Cornichons vs Pickles

Cornichons and pickles are both beloved accompaniments in various culinary traditions, but they have their own unique characteristics. Cornichons, which originated in France, are small, tart pickles made from immature cucumbers. On the other hand, pickles come in numerous shapes, sizes, and flavors, and they can be found in cuisine from around the world. Understanding the differences between cornichons and pickles can help enhance your culinary experience and appreciation for these tangy treats.

The process of making cornichons and pickles is largely similar, with both involving the fermentation and preservation of cucumbers in a vinegar or brine solution. The key differences lie in the types of cucumber used and the added flavorings. Cornichons are made from small, gherkin cucumbers, while pickles can be made from a range of cucumbers, including larger varieties. Additionally, pickles may be flavored with a variety of spices, herbs, and other ingredients that give them their distinct taste profiles.

Key Takeaways

  • Cornichons are small, tart French pickles made from immature gherkin cucumbers, while pickles can vary in size and flavor.
  • The preparation process for both cornichons and pickles involves fermenting cucumbers in a vinegar or brine solution.
  • The main differences between the two lie in the cucumber variety and added flavorings or spices during the pickling process.

What Are Cornichons and Pickles

When it comes to preserving cucumbers, you may come across two popular varieties: cornichons and pickles. While they share some similarities, they possess unique characteristics that set them apart.

Cornichons are small, tart cucumbers originating from France. They tend to be around 2-3 inches in length and less than an inch in diameter, making them perfect for a quick snack or as a garnish. You’ll often find cornichons pickled in white wine vinegar, which gives them their distinctive tangy flavor. Some recipes may include ingredients such as tarragon, dill, or small white onions, adding both flavor and visual appeal.

On the other hand, pickles generally refer to larger preserved cucumbers common in North America. While there are many varieties of pickles, they typically range from 3-8 inches in length. The brine used for pickling these cucumbers can vary significantly, from simple vinegar and salt mixtures to sweeter solutions with added sugar and spices. The pickling process helps to enhance the flavor and texture of the cucumbers, which can range from mild and sweet to sour and spicy.

Both cornichons and pickles are made by immersing cucumbers in preserving solutions, with the main difference being the size of the cucumbers and the type of brine or vinegar used. The preserving process allows for longer shelf life and adds unique flavors to the cucumbers.

When choosing between cornichons and pickles, consider your personal preferences and intended use. If you prefer smaller, tangy bites, cornichons might be your ideal choice. However, if you’re looking for a wider variety of flavors and sizes, pickles could be a better match. Whichever option you choose, these preserved cucumbers can enhance your dishes by providing delightful taste, texture, and visual elements.

Origins and Cultural Significance

Cornichons and pickles both have deep roots in various cultures, but they originated from different parts of the world. Let’s dive into their origins and cultural significance.

Cornichons, or French pickles, have a long history in France. These small, tart gherkins, which have been pickled in vinegar and seasoned with herbs, are an integral part of French cuisine. They date back to the 17th century when they were first served alongside fine French dishes. Typically, you’ll find cornichons accompanying pâtés, charcuterie platters, and various cheeses.

Pickles, although enjoyed globally, originally come from India. Pickling dates back thousands of years and was an essential preservation method for Indian cuisine. It’s believed that cucumbers were first pickled around 2030 BC. Eventually, the pickling process spread across the world, including to the US, where pickles have become an American favorite. In the US, dill pickles steal the spotlight and are commonly eaten as snacks, added to sandwiches, or used as a topping for favorites like hamburgers and hot dogs.

Cultural Significance:

  • France: In France, cornichons are a beloved part of the culinary experience, adding tang and flavor to various dishes, including those found at traditional French boulangeries and restaurants.
  • US: In the United States, pickles have become more than just a condiment. They hold cultural significance, with various regions featuring their own unique pickling recipes and flavors. Pickle festivals and competitions are held across the country, celebrating the pickle’s culinary versatility.
  • India: Indian pickles, or achar, are an indispensable part of the Indian cuisine. Made using a variety of vegetables, fruits, and spices, Indian pickles offer a wide range of flavors and pair wonderfully with various dishes such as rice, bread, and curries, enhancing the overall dining experience.

In summary, while cornichons and pickles have different origins, they share a common purpose: to add flavor, texture, and excitement to various dishes. Both the French cornichon and pickles from around the world hold cultural significance, demonstrating their lasting impact on global cuisine.

Ingredients and Preparation

When it comes to ingredients and preparation, there are similarities and differences between cornichons and pickles. Both are types of pickled cucumbers, but their methods of preparation and ingredients may vary.

To make cornichons, you will need tiny, immature cucumbers typically no longer than 2 inches. The main ingredients used for pickling cornichons include vinegar, water, salt, and tarragon. Some recipes also incorporate herbs and spices, such as cloves, dill or coriander seeds, to add more flavor complexity. In general, cornichons have a distinctive, slightly acidic taste due to the vinegar and a hint of tarragon’s unique flavor.

