Naturally Pickled (Fermented) Jalapeno Peppers

I’m a sucker for the hot stuff.  Serve it to me pickled and I’m likely to turn to mush.


There isn’t a lot of mystery to my pickled hot peppers.  I don’t add garlic, mustard seed, dill, pepper or fancy stuff.  Hot peppers (in the photos below, jalapenos), salt and water.

But there are a few tricks.  Here’s a list:

  • The brine I use is (approximately) 4.5% salt brine.  That’s 3 tablespoons per 4 cups water (45 ml per liter).  I make extra brine as my process intentionally spills some of the brine into the sink (explained below).  Make enough bring to fill 60-85% of your final vessel (the more you practice my trick, the less you’ll need).
  • Disolve the salt fully into the water – I do this by heating it and letting it cool before adding it to my peppers.
  • I use a big, giant, wide-mouth mason jar.  The almost 2-liter (half-gallon) version.
  • The enemy of this process is air.  You must weight the peppers under the surface of the water through the ferment.  To do so I:
    • Use large slices of chiles (they are halves – you could do whole but the pickling takes longer).  Large pieces have a tougher time finding their way to the top of the brine.
    • I pack my giant jar tight.  Really tight.  I leave barely enough room for a small half-cup jar to fit on the top (I start with not enough room and remove peppers as necessary).
    • Fill the large jar with brine (in the sink).  Gently shake it to remove air bubbles.  Repeat until air is removed and brine is filled near the top of the neck.
    • I ‘seatbelt‘ (this is my term for stopping all fruits and veg from floating while preserving) the top layer with a few ‘butterflied’ peppers (they are sliced on one side and flattened).  This is an optional step.
    • Replace lost brine.
    • Place a clean and sterile half-cup small jar inside the bigger one.  The small jar should be sticking out at this point.
    • Fill the small jar with brine – overfill to ensure the big jar is topped up.
    • Take a clean lid and ring, push down on the jar (you shouldn’t have to be Hercules here – I sometimes remove a few peppers if it’s too hard).  Brine will spill in to the sink as the small jar displaces liquid from the large jar.  The key is the small jar remaining ‘in the neck’ of the larger jar.  Your large chiles won’t float up there and displaced water in the neck will ensure they are covered.
    • This is it – for day 1.  More instructions below. 🙂

Here’s my peppers before wiping the jar (you can see the salt water trickle on the outside) – there’s a small jar at the very top which is preventing these peppers from finding air:

You’re not done though.  These babies need a sitter:

  • Check your peppers every day.  I do this in the sink in case of any spillage.  This is very important.
  • If foam or mould appears, remove with a clean spoon.  Aged cheese was covered in mould before you got it too.
  • After about 2 weeks (I judge my timing based on looking at them and comparing to other pickled peppers I’ve seen in the past), taste your peppers.  When they taste just as you want them (often this is 2-3 weeks), place container in the fridge.  This will slow down the fermentation process and your peppers will be pickled.

Yum yum in my tum tum.

You should also check out my partner in brine, Tigress and her chiles and her pickled chile peppers in oil.

July 1, 2014 (edit): When I first wrote this article, 3 years ago, I suggested boiling the brine after fermenting in order to extend the shelf-life of the product in the fridge (less living bacteria would slow the ferment even further than just the cold).  I no longer do this as I’ve found that my hot peppers last months – or longer – without boiling and this increases the amount of probiotics in the brine (though you’d have to eat a LOT of hot peppers to benefit from the probiotics inside!)

Leave a Reply

  1. My mouth was watering as I read this recipe. It sounds Great. I make Kimche and saurkraut so I can’t wait to try this.

  2. These babies would last 3 months or so in the fridge without boiling the brine. You’re killing all the healthy probiotic critters when you do that, so why ferment? Just heat can instead if you’re gonna do that. You won’t be able to use the brine to culture a new batch and it’s kind of weird to suspend fermented chilis in dead brine, right?

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  5. Like Gypsy I’m not sure why you’d boil the brine. Anything that’s in there that you’re killing will also be on the peppers and they’ll re-inoculate the brine once it’s back in the jar.

    Cool trick to keep the peppers under water. I also have had good luck using a non-wide-mouth jar and wedging the peppers in so that the jar’s shoulders keep them submerged.

  6. IT has been one week since I made them. They are crisp and great!
    But too hot for even my husband’s taste who buys these at the store all the time.
    Should I have removed the seeds — or by some magic – in another week the capsium heat will decrease?

  7. Why do u boil the brine–all the great cultures are in there, no? Tx for the idea of using a smaller jar on top…I had been weighing mine down! This works great!!

  8. Loved your tip about butterflying a pepper on top. I just did a batch of 18 pints and didn’t need anything to help hold all the peppers below the liquid. I’ve fermented a few batches over the last few years and never had a problem with these lasting in the refrigerator for a year. They stay nice and crisp which is a huge plus for me, and they give me the probiotic benefits I’m looking for.

  9. If you boil the brine after the fermentation has taken place, wouldn’t you be killing all the healthy probiotics living in it?

    • Hi Joe,

      Great question/ point…

      When I wrote this recipe 3 years ago I boiled the brine to prolong storage (at least in theory; less living bacteria would mean the fermenting slows even further than just the cold). It would lower the probiotics though I’m not sure I eat enough hot peppers (and I eat a LOT) of them to be a significant source of probiotics…

      Having said that, I no longer boil the brine and find it stores just well. Because of your note I have also edited the post and put a note in it – so a thank you! It’s notes like these that give me the chance to look back at older posts and update them to how we’re thinking today… 🙂