Getting every last little ounce of use out of the healthy foods in your pantry and fridge is a wellness game that only has a winning side. Not only does it cut down on food waste, it saves money, and benefits the body in a bonus way on top of however you were using the food for.
That said, some leftovers are easier to use than others. You might have already figured out that citrus peels can be used to brighten up roasted meat dishes, and used coffee grounds can be transformed into a deodorizer or body scrub (amongst many other uses), but other food remnants don’t seem so versatile at first glance. Case in point: pickle juice.
Pickles themselves are full of benefits. They’re a fermented food, which means they’re high in probiotics, aka the good bacteria that makes the gut thrive. Pickles also contain vitamin A, which is beneficial for eye health, and vitamin K, which helps keep bones strong. It also isn’t rocket science to figure out how to use them. Besides eating them as is, pickles add flavor to burgers and salads. But after all your pickles are used up, you’re left with a jar of juice. And what is that good for? (Slash do we even want to go there?)
Hold on: Is pickle juice even healthy?
However, pickle juice is more versatile than you may think—and it has some health benefits, too, says registered dietitian Melissa Rifkin, RD. “Pickle juice has antioxidants, potassium, and sodium,” she says, adding that in moderation, sodium helps balance the electrolytes in the body and not getting enough can lead to feeling light-headed or dizzy. Thanks to the above-mentioned electrolytes potassium and sodium, Rifkin also says that drinking pickle juice has also been linked to helping soothe muscle cramps.
She also says that, like pickles themselves, the juice contains probiotics (aka good bacteria important for gut health), which makes it a gut-healthy drink similar to kombucha. “Another benefit of pickle juice is that it helps control blood sugar and also has vitamins C and E,” she says. Vitamin C is linked to boosting the immune system and vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect the body from free radicals. (It’s also good for your skin.) There is some research that drinking small amounts of vinegar (like what is used to pickle foods including, well, pickles) before a meal can help stabilize the blood sugar levels of people with Type 2 diabetes.
However, pickles (and thus pickle juice) tend to be high in sodium. Since that’s a nutrient best consumed in moderation—under 2,300 milligrams per day, according to the American Heart Association—Rifkin says it’s best to make your own pickles and pickle juice. If you are buying store-bought pickles, it’s just something to be aware of. (Rifkin says a good rule of thumb is to go for a jar with less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving.)
What to do with pickle juice
1. Use it to flavor meat
Rifkin likes to use pickle juice as a meat marinade, which she says adds extra flavor to dishes like chicken or pork chops. To follow in her footsteps, simply whisk pepper and minced garlic into some leftover pickle juice. Then, soak your meat in the juice (either in a resealable bag or in a covered dish) before cooking it. For some step-by-step guidance, check out this recipe from The Novice Chef blogger Jessica Segarra, who uses it to flavor chicken.
2. Make a vinaigrette
Not a meat eater? Rifkin says another way to use pickle juice is to use it as a base for a vinaigrette. Simply whisk your pickle juice with olive oil, pepper, and garlic. Then, store it in a glass or plastic bottle in the fridge for up to two weeks. For a full recipe, try this one by Sinful Nutrition blogger and registered dietitian Emily Cooper.
3. Take it as a healthy shot
One easy way to get the benefits of pickle juice without doing any work whatsoever: knock it back as a wellness shot. This can be especially helpful if your muscles are feeling sore from all your at-home workouts. Intrigued but intimidated? Rifkin’s next idea might be more your speed.
4. Add it to your cocktail for a healthy-ish drink
“Pickle juice works well in a martini!” Rifkin says. Feeling fancy? Follow this recipe, which shows how to shake one up, by simply combining the juice with vodka (or gin, if that’s more your thing.) You can also try using pickle juice in a Blood Mary. This recipe from Our Best Bites bloggers Sara Wells and Kate Jones shows how to make a great virgin Bloody Mary with pickle juice as the base. If you want to make it boozy, just add in a shot of vodka.
5. Use it as a secret, flavor-enhancing ingredient
Similarly to how pickles themselves can level up foods like hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, and chili, pickle juice can also add an unexpected-yet-delicious layer of flavor to certain foods. Potato salads, cheese or alt-cheese based dishes, and pickled hard boiled eggs are three in particular are good ones to try.
6. Clean your kitchen with it
Fun fact: pickle juice actually works as an all-natural cleaner for hard-to-scrub dishes. Pour it on your crusty pots and pans and you’ll notice that whatever is stuck on there will come off easier when rinsed with water. Of course you probably won’t want your sparkling clean dishes to smell like pickles, so it’s still a good idea to rinse them with dish soap after using the pickle juice.
3 more recipes using pickle juice to try
Besides the recipes already mentioned, here are three more delicious, healthy ideas to try:
As mentioned above, pickle juice and potatoes complement each other. This recipe shows how to use them to give flavor to French fries (which, despite the name, are actually baked and not fried in the recipe). Consider it an American-take on the vinegar-dipped “chips” popular with fish in the UK.
This pickle juice-enhanced macaroni salad practically begs to put on a plate next to a veggie burger. The “cheese” is made with raw cashews. Feel free to swap out the macaroni noodles for an alternative pasta of your choice; it will work just as well.
Use your pickle juice to make a probiotic-rich dip for your veggies. Here, it’s combined with Greek yogurt (also a good source of probiotics, BTW) and a few pantry spices, including paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder.
Will all these tips and recipes, you might start to look at that jar of pickles a little differently, right? When possible, cooking with scraps and utilizing every part of them (and their juice!) can not only be a way to get some nutritional bonuses, but can also elevate the tastes of your dishes, too. Pickle juice included.
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