These homemade Sugar Free Bread and Butter Pickles are the perfect accompaniment to a southern summer dinner of fried chicken, fresh peas, corn, and tomatoes. This tangy combination of cucumbers and onions is preserved in a spiced brine sweetened with a sugar substitute. Try them as a counterpoint to any sandwich or dice a few and toss them into your potato salad.
One of the joys of summer for me is preserving some of the abundance of fresh produce to use throughout the year. The ritual of getting out the canner, the tools, the jars, lids, and rings makes me feel so productive.
I usually do several types of fruit preserves along with our Favorite Kosher Dills and Pickled Okra. The only thing I don’t like about homemade preserves and sweet pickles is the amount of sugar that most traditional recipes require.
Most fruit preserves call for as much, and sometimes even more, sugar as fruit. Typically an exact pound-for-pound measure. And the same with sweet pickles.
I just feel so guilty pouring all that refined white sugar over that gorgeous fresh produce! That’s why I started looking around for a bread and butter pickle recipe without all the usual sugar.
I really love bread and butter pickles with their mix of cucumbers and onions in that sweet, tangy solution. They’re one of my favorites! But my old standard recipe called for 2 1/4 cups of white sugar. Eeek!
I could just never feel good knowing I was eating all that sugar. So when I found a recipe that uses sugar substitute I thought I’d give it a try.
Now, these Sugar Free Bread and Butter Pickles don’t have the exact taste of a “B&B” made with sugar, but they’re really darned close. If you enjoy bread and butter pickles but want an alternative, then these might be just what you’re looking for, too.
If you’re looking for good canning recipes that use less sugar, some great resources include the University of Georgia’s National Center for Home Food Preervation, PickYourOwn.org‘s web site, and Healthy Canning. You’ll find really great information on all of those.
🥘 About the Ingredients
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- Pickling Cucumbers – Pickling cucumbers are the short, plump cucumbers often labeled as “kirby” or “salad” cucumbers; do not use cucumbers that have been treated with wax.
- Onion – Your choice of yellow or white.
- Kosher Salt – I recommend Morton brand kosher salt.
- White Vinegar – The vinegar must be at least 5% acidity.
- Sugar Substitute – This recipe is tested and proven safe with Splenda brand sugar substitute; I have no information on using other substitutes for the recipe.
- Mustard Seed – Whole yellow mustard seed is available in most grocery stores’ spice aisle or may be ordered online.
- Celery Seed – Again, easily sourced through your local grocery store or online. Be careful not to pick up celery salt – they’re often side by side and look very similar.
- Ground Turmeric – Turmeric has a nice earthy flavor and gives a beautiful yellow color to the brine.
- Whole Cloves – Part of the distinctive spice profile for bread and butter pickles.
You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.
🥄 How to Make Sugar Free Bread and Butter Pickles
Prepare the Cucumbers and Onions
- Prepare the cucumbers by washing them thoroughly to remove any dirt from the skin. Cut off a tiny 1/16 inch slice from the blossom end of each cucumber.
👉 PRO TIP: Make sure to select only pickling type cucumbers for your pickles. These are usually labeled as “kirby” or “salad” cucumbers. Avoid using cucumbers with a waxy coating. The coating will interfere with the pickling process.
👉 PRO TIP: Why remove that tiny sliver from the blossom end? Well, actually there’s an enzyme in the blossom end that can cause pickles to be too soft. Removing that tiny slice will help eliminate that problem.
- Slice the cucumbers into rounds approximately 1/4 inch thick.
- Peel the onion and slice it into 1/4 inch thick slices as well. Separate all the onion rings.
Salt the Vegetables
- Place the cucumbers and onions in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Toss so that the salt is distributed throughout the vegetables. Allow them to stand at room temperature for two hours.
Rinse and Drain the Vegetables
- At the end of the standing time, drain the cucumbers and onions in a colander. Rinse thoroughly with cold water and drain again. Spread the vegetables on a double thickness of paper towels and pat dry with additional paper towels.
Prepare the Jars and Lids
- Wash 3 pint (or 6 half-pint) standard canning jars in hot soapy water. Rinse the jars thoroughly with hot water. Prepare the lids and rings according to the manufacturer’s directions. Set the jars, lids, and rings aside on a clean kitchen towel.
Heat Water in the Canner
- Fill a canning pot 3/4 full of water. Set the canner on the stove, add the jar rack, along with the clean jars and bring the water to a low boil. Keep the lids warm in a separate small pan of water set over the lowest heat possible.
Make the Pickling Liquid
- Combine the vinegar, sugar substitute, mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric, and cloves in a large non-reactive saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.
Add Cucumbers and Onions to Pickling Liquid
- Gently stir the cucumbers and onions into the pickling liquid and allow it to return to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat.
Fill and Process Jars
- For this part of the process, you will work with one jar at a time. Use a canning jar lifter to remove a jar from the boiling water in the canner, allowing the hot water to drain back into the pot.
Use a slotted spoon to remove vegetables from the pickling liquid and lightly pack them into the hot jar. Fill the jar so that about 1/4-inch of space remains at the top.
