Dill Pickle Recipe (with Surprise Leaf for Crispiness)

There are a lot of dill pickle recipe ideas online, but there is something they all lack. The secret to crispy pickles. A single surprise ingredient.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

I love dill pickle spears. I prefer spears over coins because they stay crisper. Yes, late at night I sneak to the kitchen to eat them right out of the jar. Shhh, don’t tell my children. The secret to a crispy pickle… leaves. Plant leaves.

Specifically, I am referring to grape leaves. Grape leaves contain tannins that inhibit a naturally occurring enzyme in cucumbers that cause them to soften. Other types of leaves (such as oak and cherry) work, but may cause a bitter taste in your pickles.


This dill pickle recipe will make approximately 6 quarts of pickles if cut into spears. Less if cut into coins.

  • 6 lbs Cucumbers (see variety suggestions below)
  • 3 c. White Vinegar
  • 3 c. Water
  • 6 tbsp. Dill Seeds
  • 6 tbsp. Pickling Spice (see my recipe below)
  • 2 tbsp. Kosher Salt
  • 24 fresh Dill Sprigs
  • 6 fresh Grape Leaves (washed and dried)

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar and salt. Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt.

Meanwhile, in each jar, place 1 tablespoon of the pickling spices, 1 tablespoon of the dill seeds, 1 grape leaf, and 4 sprigs of dill. Put the cucumber spears in the jars upright, packing them tightly and avoiding large gaps. Ladle the salted vinegar water into the jars. If you are planning to keep them in the fridge, your work is done. Allow them to rest for two weeks so the flavor can develop and then sit back and enjoy. If you are canning, read on for processing instructions.

My Pickling Spice Recipe

This blend is perfect for all kinds of pickles, not just this dill pickle recipe. Double or triple it so you have plenty on hand for the harvest season.

  • 2 tbsp. Black Peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp. Mustard Seed
  • 2 tbsp. Coriander
  • 2 tbsp. Dill Seed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 tbsp. Allspice
  • 10 Bay Leaves
There are a lot of dill pickle recipe ideas online, but there is something they all lack. The secret to crispy pickles. A single surprise ingredient.
Dill attracts a number of beneficial insects to your garden.

Additional Tricks for a Crispy Dill Pickle

Use the correct kind of cucumber. Persian and Kirby’s cucumbers stay crisper and firmer than English cucumbers.

Preparing Your Cucumbers Correctly

Use your cucumbers right after picking them. If they wilt even the slightest bit, your pickles may be compromised.

Be sure to cut off the blossom end of the cucumber which contains enzymes that soften your pickles. Speaking of cutting, the smaller your pieces, the softer they will become. It’s best to choose a small cucumber and divide it into large spears.

Let your cucumbers chill in an ice bath for four to five hours before starting to process them.

Processing Your Cucumbers Properly

Refrigerator (not canned) pickles of course stay firm because the canning process cooks them a bit. Refrigerator pickles are good for about 2 months. If you want to store your pickles for longer, canning is the best option. Just make sure you are watching the timer when you water bath them so you are only cooking them as long as necessary for safe storage.

If you choose to water bath can your pickles, process with 1/2″ head space in quart jars for 15 minutes. I prefer name-brand Ball jars. In fact, it’s the only time I splurge on name-brand for just about anything, but I’ve found in this case it’s worth it. They are less prone to breakage than others on the market. Consider it an investment.

If you’re new to canning, I highly recommend grabbing a copy of Ball’s Book of Canning and Preserving. Not only is it chock full of recipes, but it also gives important information about safe canning practices. Also, be sure to check out my Water Bath Canning FAQs & Recipe Roundup.

Why I Don’t Use Crisping Agents

A note on Pickle Crisping Agents, I have heard positive reviews for it, but I’m leery of using it. These crisping agents are made of calcium chloride which has been known to cause stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. You can read more about its dangers at LiveStrong. The nice thing about this dill pickle recipe is you’ll probably find they are crisp enough without additives.

Did you know you can also make jam without adding unnecessary sugars? That means honey too! Find out more here.

There are a lot of dill pickle recipe ideas online, but there is something they all lack. The secret to crispy pickles. A single surprise ingredient.

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  1. How long should I Water bath pint jars?

