Carole Yu

Grandma Nellie’s Pickled Cucumbers

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Listen here to the This Is Yu Podcast Episode #6 where I mentioned that Pickled Cucumbers hold a special place in our family food memories.

The recipe has been passed on through generations. In the photo above Dara is making her version of Pickled Cucumbers, Carrots, and Radishes on MasterChef Jr.

The Background

When I was growing up in South Bend, Indiana, my father was at times the chairman of the mathematics department at the University of Notre Dame.  That gave my mom the opportunity to shine her culinary skills with frequent dinner parties.  She kept a notebook in which she wrote the date, occasion, menus, and attendees for each event.  The common denominator for every single event was always her special recipe for pickled cucumbers!

My two younger sisters and I still to this day laugh about how this has become the “family recipe.” Even though I’ve had it about a thousand times, I still love the crisp, sour taste of these fresh crunchy cucumbers.

I’ve never been one for super sour foods. With the addition of a small amount of sugar, these pickles take on the typical sweet and sour taste that many people crave in Asian food.  Of course, if you love to pucker, you can add more vinegar. Or if you want to tingle your tongue with a sweeter cuke add some more sugar.  

Nellie's Pickle Cutting Method from top to bottom

Preparing the Cucumbers

I’ve had a lot of pickled cucumbers at Asian restaurants.  They are typically mandolined into thin slices, or cut into finger sized pieces. But, my mom’s entire cutting method  is shown step by step in the above photo. Her method provides additional surface area so that the vinegar infuses into more places in each piece. This makes for a delicious puckery slice of freshness!  

Cut the ends off the cucumber and rub one piece against the end of the cucumber until a white foamy substance stops being released from the cucumber.  I aways thought this was an unnecessary part of the recipe, but it really helps the cucumbers to be less bitter!

Next peel the cucumbers alternating peeled and unpeeled sections so the cucumbers look like zebra stripes. See the second cucumber from the top in the photo above. If you prefer to not have any dark green, you can peel the entire cucumber. This will create a more tender pickled cucumber. But, truthfully,  I love the visual appeal of the zebra striped cuke!

The Special Cutting Method

After cutting the cucumbers in half lengthwise, take a spoon and scoop out the seeds. Cut the halves lengthwise again into quarters.

Next is the “fancy-schmancy” cut that my mom taught me.  Cut the quarters through with small 1/8″ cuts, leaving 1/4″ along one edge.  Make sure that all the pieces remain attached to the cucumber.  After making all the cuts along an entire quarter of the cucumber, cut it into 1″ chunks.

Then, place the chunks into a colander and salt the pieces. Leave to sit for thirty minutes. The salt helps to pull the moisture out of the vegetables and makes them crisper.

After the veggie prep, heat the sesame oil in a small pot with the ginger root over low heat.  Add the vinegar, water and sugar.  Stir until the sugar dissolves. Then take the pot off the heat and let the liquid cool down.  Test it for sweetness or acidity and adjust with additional sugar, or vinegar as suits your taste.

The Final Step

Finally, squeeze the excess liquid from the cucumbers, and drain.  Put the cucumbers in a storage container.  Pour the dressing over the cucumber, and allow them to cool completely.

Cover and refrigerate.  They’re best eaten after a day.  This allows the juicy vinegar to soak in. It will make those delicious, refreshing, crunchy, pickled cucumbers come alive!  You can keep these for up to four days in the fridge. ENJOY!!

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Pickled Cucumbers

The Pickled Cucumbers recipe Dara made famous on MasterChef Jr. with her version of Pickled Cucumbers, Carrots, and Radishes.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Resting Time30 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese, easy
Keyword: appetizers, pickles, salad, simple and fast, sweet and sour
Servings: 6
Calories: 58kcal
Author: Carole Yu


  • 3 Cucumbers medium to large
  • 1 ½ tsp Salt



Cucumber Preparation

  • Peel the cucumber leaving strips of green on for color.
  • Cut the ends of the cucumber off and rub one piece against each end of the cucumber. Rubbing that sliced end against the cucumber will release a white, foamy substance, which contains an organic compound called cucurbitacin. This is the cause of the bitterness in cucumbers. Keep rubbing till it stops producing foam.
  • Cut the cucumber lengthwise into quarters.
  • Use a spoon to deseed the cucumbers.
  • Cut into the quarters making slits every ⅛" leaving ¼" along one long edge, so that all pieces remain attached to the cucumber. (See Photos.)
  • Cut the cucumber into 1" chunks.
  • Salt the cucumber chunks, and let stand for 30 minutes in the colander.


  • Heat the sesame oil in a small pot with ginger root over low heat. 
  • Add the vinegar, water, and sugar.
  • Stir until the sugar dissolves.
  • Take off the heat and cool. Test for sweetness, or acidity. Adjust to taste.

Pickling the Cucumbers

  • Squeeze the excess liquid from the cucumber, and drain.
  • Put cucumber in storage container.
  • Pour the dressing over the cucumber, and allow to cool completely.
  • Cover and refrigerate.
  • Best eaten after one day in the refrigerator.  It will keep up to four days.


For those who love pickles of all kinds, use this oil/vinegar/sugar pickling mix to pickle the vegetables you love!  Try cucumbers, radishes, and carrots as Dara did when she was on MasterChef Junior.  Beyond the cucumber, other fruits and vegetables that work well for pickles include asparagus, beets, bell peppers, blueberries, cauliflower, carrots, cherries, fennel, ginger, grapes, green beans, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, peaches, peppers, radishes, ramps, rhubarb, strawberries, squash, tomatoes, turnips, watermelon.  The list goes on, be creative, pickle it!


Calories: 58kcal

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Your pickle recipe looks amazing, and I want to try them, but I have seen some other recipes that can be stored in the fridge for a fairly long period of time, so I am wondering why your pickles only have a fridge life of four days?

    1. Scott Stewart

      Thanks, please try making them. I’ve now added a video that I just filmed 10/10/21. They will actually last at least a week, I have had them last up to ten days. Everyone’s fridge is different, but you can tell if they’ve gone off if they are bubbly when you taste them.

    2. Carole Yu

      Hi! We have started the blog back up again, so sorry that it’s taken a few years to get back to you. I so apologize for that! I put a fridge life of four days, because after that time, the pickles will start to get soft and they aren’t nice and crunchy like they should be. They also haven’t been canned. I sometimes will keep my pickled cucumbers for a week or two, but sometimes they go “fizzy” which means they have gone off. So, I just opted for a shorter recommended time just to be safe. Thanks for following, I hope that you made it. Let me know if you did!

    3. Carole Yu

      Hey there, sorry for the ridiculously long time to reply, that’s gotta be the longest ever, over three years lol! thanks for commenting. Were you able to try this? I put the blog aside for the past three years when covid and life happened, and now I’ve relaunched with a renewed website, and it’s rockets ahead! You can keep the pickles in the fridge for longer, maybe two weeks, but I don’t know the conditions of the fridges that my readers have. Also, these pickles have not been canned, which allows the bacteria to be killed so that the pickles last longer. So, in order to make sure that you stay healthy, I suggest four days.

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