Pickles, on the other hand, can be made with larger cucumbers than cornichons and are often sliced or cut lengthwise before pickling. In terms of ingredients, pickles follow a similar process, using vinegar, water, and salt. However, instead of using tarragon as in cornichons, dill is commonly used with pickles. Other herbs and spices added to pickle recipes may include garlic, mustard seeds, and black peppercorns. This leads to a more robust flavor profile that varies depending on the specific recipe.

The pickling process for both cornichons and pickles involves submerging the cucumbers in a vinegar-based brine, along with the respective spices and herbs. This mixture usually consists of equal parts vinegar and water, with a generous amount of salt. The cucumbers are then left to ferment in the brine, which transforms them into either tangy cornichons or flavorful, crunchy pickles.

In summary, the ingredients and preparation methods for cornichons and pickles share some common elements such as the primary components: cucumber, vinegar, water, and salt. The differences arise in their size, the specific herbs, and spices used in the pickling process, and the resulting flavors. Cornichons feature tarragon and possibly other spices, while dill and garlic are more prevalent in pickles, giving them their distinct taste profiles.

Varieties and Flavor Profiles

When comparing cornichons and pickles, it’s essential to understand their distinct characteristics. As you explore their varieties and flavor profiles, you will find that both have their unique features.

Cornichons are small, tart pickles made from tiny gherkin cucumbers, specifically the French variety, harvested before they are fully grown. These small cucumbers have a bumpy texture, featuring a notable crunch when bitten. Their flavor is predominantly tangy and sour due to their pickling process, which involves a mixture of vinegar, sugar, and spices. You may also find a hint of refreshing zestiness in their taste, making them a great accompaniment to charcuterie boards and sandwiches.

On the other hand, pickles encompass a wider range of cucumber pickles, with varying shapes, sizes, and tastes. One of the most popular types of pickles is the dill pickle, made from fully grown cucumbers pickled with dill leaves and garlic. Dill pickles offer a unique savory flavor that balances between sour and tangy. In terms of size and texture, dill pickles are usually larger and less crunchy than cornichons, making them ideal for slicing and using in sandwiches or salads.

There are other flavor profiles you might come across in the world of pickles. For instance, sweet pickles are prepared using a sweetened brine that results in a sweeter taste, while bread-and-butter pickles have a milder flavor, thanks to the addition of sugar and vinegar in their brine mixture.

Here is a table to summarize the differences in taste and size:

Pickle TypeFlavorSizeTexture
CornichonsSour, tangySmallCrunchy
Dill PicklesSour, savoryMedium-largerLess crunchy
Sweet PicklesSweet, mildVariesVaries

So, as you delve deeper into the world of cornichons and pickles, it’s crucial to remember that their flavors and sizes can differ significantly. By understanding these variations, you can make the best choice for your taste buds and elevate the taste of your favorite dishes.

Popular Uses and Pairings

When it comes to using cornichons and pickles, they both have versatile applications in a variety of dishes and pairings. They can elevate the flavors and add texture to your culinary creations.

For cornichons, their zesty and tart flavor is an ideal accompaniment to pâté, making them a popular garnish in France. They work well in sandwiches, particularly with strong-flavored cheeses like raclette. Their crisp and tangy nature also works well sliced and used as a garnish for deviled eggs, adding a pop of contrasting flavor.

In terms of condiments, cornichons are often used in recipes that call for mustard. For example, you can dice them and incorporate them into a mustard-based sauce, where their sharpness cuts through the rich, creamy texture. Cocktails are another domain where cornichons shine, as they can be used to garnish beverages such as a Bloody Mary.

Now let’s talk about pickles. People widely use pickles in salads, adding them alongside ingredients like garlic and cheese. They also work well as a topping for sandwiches, often acting as a tart counterbalance to other strong flavors. Moreover, you can find pickles in various other dishes, such as steak tartare, where they provide an additional layer of savory taste.

When it comes to Cornichon varieties, Parisienne Cornichon de Bourbonne and Parigno Cornichon are good options to experiment with. On the other hand, Fin de Meaux is an excellent choice from the Pickle family.

Nutrition-wise, both cornichons and pickles are low in calories and offer beneficial probiotics. However, it’s essential to monitor your consumption if you’re watching your sodium intake, as they can be quite high in salt.

One interesting aspect of these pickled treats is their shelf life. Because they undergo a pickling process, they can last for an extended period when stored correctly. Make sure to keep them properly sealed and refrigerated once opened to ensure maximum freshness.

Remember that you have options when seeking culinary inspirations. Websites like Masterclass can offer a wealth of information on using cornichons and pickles in your cooking. Embrace the confident, knowledgeable, and clear voice in your mind, and enjoy your journey into the world of pickles and cornichons.

