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What is a gherkin? And is it any different from a pickle?

What is a gherkin? And is it any different from a pickle?

What’s a gherkin? It’s a variety of cucumber, and cucumbers are in the squash family. But we often use the word “gherkin” interchangeably with “small pickles” even though gherkins are still gherkins before they are pickled. 

You can grow gherkins but you don’t grow pickles. You can make pickles from cucumbers or gherkins. Baby pickles, mini pickles, and cornichons are sometimes all considered the same thing. Confused yet? 

Let’s work this out, gherkin lovers!

A gherkin is a variety of a pickled cucumber, a small, bumpy type of cucumber that’s been fermented or just pickled in brine. 

On paper, a gherkin is dubbed as a small variety of a cucumber that’s been pickled. 

Gherkin, pronounced with a soft “g” and er-kin, not “jerkin. It is often called a baby cucumber, mini cucumber, cornichon, or cocktail pickle.

Gherkins vs. pickles

Now onto our most pressing subject: Is there a difference between gherkins and pickles? Yes.

To iterate: Gherkins are a smaller kind of cucumber that can be pickled; pickles, on the other hand, are cucumbers that are pickled in brine or vinegar.

Gherkins are also technically pickles, while pickles are not gherkins.

Gherkins vs cornichons

Okay, we’re onto something more profound here. I’m talking about cornichons that are made with mini gherkin cucumbers. 

These French gherkins are one to two inches in length; they’re also harvested before reaching full maturity. Their vinegar brine includes tarragon for an extra-sour bite! 

Cornichons usually go with pâtés and cold cuts. Another name for cornichon is cocktail pickle. I haven’t heard of a sweet cornichon, though. Have you?

Is a gherkin a pickle?

So now that you know your gherkin, has it ever been considered as a pickle? Here’s what you only need to remember: Pickling cucumbers, or pickles, are larger in size, while gherkins are smaller.

Gherkins are also pickled quite frequently as they are smaller. Many people also prefer such a size for their pickles.

What do gherkins taste like?

When eaten raw, some say gherkins taste like firmer, sometimes bitter cucumbers. Gherkins feature a high water content, and this texture changes after being soaked in a brine solution as the solution replaces the water in the process. 

The brine solution for gherkins is often made of many spices and herbs like tarragon, mustard seeds, rosemary, and even sugar. These make gherkins garlicky, spicy, and tangy!

Where do gherkins come from?

Gherkins are likely native to southern Africa. Around the world, the plant should be grown in warm climates. Gherkin cucumbers are

Is a gherkin a cucumber?

Yes, gherkins or baby pickles are smaller varieties of cucumbers. They grow an inch to 5 inches or 13 cm in length.

What does gherkin mean?

Often called a “miniature cucumber,” or a “baby pickle” a gherkin is a small, green cucumber usually preserved in vinegar. It’s a plant named “Cucumis anguria” of the gourd family that features small, prickly, cucumber-like fruit.

Are gherkins sweet or dill?

Gherkins can be sweet or dill flavored. If gherkins are pickled, they can be made sweeter by adding some sugar to the brine. 

Dill weed herb is often added to the pickling brine, which is why many of us grew up with “dill pickles” being the catch-all name for all pickled cucumbers that we fished out of a jar.

How to eat gherkins?

Here’s a fast, tasty way to eat gherkins! Make quick sweet-pickled gherkins for salads or snacking. Wash and dry four raw, fresh gherkins, slice into coin shapes, then set aside. 

In a bowl, mix ¼ c of rice vinegar (or white or apple cider vinegar), 3 T sugar, 1 T salt, 3 T water, 1 t onion powder, dash of pepper. Toss the sliced gherkins into the quick brine. 

Add a bit of sliced onion to your brine as a tasty option. Let it rest, covered in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Toss again before serving.

The bottom line

It’s easy to confuse gherkins with other kinds of cukes. And cucumbers are part of the squash family, and often are confused with zucchini. 

Baby cucumbers, mini cucumbers, cornichons, gherkins, all can usually be considered either pre-pickled or post-pickled. Raw or pickled. Raw or fermented. Tasty, tasty tiny itty bitty pickled cucumbers!

So just keep reading your packaging if you’re buying them already flavored so you end up with the size and flavor you like.

Quick, Cold-Pickled Gherkins

Quick, Cold-Pickled Gherkins

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Make the gherkins as sweet or as sour as you want. I lean toward less sour, with high garlic, and 50/50 sweet and salty. No stove required!


  • 2 c raw, fresh gherkins
  • 1 ½ c white vinegar
  • 1 ½ c water
  • ¾ t salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 T minced garlic (in a pinch, use 2 t of garlic powder)
  • 1 t onion powder
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • Optional: ¼ white onion, sliced thin


  1. Wash and dry the gherkins.
  2. Thinly slice the gherkins. Leave the skin on.
  3. Thinly slice the onion.
  4. Mince the garlic or use the kind in a jar.
  5. Add all the ingredients into a large glass bowl.
  6. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for 60 minutes to 24 hours.


You can use lightly pickled gherkins and onions in about 15 minutes to get a subtle flavor but the longer it sits and melds flavors in the fridge the better they will be.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 94Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 640mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 1gSugar: 16gProtein: 1g

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