  2. I know this goes against USDA recommendation but, for about twenty years I have only put the jars back in the water bath for about three minutes to make sure the jar gets hot again for a good seal and always crisp pickles. Fifteen minutes will cook anything making them soft. The acidic environment takes care of germs.

    1. Hey John,do you put the jars with the pickles in the pot right away(before the waters heated)and start timing it when the water boils or do you heat the water and then put the jars in for three minutes?

  3. Iโ€™m looking forward to making your pickles but would you say these are similar to the ones in a chic Fila sandwich? I really like their taste.

  4. I was raised with using Alum for pickles to make them crisp .. (if you are teething, they numb the gums and take away the pain) Alum is found in the space rack at the grocery

    1. Alum is an aluminum compound, and when ingested can accumulate in the brain. Aluminum in the brain is linked to Alzheimers disease.

  5. almas nathoo says:

    Hi I use fennel fresh leaves from my garden with few garlic, red paper chop. It look great and I am going to enjoy them with my veggies zucchini burgers in fall and winter. Thanks your recipe is great too. I try next year or if I get more from garden I will a give try.
    Thanks enjoy your webpage.

  6. What about wild grape leaves? Would that work or is there a difference?

    1. I used wild grape leaves. Best pickles I ever made and they stayed crisper longer then when I used alum.

      1. Anonymous says:

        I’ve used Alum. But my whole family is staying away from it. It’s known to promote the on set of Alzheimer’s. Which shouldn’t be a huge issue, accept my family loves pickles.

  7. I just started making my own pickles….. Lots of success and a few disappointments (some things just shouldn’t be pickled….). Anyway, a trick I found, because I could not locate grape leaves, was to use dried bay leaves (like 2 in a at jar). They also have tannins and impart a slight flavor that works well and is no where near as bitter as the other options. So, give that a try…..

      1. BRENNA B STOKES says:

        Hi I have uses grape leaves and oak leaves which are more abundant here at my house and I have never had bitter pickles. The leaves definitely give me the best most crisp pickles.

  8. Hi Im excited to try the Grape leaves! But is this something you buy in the spice department? I’ve never seen it!! Nor heard of using it. But I also let my brine settle to warm instead of cooking my cucumbers in hot brine. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I don’t know if maybe a specialty store might carry them, but I just take them straight from the plant.

    2. I love in Minnesota as & was wondering where do I find de grape leaves?

    3. I get mine from our grape vines

  9. Do you know if muscadine leave would work also? Thanks for sharing your recipe! I’m looking forward to trying it! Amy

  10. I too am weary of crispness additives… I think it’s really not all that necessary as long as you use some sort of leave like grape or bay to keep the crispness up to par. I don’t really know how adding those leaves helps but they really do! I agree with your comment that bay leaves may add a little too much unwanted flavor – but I think it depends on the palette! Thank you very much for sharing this recipe, I will definitely give it a try.

  11. I have been making my garlicky Dillsboro for about 30 years and I find the simplest way to have really crunchy pickles is to let your brine completely cool. In fact, I often make it up a day ahead and refrigerate it. When I’m ready to make my pickles, I sterilize my jars, then cool them so they don’t break when I pour in the brine. I cut my cukes long-ways to fit the jar and I load the jar with garlic cloves, fresh dill, cukes, and then fill with the chilled brine and cap with the lids. Refrigerate. They are ready to eat in less than 24 hours. The reason for cooling the brine is that you aren’t cooking your pickles. It makes all the difference in the world. Also, I always have brine on hand and can do ad many or as few jars at a time. Pickles all the time…I love it!

    1. Cookinmom says:

      Would love to have your recipe too!

    2. Barb

      Would you please share your recipe?

    3. Anonymous says:

      Thanks for sharing!thanks for sharing!

    4. Agatha King says:

      Would love your recipe if you would share. Thanks, Agatha King

    5. Anonymous says:

      Would love this recipe!

  12. Valerie Greer says:

    I’ve heard about using grape leaves for pickles but how about using them to make pickled OKRA? I have a wonderful recipe that I found, gave it a shot (with a few adjustments) and it’s pure gold! Also heard BAY leaves work for crispness as well, but not sure about either of the leaves flavors…what are your thoughts on this??

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I can’t see why it wouldn’t work for okra. As far as bay leaves, I haven’t tried it. I’d be worried about strong flavors from the leaves. Grape leaves don’t really have much of a flavor and they’re sort of waxy.