Health Benefits and Nutrition

When it comes to health benefits and nutritional value, both cornichons and pickles offer similar advantages. Rich in vitamins and low in calories, these tangy treats can be a great addition to your diet.

Being derived from cucumbers, both cornichons and pickles share the essential nutrients found in regular cucumbers. One noteworthy benefit is their vitamin K content, which plays a key role in blood clotting and bone health. They also contain vitamin C and various antioxidants, which can boost your immune system and help protect your body against free radicals.

Cucumis anguria, the cucumber species used to make cornichons, is known for its smaller size and distinct flavor compared to common cucumbers used for pickles. Despite these differences, the nutritional value for both remains similar.

Here’s a quick glimpse at the nutritional information for both cornichons and pickles:

NutrientCornichons (per 100g)Pickles (per 100g)
Vitamin K21.8μg24.6μg
Vitamin C5.6mg2.3mg

Keep in mind that the amount of sodium can vary greatly depending on the pickling process and added ingredients. When selecting pickles or cornichons, try to opt for lower sodium varieties to avoid unnecessary added salt in your diet.

Incorporating cornichons or pickles into salads or sandwiches can add a burst of flavor and provide valuable nutrients without significantly increasing your calorie intake. Plus, the natural fibers in these cucumbers aid digestion and support gastrointestinal health.

Remember to enjoy cornichons and pickles in moderation, as consuming large quantities may lead to excessive sodium intake.

Fermentation and Preservation

When it comes to cornichons and pickles, understanding the fermentation and preservation process is crucial. Both are members of the cucurbitaceae family and are typically preserved using a combination of salt, vinegar, and water.

To ferment cornichons and pickles, submerging them in a brine solution is a traditional method. This solution usually contains salt and water. The salt plays a crucial role in preserving the vegetables; it slows down the spoilage process and encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria necessary for proper fermentation.

During the fermentation process, lactic acid bacteria break down the sugars in the vegetables, producing lactic acid. This acid inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria, ensuring the development of a rich, tangy flavor. The longer the fermentation period, the more intense the taste.

In contrast, preservation through the use of vinegar is different from natural fermentation. Rather than relying on bacteria to ferment the vegetables, a vinegar solution (acidic in nature) serves as a preserving agent. This helps maintain the crisp texture and fresh taste of your cornichons and pickles, which is essential for enjoyable consumption.

After the fermentation or vinegar preservation process is complete, make sure to store your cornichons and pickles in a refrigerator. This slows down the fermentation process, prolonging the shelf life and keeping the cucumbers crisp without losing their signature flavor.

Remember that salting is essential in both preservation techniques, as it helps inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria while enhancing the final taste. By following these steps with confidence and precision, you can be sure to enjoy delicious cornichons and pickles that retain their texture and flavor.

How to Grow, Harvest, and Store

When growing young cucumbers for either cornichons or pickles, it’s essential to follow these steps to ensure a successful harvest and proper storage.

To grow cucumbers, begin by selecting a sunny location in your garden and preparing well-draining soil. Space the seeds or seedlings 36-60 inches (91-152 cm) apart in rows. Make sure you provide support, such as a trellis, to encourage vertical growth and make harvesting easier.

Your cucumbers should be watered regularly, with about 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) of water per week. Provide a consistent water supply to prevent the cucumbers from developing a bitter taste. Monitor your plants closely for pests and diseases, such as cucumber beetles or powdery mildew, and take appropriate action to control these issues.

Harvest your young cucumbers when they’re 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) long for cornichons or 3-5 inches (7.5-12.5 cm) for pickles. It’s important not to wait too long, as overripe cucumbers can become bitter and lose their ideal texture. Harvest daily to ensure the cucumbers maintain a tender, crisp texture.

After harvesting, ensure proper storage to prolong the shelf life of your cucumbers. Wash the cucumbers thoroughly to remove any dirt or residues, then dry them well. Store the cucumbers in a cool, dark place with a relative humidity of around 90-95%. This will maximize their shelf life, which can range from several days to a few weeks, depending on storage conditions and cucumber variety.

Finally, to enjoy your cucumbers as cornichons or pickles, follow a trusted pickling recipe that includes a brine or vinegar solution, spices, and other ingredients per your taste preference. Your homemade pickles and cornichons should be stored in an airtight container, such as a mason jar or another type of sealed glass container, and refrigerated for optimal flavor and freshness.

Pairing Cornichons and Pickles with Other Foods

When it comes to pairing cornichons and pickles with other foods, the possibilities are endless. Both these pickled delights can elevate any meal or snack by providing a perfect balance of flavors and textures.

