greens.
  4. Prepare the salt mixture from 10 liters of water and 500-700 grams of salt. Pour the cold salt mixture into the jars, so that the tomatoes are completely submerged.
  5. Cover the jars with lids and store it at room temperature for 2-3 days, before moving it to a cool place.


Чеснок солёный головками Pickled Garlic
  • крупные головки чеснока
  • вода – 1 л
  • соль – 100г


  1. Белые или розовые головки чеснока с зелёной или чуть присыхающей ботвой моют, снимают первые покровные листья, не допуская оголения долек. Удаляют корневую мочку и ботву. Укладывают в банки, заливают холодной водой и оставляют на 3 суток, меняя воду один-два раза в сутки.
  2. Для рассола в 1 литр воды добавляют 100 г соли, кипятят, затем фильтруют и охлаждают. Чеснок довольно плотно укладывают в банки и заливают приготовленным раствором, накрывают крышками и хранят в прохладном помещении до осени.
  3. Если нет условий для хранения солёного чеснока, после заливки рассолом его стерилизуют при 100°C: банки пол-литровые ‒ 5 минут, литровые ‒ 8 минут, трёхлитровые ‒ 15 минут.
  4. Употребляют чеснок солёным или его маринуют: за 8-10 дней до употребления заливают 6%-ным уксусом. Маринованый чеснок подают к любому мясному блюду.
  • Large heads of garlic
  • 1 liter of water
  • 100 grams of salt


  1. Clean the white or pink heads of garlic. Use only garlic with fresh or slightly dried green tops. Remove only the first layer of skin, leaving the cloves covered. Remove the roots and plant tops. Place garlic heads in the jar and add cold water. Set aside for 3 days, and change the water once or twice per day.
  2. For the brine, add 100 grams of salt to 1 liter of water, bring to boil, and then filter and cool it. Pack the garlic tightly into the jar and pour in the solution, seal with a lid and place it in a cool room.
  3. If you don’t have the proper conditions for storing the pickled garlic, after you pour in the brine, sterilize the mixture at 100 degrees Celsius: a half liter for 5 minutes, a liter for 8 minutes, and 3 liters for 15 minutes.
  4. This garlic may be eaten as is or marinated later: 8-10 days before desired use, cover salted garlic with 6% vinegar. The pickled garlic can be used with any meat dish.

Our Favorite Pickling Videos

Here’s a video from videoculinary.ru, featuring a pleasant, old babushka. She shows how to make pickled cucumbers.


I guess the love of pickled cucumbers is built into Russian genes. Even babies love them!


An enlightening video about pickled cucumbers made by an orthodox priest.

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About the author

Michael Smetzer

Michael Smeltzer

Michael Smeltzer, at the time he wrote for this site, was an SRAS Home and Abroad Scholar with degrees in Russian Language and Philosophy from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. He studied with SRAS in Vladivostok, improving his Russian skills.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

View all posts by: Michael Smeltzer

Andrei Nesterov

Andrei Nesterov

Andrei Nesterov leads SRAS' Research Services, performing remote archive research and consultations for researchers around the globe. Andrei graduated from Ural State University (journalism) and Irkutsk State Linguistic University (English). He also studied public policy and journalism at Duke University on a Muskie Fellowship and taught Russian at West Virginia University. As a journalist, he has reported in both Russian and English language outlets and has years of archival research experience. He has travelled Russia extensively and penned many stories on the “real Russia” which lies beyond the capital and major cities. Andrei also contributes news, feature stories, and language resources to the SRAS Family of Sites.

Program attended: SRAS Staff Member

View all posts by: Andrei Nesterov