Ladle in pickling liquid to cover the vegetables. Use a canning funnel to make the filling process easier.
- Wipe the rim of the jar with a moistened paper towel. Use a magnetic lifter to pick up a jar lid from the hot water where it was held and apply it to the top of the jar. Add a ring, tightening it only until you feel slight resistance. Do not overtighten the rings. Set the filled jar on the rack in the canner. Continue until all jars are packed.
- When all the jars are filled, lower the jars on their rack into the boiling water canner. The water in the canner should cover the tops of the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Cover the canner and bring the water up to a gentle boil. Once the boiling point is reached, process the jars for 15 minutes.
- Use a jar lifter to carefully remove processed jars from the canner and place them on a clean, folded towel to cool completely. After the jars are cool, check to make sure the seals are complete. See below for how to test for a complete seal.
- Store in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Refrigerate jars after opening.
🧪 Test the Jars For a Complete Seal
To test home canned goods for a complete seal, first remove the ring from the jar. Then, gently press the center of the lid. If there is any movement then the jar did not seal. Next, very gently pull upward trying to lift the jar by the edges of the lid. If the lid pulls away, obviously it didn’t seal. The pickles are still good and can be placed in the refrigerator, but can’t be stored outside of refrigeration.
❓ Questions About Sugar-Free Bread and Butter Pickles
You always want to remove about a 1/16″ slice from the blossom end of cucumbers before pickling. The reason is because of an enzyme in the blossom end of cucumbers that can cause pickles to be too soft. Removing that tiny slice will help eliminate that problem.
I am absolutely not an expert on the keto diet, but it is my understanding that these pickles are acceptable for those following keto since they don’t contain any sugar at all.
Adding salt to raw vegetables draws much of the moisture out of them. This process helps the cucumbers and onions stay crispier after pickling than they would without salting. Be sure to measure the amount of salt carefully. Too much can affect the flavor of the pickles.
If you want to store the pickles in the pantry, you must process them using the boiling water process. This process heats the jars to temperatures adequate to destroy any microbes that might cause spoilage and forms an airtight seal to prevent further microbes from entering the jar.
If you want to skip the boiling water process and just keep these pickles in the refrigerator, you’ll follow the recipe through filling the jars skipping the instructions to heat water in the canner. After filling the jars, allow them to cool completely and then store them in your refrigerator. The pickles will last up to 6 months in your fridge. They will get a bit softer the longer they sit, but should still taste good for a long time.
🧾 More Recipes You’ll Like
- Quick Pickled Jalapeños
- Refrigerator Kosher Dill Pickles
- Pickled Okra
- Home Canned Tomatoes
- Okra Chips
- Strawberry Jam
- Tomato Jam
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Sugar-Free Bread and Butter Pickles
- 2 pounds pickling cucumbers
- 1 medium onion
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 ½ cups white vinegar
- 1 ¼ cups sugar substitute (cup-for-cup measure such as Splenda)
- 1 tablespoon mustard seed
- 1 tablespoon celery seed
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon whole cloves
- Prepare the cucumbers – wash thoroughly removing any dirt from the skin of the cucumbers. Remove a thin (1/16 inch) slice from the blossom end of each cucumber and discard.
- Slice cucumbers into rounds approximately ¼ inch thick.
- Prepare the onion – peel the onion and slice into ¼ inch thick slices. Separate the onion rings.
- Place the cucumbers and onions in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Toss so that the salt is distributed throughout the vegetables. Allow to stand at room temperature for two hours.
- Drain the cucumbers and onions in a colander. Rinse thoroughly and drain again. Spread the vegetables on a double thickness of paper towels and pat dry with additional paper towels.
- Prepare 3 pint (or 6 half-pint) jars by washing in hot soapy water and rinsing well. Prepare lids and rings according to manufacturer’s directions.
- Fill a boiling water canner ¾ full with water. Add the clean jars to the canner and bring to the boil. Keep lids warm in a pan of barely simmering water.
- Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, sugar substitute, mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric, and cloves in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Add the cucumbers and onions and allow the mixture to return to a boil.
- Working with one jar at a time, use a slotted spoon to pack vegetables into hot jars filling to ¼ inch of tops. Ladle in pickling liquid to cover the vegetables.
- Wipe the jar rim with a moistened paper towel and apply a canning lid and ring. Rings should be just fingertip tight. Return the filled jar to the canner and continue until all jars are packed.
- When all jars are filled, lower the jars into the boiling water canner. Water should cover the tops of the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Cover the canner and bring the water to a gentle boil. Process for 15 minutes.
- Remove jars from the canner and place on a towel to cool completely. After the jars are cool, check to make sure the seals are complete.
- Store in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Refrigerate jars after opening.
- Use only pickling type cucumbers for your pickles (often labeled “kirby” or “salad” cucumbers).
- When preparing the cucumbers, remove about a 1/16″ slice from the blossom end of cucumbers before pickling.
- You must use the water bath canning process if you wish to store the pickles out from under refrigeration.
Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.
— This post was originally published on July 5, 2013. It has been updated with additional information.