HONOLULU Staff Picks: The Best Pickles and Pickle Recipes on O‘ahu

Looking for more activities to do at home or just searching for that extra oomph of flavor to add to your sandwiches, salads, hot dogs, burgers … we could go on. Our team has very strong opinions about locally pickled goods and their own pickling hacks.


Pickle Development Leave

pickling in jars

Photo: Katrina Valcourt


“I took a week off work solely to work on my pickling method. After experimenting with 12 different combos (and writing 12 pages of notes), I settled on a few staples: apple cider vinegar (tastes better, less bite), daikon (absorbs flavor quicker without getting soggy), fresh herbs and a full bulb of garlic. My winning combo uses ground turmeric, whole peppercorns, coriander seeds, ground cinnamon, thyme sprigs, Hawaiian chile peppers and a few knobs of ginger for a colorful jar of slightly spicy, crunchy pickles that go great with sandwiches and pizza. I’ve also used the leftover brine to flavor brown rice with some fresh cilantro and lemon. Super easy and a delicious way to avoid waste!” —Katrina Valcourt, managing editor


Free Pickles


“The best pickle I ever ate came straight out of a barrel at an old pickle shop on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Elsewhere, the best pickles cut through rich, fatty meats, and the better the quality of meat, the higher my pickle standards. Enter Sunset Smokehouse: The Wahiawā barbecue specialist makes arguably the best brisket on the island, an over-the-top intoxication of juicy, melty beef and soft char that is never complete without a free side of dill pickles. Sunset makes its own, giving the cucumbers a two-week pickling that leaves them just the right balance of tart, sweet and crunchy. This is one place where the lowly condiment rises to the heights of the stellar main event.” —Mari Taketa, contributing dining editor


How to Hack a Pickle

three pickles

Photo: Don Wallace


“If you run through jars of pickles, pickled jalapeños, gherkins and sweet pickles, you already have the makings of a home pickle factory. Just cut up fresh veggies—carrots, cabbage, celery, onions, cucumbers and bell peppers—and add them to the brine in those bottles as you use up the contents. (I’ve also added hot peppers to sweet gherkin brine.) They’ll keep in the fridge for weeks; just fish them out when you want something crunchy and savory.” —Don Wallace, contributing editor


General Chow-Chow’s Instant Pickle

pickles on pickles

Photos: Don Wallace


“I got hooked on making chow-chow—the “General” is facetious, sorry—after a couple of years in Iowa, where every visit to the Amana Colony and its groaning communal table was improved by the homemade pickle relish next to the giant bowls of cottage cheese, canned corn, canned green beans and lumpy mashed potatoes. (You went for the wiener schnitzel, basically.) It’s great on hot dogs, hamburgers and as a side to anything bland. I slice and dice red and white onions, red and green bell peppers, sliced pickled jalapeños, sweet gherkins and sour dills. Then I add a couple dashes of mirin and sushi vinegar (the Hawai‘i twist). Into a jar or Tupperware it goes, and you can serve it up immediately; but after a couple of days it really comes together.” —DW

Suan cai

pickles at home

Photo: Martha Cheng


“The process of suan cai, or pickled mustard greens, mellowed out the bite of some super pungent Kahumana Farms mustard cabbage, leaving a flavor like a cross between wasabi and sauerkraut, with a bit of tongue tingle from the Sichuan peppercorns. I got the recipe from Mala Market, which is also the only place I buy Sichuan peppercorns now—they’re so citrusy and fragrant compared to other sources.” —Martha Cheng, food and dining editor


Sakekasu pickles

“When I stopped by Islander Sake Brewery recently, owner Chiaki Takahashi introduced me to sakekasu, what’s leftover when sake is pressed. It smells sweet and faintly alcoholic and reminds me of the fermented rice my dad used to put in his nightly bowl of sticky rice black sesame ball soup. But Takahashi says it’s often used to boost broths and make pickles. Intrigued, I looked up a recipe: the result was a wonderfully well-rounded pickle, a bit sweet, a bit savory, with just a breath of sake.” —MC


SEE ALSO: Islander Sake Brewery, Hawai‘i’s Only Sake Brewery, Opens in March in Kaka‘ako


Healthy tang


Photo: Christine Labrador


“My family typically has our favorite jars of Kohala won-bok kim chee, kosher dill pickle spears and takuan in the fridge. Easiest to find today was this bright yellow happy jar of takuan—intensely pungent as you crack open the jar, our kids still make faces at their dad (only) and laugh. Takuan to me is tangy, salty-sweet, crunchy side-dish goodness 🤤, plus low-FODMAP!” —Christine Labrador, art director


Pickle tips


Photo: Robbie Dingeman


“Pandemic pickling makes so much sense. We’re at home more, growing more and ordering straight from farmers through Farm Link Hawai‘i, Kualoa Grown or farmers markets, or getting friends’ shared bounty. Pickling makes food last longer and changes it up so we get a completely new flavor. We buy larger quantities of fruits and vegetables so we can avoid unnecessary trips out and increased exposure in these dicey times. Experimenting with simple pickles turns out to be fun and not as labor-intensive as we’d feared. We found that it’s easy to sterilize a few Mason jars in the microwave rather than having to boil them all.” —Robbie Dingeman, editor at large


Pickled mango

pickling mangoes

Photo: Robbie Dingeman



“We got lots of watermelon radishes in our farmer box and found them too sharp to eat a lot of raw. Boom! Into a Mason jar with rice vinegar, water, sugar and salt. They turned out pretty, pink and mellow but tangy. We also had a short burst of beautiful fruit from our mango tree, popped some of the green fruit into three jars and made our own li hing mango. We followed this super easy pickled mango recipe from our friends at Wanderlustyle blog that used all ingredients we already had. A cold, sweet-salty treat on a hot day and even better when we stuck it in the back of the fridge for a few weeks.” —RD


Cherries for cocktails

“My significant other went in a different pickling direction with an eye to the exuberant amount of on-sale cherries we bought at the Windward Mall Farmers Market and threw them in a marinade, where they gained a second life as garnish for a light, summery gin cocktail. (Hey, we should all play to our strengths.) Hmmm, maybe we try fermenting next.” —RD


Cukes made for pickling

pickling at home

Photo: Christi Young


“I was inspired by Katrina, our managing editor, who spent an entire week pickling vegetables (see above!). So when pickling cucumbers (I didn’t know it was a thing!) and fresh dill popped up on Farmlink Hawaiʻi one week, I was in. We did a mixture (per Katrina’s advice) of dill, garlic, a jalapeño and vinegar and let it sit for just about four days. The pickling cucumbers had just the right amount of snap when we bit in, but the mixture ended up a little too sweet for my taste. We’re trying another batch with fennel from Okoa Farm, more pickling cucumbers from Ho Farms and a lot more Kahumana Organic Farm dill.” —Christi Young, editorial director