Pickling vs Fermenting: Is Pickling The Same as Fermenting?

Who else loves to try different flavors and explore new techniques for preserving food like me?

As you already landed on this page, that means you’ve also the same taste buds.

Welcome to the club!

If so, then you’re probably wondering if is pickling the same as fermenting. 

The short answer is no! While both are processes used to preserve food, several significant differences exist. 

Pickling vs Fermenting: what is the difference actually?

Though both pickling and fermenting are used for preserving food the key difference is in the method Pickling uses an acidic solution (vinegar or brine) to preserve the food, while fermentation relies on the activity of bacteria or yeast to convert sugars into acids.

In this blog, we will explore what makes each method unique and how they can flavor dishes in your kitchen. 

Ready to learn more about pickling vs fermenting? 

Let’s roll it!

First, let’s see…….What Is Pickling?

Pickling, or putting food in an acidic brine to keep it fresh, is an old way to cook that has been around for thousands of years. 

Yup, you read that right…..1000 years!

Records from as early as 2000 BC in India indicate cucumbers were preserved this way.

The vinegar solution is the main holy grail of pickling. The brine has an acidic pH of 4.6 or less. And with this pH level, microorganisms cannot survive. 

As it sits in the brine, enzymes break down its structure. Meanwhile, it alters its physical appearance.

What Is Fermenting?

Fermenting is an ancient method of food preservation. 

I mean way ancient!!!

Chinese invented this method over 9000 years ago to save the wastage of huge amounts of veggies and fruits. But what’s not when it gets wide recognition until the 15th century 

Fermentation involves introducing beneficial bacteria, such as-

  • Lactobacillus
  • Saccharomyces

Of course the good bacteria!!!!

The good bacteria turn the sugar into lactic acid. Which gives the food a sour taste (the reason we love pickling). You may also need salt or other spices for added flavor.

When all the components are mixed, the fermentation begins(I call it the magical process).

This process varies from one week to months, depending on what you’re making and your desired flavor profile. As soon as it has finished fermenting, voila! 

Your dish is ready for savoring.

What Is the Difference between Pickling and Fermentation Methods of Food Preservation?

Pickling and fermenting seem similar. but there are actually some differences. Let’s take a closer look.


For pickling an acidic brine mixture is a must. And our ancestors do it by adding vinegar or another type of acid to water. They also use some sugar, salt, or other spices to make it taste even better! 

On the other hand…..

Fermenting is based on some friendly bacteria, like Lactobacillus or Saccharomyces. 

Preservation Time

When pickling, veggies are usually preserved for around 3 to 4 weeks. And can last up to several months if preserved correctly. Fermentation takes between one week to several months. 

Bacterial Growth

Pickling is a great way to kill off harmful bacteria.


The acidic brine prevents further growth. However, fermentation encourages bacterial growth. The beneficial bacteria give food its unique taste and aroma and help preserve it for longer periods.

Flavor Profile

When it comes to flavor distinctions between pickling and fermenting, the former generally has a sharper (& more acidic taste) due to the vinegar solution.


Fermented food tends to be tangier or funkier as lactic acid from helpful bacteria adds an extra sourness.

Is Everything Pickled Also Fermented? 

The short answer is no. 

Not everything pickled is fermented.

…….. and vice versa.

Pickling relies on an acidic brine to preserve the food, while fermenting uses beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus or Saccharomyces. 

How Are Fermentation And Pickling Similar? 

Both are great for health that’s the biggest similarity.

And the reason to create them was also the same- food preservation.

Ultimately, both processes must be oxygen-free for the best outcomes. For pickling and fermenting, it’s essential to submerge the food and keep an eye on a few things like

  • Temperature
  • pH level
  • And ingredients. 

The type of food you are preserving will determine the length of time before your goods are ready. If done correctly, fermentation and pickling can also be a source of probiotics that benefit gut health.

Is fermenting healthier than pickling? The study shows that fermented veggies are healthier than picked ones as they preserved more nutrition as well as probiotics, enzymes,, vitamins (especially vitamin K), and good acid levels. The process of pickling kills some nutrients.

What Are The Health Benefits of Pickling and Fermenting?

Plenty!!! From digestion to improving gut health, pickling, and fermentation gives a natural remedy.  

Is Pickling Different From Canning? Yes, both are very different.

So……Is Kimchi Pickled And Fermented?

We all see kimchi, right?

It’s the famous traditional side dish we used to see in Korean restaurants.

And the best part is…it’s both pickled and fermented. Kimchi is made from-

  • Chinese cabbage
  • Radishes
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Ginger
  • And chili peppers 

All are then soaked in a salt and water brine solution. The mixture is then left to ferment for several days at room temperature.

Do Pickled Vegetables Need To Be Refrigerated? Yes, it’s a must if you want to use it for several weeks. Unless you need to consume the pickle in 7-10 days.

Wait…….Are you a pickle lover? I got some Awesome pickle recipe for you:

  1. Tangy Garlic Pickle to spice up your Meal
  2. Sushi Ginger Recipe
  3. Briny, garlicky Sweet cucumber pickle recipe

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