Starting with charcuterie boards, cornichons and pickles can add a tangy contrast to a variety of smoked, cured, and fresh meats. Incorporating them into your board will help cut through the richness of the meats while complementing their flavors. You can also include various cheeses, fruits, and vegetables to further enhance your board’s flavor profile.

In addition to charcuterie boards, cornichons and pickles can be used as a topping for sandwiches or burgers. The crisp, tangy taste of these pickles provides a palate-cleansing contrast to the tender, juicy meat. For a more adventurous twist, try incorporating cornichons or pickles into your salads or even grilling them alongside your vegetables for a unique taste experience.

When it comes to fruits, you may not initially think of pairing cornichons and pickles with sweet and juicy options. However, their acidity can actually bring out the natural sweetness in fruits like apples and pears. You can also experiment by combining them with tropical fruits like mangoes or pineapples for a more exotic and refreshing taste combination.

To sum it up, some ideal pairings with cornichons and pickles include:

  • Charcuterie boards: smoked and cured meats, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables
  • Sandwiches and burgers: as a flavorful, crunchy topping
  • Salads: for an extra tangy element
  • Grilled vegetables: for a unique twist on a classic side dish
  • Fruits: apples, pears, mangoes, and pineapples for a surprising flavor combination

Embrace your creativity in the kitchen and explore the world of cornichons and pickles by incorporating them into your favorite dishes. You’ll be amazed at how these small, tangy treats can elevate your meals to new heights.


In comparing cornichons to pickles, it becomes evident that they each hold their own unique taste and place in the culinary world. Cornichons, those tiny French pickles, are well-known for their tangy flavor and crunchy texture. They work splendidly in dishes like charcuterie platters and as a complement to cheeses.

On the other hand, pickles (cucumbers preserved in brine) are incredibly versatile, with countless flavor options and customizable to the desired bite characteristics. You can enjoy them on their own, sliced in sandwiches, or incorporated into various recipes.

One notable difference is their size—cornichons’ small size makes them an elegant and easy-to-handle choice, while pickles offer more variety in shape and volume. Although they may look similar, their flavors and applications can be quite distinct.

So, when you venture into the realm of pickled cucumbers, let your taste buds guide you. It’s up to you to decide which one, if not both, fits your preference and suits your culinary needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main difference between cornichons and pickles?

The main difference between cornichons and pickles lies in the type of cucumber used and the size. Cornichons are made from small gherkin cucumbers, while pickles can be made with a variety of cucumber sizes. Additionally, cornichons are typically more sour and crunchy due to the use of vinegar and tighter skin.

How do cornichons and pickles differ in taste?

Cornichons have a tangier, sharper flavor compared to pickles. This is because they are pickled with a strong vinegar solution and often include additional flavorings like tarragon, dill, or mustard seeds. On the other hand, pickles tend to have a milder taste, with a less intense vinegar flavor.

Can cornichons be used as a substitute for pickles?

Yes, cornichons can be used as a substitute for pickles in many recipes and dishes. Keep in mind that cornichons have a stronger flavor, so you may need to adjust the amount used or consider the impact on the overall taste of the dish.

What is the best way to make cornichons at home?

To make cornichons at home, start with fresh, small gherkin cucumbers. Soak them in a water and salt solution for a few hours before packing them into a clean jar. Prepare a pickling solution using vinegar, water, sugar, and herbs or spices like tarragon, dill, and mustard seeds. Bring the pickling solution to a boil, then pour it over the cucumbers in the jar. Seal the jar and let it cool before placing it in the refrigerator for at least a week to allow the flavors to develop.

Where can I purchase cornichons?

Cornichons can be found at specialty grocery stores, international markets, and online retailers. They are typically sold in small jars and can be found alongside other pickled and preserved foods.

How do the health benefits of cornichons compare to those of pickles?

Both cornichons and pickles are low in calories and provide some nutritional benefits, like vitamins and minerals. Since they are high in vinegar, both can aid in digestion and help maintain a healthy gut. However, due to their pickling process, both cornichons and pickles can be high in sodium, so it’s important to consume them in moderation.

Cornichons vs Pickles

Here is a simple recipe for cornichons:
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 58 kcal


  • 1 pound of small cucumbers also known as gherkins or cornichons
  • 2 cups of white vinegar
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup of kosher salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon of mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of dill seeds
  • Fresh dill sprigs


  • Wash the cucumbers and trim off the ends. Cut them into quarters lengthwise.
  • In a large pot, combine the vinegar, water, salt, garlic, peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, and dill seeds. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt.
  • Add the cucumber quarters to the pot and let them simmer for 5-7 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  • Transfer the cucumbers and brine to a large mason jar or other airtight container. Add a few sprigs of fresh dill.
  • Seal the jar tightly and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving.


Your homemade cornichons can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Enjoy!


Calories: 58kcal
Keyword cornichons vs pickles
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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