What Kind Of Acid Is In Pickles?

Last modified on June 6th, 2022 at 11:42 pm

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Pickles have been popular for ages. They form an essential part of cuisine in several cultures. There are two main varieties of pickles: Fermented and Non-fermented pickles. The fermented pickle is the traditional, age-old pickle variant that is quite famous, whereas various non-fermented pickle variants have come up to meet the market’s demands. 

Which Acid is Present in Pickles? 

Lactic acid and acetic acid are the main types of acids present in pickles. The acid present in the pickle depends on its type.

While fermented pickle is made by adding salt or brine (a solution of salt and water), non-fermented pickle is prepared by adding ingredients such as acetic acid (vinegar). There are other ways of making pickles too. So, which acid is present in pickles depends on your pickle type. 

An article titled “What is Pickling” by the Exploratorium Museum says we can preserve the food for a long time by converting it to pickles. Cucumber is the most common pickle in the US. In other parts of the world, pickles are made from various vegetables and fruits. In some places, pickles made of non-vegetarian food items like pork, prawns, mutton, etc., are quite popular.

Few Popular Ingredients of Pickles

As per a research publication titled “Pickling,” published in ScienceDirect, raw mango, carrots, and other vegetables such as cabbage, eggplant, beans, cauliflower, garlic, and onions are some of the famous ingredients of pickles.

Some pickles also have sweeteners, spices, coloring agents, or preservatives specific to the variety of pickles. 

Benefits of Eating Pickles

Pickling is a way of preserving vegetables, fruits, or meat for a long time. The acid present in pickles prevents the growth of harmful bacteria and facilitates the growth of healthy bacteria. It keeps the ingredients healthy and increases their shelf life. 

Pickles also add flavor to your everyday meals. One can easily have bland and healthier foods with pickles. 

Fermented Pickles

One of the most popular ways of making pickles is fermentation. Washing the ingredient, drying it thoroughly, cut it into pieces as required, and adding the required amount of salt are some of the basic steps involved. 

Usually, fresh vegetables and fruits not previously fermented or cured are sought to make pickles. 

Adding the right amount of salt is the key to making tastier, fermented pickles. It ensures there is a growth of healthy bacteria, also called lactic acid-producing bacteria. They are the same bacteria that convert milk to yogurt or cheese.

Lactic acid also adds up to the taste of pickles. The right amount of salt enables the right amount of lactic acid production. 

The lactic acid-producing bacteria digest the sugars present in vegetables and produce lactic acid. Thus, they also prevent the growth of food spoilage bacteria by removing sugar.  

Adding less salt than required might make room for the growth of unhealthy bacteria and spoil the pickle. 

Zygosaccharomyces bailii, Candida etchellsii, C. parapsilosis, Pichia anomala, Debaryomyces hansenii, and Issatchenkia orientalis are some of the food-spoilage bacteria, Zygosaccharomyces bailii, being the most notorious amongst all. 

However, be careful not to add too much salt. Adding more salt than needed causes harm to the lactic acid-producing bacteria.

The right amount of salt also helps the vegetables release water present in them. This makes the ingredients of pickles, be it vegetables or fruits, crunchy and taste better. This process is called osmosis. Here, the water or liquid moves from an area of higher concentration to an area of lesser concentration. 

Non-fermented Pickles

Another way of making pickles is by adding acetic acid (vinegar) and or wine. One has to add a calculated amount of acids to ensure taste. The aim is to create a pH (acidity level) of 4.6 or below to increase the shelf-life of pickles. 

The process preserves the vegetables, fruits, or ingredients of pickles though there is no fermentation. 

Such pickles may also have natural sweeteners for making sweet pickles. Other ingredients of non-fermented pickles can be spices, flavorings, seasonings, or other permissible ingredients. 

In this way of pickle-making, the ingredients are heated at 85 degrees Celsius for a minimum of 30 minutes to ensure no growth of harmful, food-spoiling bacteria. 

Another way of preserving non-fermented pickles is refrigeration. However, a pH level of 4.6 or below should be maintained for the better life of pickles. 

Increasing the Shelf-life of Pickle

Protecting the pickle from the environment prevents them from spoiling. Fermented pickles are stored in glass jars, completely sealed with plastic or cloth to protect them from coming in contact with the environment.

One should completely avoid pickles’ contact with oxygen. It spoils the pickles by giving rise to food spoiling bacteria and altering the acid concentration in pickles. 

When you keep pickles sealed from the environment, the lactic acid-producing bacteria grow and produce lactic acid, other acids, carbon dioxide, etc. The same is evident via the bubbles they produce in pickles. 

The bubbles are nothing but the carbon dioxide produced by the lactic acid bacteria.  

Maintaining the right temperature is another requirement for increasing the shelf-life of pickles. 21 degrees Celsius is the optimal temperature for pickles. It ensures there is a growth of healthy bacteria. The right temperature also prevents the growth of unhealthy bacteria. 

One to four weeks are usually essential for fermentation, and that depends on the presence of the right temperature, pH, salt, or strength of brine. 


The distinctive flavor of pickles makes it easy to have bland food or make healthier food choices. 

To sum up, lactic acid or acetic acid are the main acids present in pickles. While fermented pickles have lactic acid, non-fermented pickles have acetic acid. Non-fermented pickles need pasteurization or refrigeration for long-term use. 

Storage conditions such as keeping the pickles sealed from the environment by following simple steps such as transferring a week’s consumption to another jar, maintaining the right pH, and storage temperature, and adding the right amount of salt helps increase the shelf life of pickles. 


Science of pickles: The race of microorganisms. Exploratorium. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/pickles/salt.html#:~:text=As%20lactic%20acid%20bacteria%20grow,the%20spread%20of%20spoilage%20microbes. 

Pickles. Pickles – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/pickles 

Pickling. Pickling – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/pickling

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