Can You Pickle Potatoes?

In the film "The Five-Year Engagement," comedian Brian Posehn plays a lovable goofball working at Ann Arbor, Michigan's famed Zingerman's Deli. His character has carved out a niche for himself as the in-house expert on all things pickled. Pickled cucumbers? Naturally. Pickled sandwiches? He's tried it.

His scientific — even if fictitious – exploration of the art of pickling begs the question: Is there anything that can't be pickled? The short answer is no, but certain foodstuffs may yield better outcomes than others. The aforementioned sandwich would be a wet mess, but firm fruits and vegetables can transform into spectacularly tangy versions of themselves when bathed in vinegar, salt, and various spices.

What about spuds though? We know potatoes can be tater-totted, french-fried, and mashed into creamy, rich perfection, but what about pickling? The tubers can absolutely be pickled, but it's important to follow a few simple steps to ensure that your potatoes become the optimal pickles that you desire.

Blank canvas

Much like other foodstuffs, pickled potatoes can be a flavorful playground for your culinary imagination. Sweet, spicy, or extra sour, any brine will work with the spuds. And any kind of potato will work as well. Smaller tubers, like Yukon Golds and fingerlings, can be left whole, while larger ones, like russets, need to be broken down before pickling.

Once the potatoes have been cooked — a simple boil will do — and placed in their designated brine, it is best to leave them in for one to two weeks to allow the flavors to fully penetrate the starchy goodness. You'll notice that waxier tubers take slightly longer to brine due to their texture, while starchier spuds, such as those used for mashed potatoes, become ready more quickly. If you're looking for a great jumping-off point, try a brine that combines baby potatoes with cider vinegar, salt, garlic, bay leaves, and peppercorns. 

Pickled potatoes can be used in a variety of ways. Consider adding them to a sandwich for a briny take on the signature style from Primanti Bros. or mixing them into a potato salad recipe. You can also take them a step further, as suggested by James Beard Award-winning writer and cookbook author David Leite on his blog. After pickling the potatoes, he cold-smokes and fries them, resulting in tangy, crispy, and obviously-smoky spuds that he suggests serving with umami-laden anchovy aioli.