A Journey into the World of Pickles: From Traditional Iranian Delights to Global Flavors

You are probably familiar with different types of pickles. As you know, pickles are a type of seasoning made from various vegetables and vinegar, which plays a prominent role in Middle Eastern cuisine. However, this doesn’t mean that this flavorful seasoning is not used in other parts of the world alongside food; it simply emphasizes its significant role in the Middle Eastern region. Making pickles at home is not very difficult. Whenever you decide, you can prepare pickles by adding vinegar or brine to a jar of vegetables. Additionally, ready-made pickles can also be purchased in markets.

This is an old tradition in our Iranian households. Every year, as summer comes to an end and the weather cools down, the preparation of pickles and brine begins in our homes. Most mothers and grandmothers have a special skill in making homemade pickles, but if you wish, you can also get involved by following a precise recipe and step-by-step instructions for making various types of pickles. Mixed pickles, torshi Liteh, pickled eggplant, and pickled cauliflower are among the most popular types of pickles in Iran.

The History of Pickling Around the World

When we look at the primary purpose of pickling, we realize that this practice has a long history. Pickling dates back to a time when there were no means to preserve vegetables. People decided to prevent spoilage and extend the shelf life of produce by combining them with vinegar and salt, giving rise to what we now know as pickles. Although the exact time and place of its first emergence remain unknown, historical evidence suggests that pickling has a history of over 4000 years. Among the beliefs, it is widely held that pickled cucumbers were among the first pickles to be invented.

You might wonder why early humans didn’t know that cold temperatures could help preserve fruits and vegetables. While we’re not referring to the earliest humans, we know that humans turned to pickling for the first time when they were unaware that cold temperatures could provide a long-term preservation solution for food. Moreover, as the evidence suggests, humans never used any ingredients other than vegetables for pickling, or they discovered through trial and error that this method was the only viable means of preservation.

The initial pickles did not possess the same flavors as modern-day pickles. However, this is not surprising since humans were in the process of experimentation and gradually refined the recipes to achieve the perfect instructions we have today. Now, in addition to the combination of vegetables and vinegar, we also incorporate a variety of spices and aromatic herbs to enhance the flavor of pickles. The foundation of pickle-making has never changed, and it can be said that even today, various pickles are prepared in the same way they were 4000 years ago, using a combination of vegetables, brine or vinegar. However, we must not forget that minor changes are always a catalyst for progress.

Introduction to Iranian Pickles

Pickling in Iran also has a long-standing history. As evidenced by records and documents, factories in the country have been producing various types of pickles for over 70 years. In fact, when we refer to pickles in the context of jars that you see in stores and supermarkets marketed as pickles, it is these products. However, pickling in Iranian households certainly has a history longer than seventy years.

Haft-Bijar Pickle: A Taste for All Palates

Haft-Bijar is one of the most famous Iranian pickles, often associated with the Kurdistan region, although some believe that the original recipe for Haft-Bijar belongs to the Gilan province. Regardless, whether it’s Kurdistan or Gilan, Haft-Bijar is one of the most beloved homemade pickles in Iran and is prepared with slight variations in the original recipe in all cities throughout the country. You can even find jars of Haft-Bijar pickles in supermarkets.

Kurdish, Gilani, and Azerbaijani speakers each prepare Haft-Bijar pickles in their own style, but the original recipe typically includes eggplant, carrot, cabbage, cucumber, garlic, wild garlic, aromatic herbs, salt, and vinegar. If you haven’t tried making pickles at home before, Haft-Bijar is one of the simplest recipes you can use to prepare homemade pickles.

Bandari Pickle: For Spicy Food Lovers

Bandari Pickle, as the name suggests, is popular in the southern regions of Iran. It is an extremely spicy pickle that is prepared according to the taste preferences of the people in that particular area. However, this doesn’t mean that people in other parts of the country don’t eat Bandari Pickle or enjoy its flavor.

The city of Bandar Abbas is the main hub for Bandari Pickle. In the preparation of this pickle, cucumber, eggplant, carrot, cabbage, wild garlic, tomato paste, salt, red pepper, and aromatic herbs are used. But what distinguishes Bandari Pickle and makes it notable is the spicy taste of the pepper.

Southern women have great skills in making Bandari Pickle, but with a precise and step-by-step recipe, you can easily prepare this delicious pickle at home. The amount of pepper can vary according to your own taste—you can adjust it to be mild or hot. However, if you ask the locals in the south, they will definitely tell you that Bandari Pickle is not truly Bandari without the presence of pepper.

Nazkhatun Pickle: The Beloved Flavor of the Northern Region

It’s impossible to be a guest of the people in the northern regions of Iran and not hear about Nazkhatun Pickle from their own words. This pickle is beloved by the people of the north, especially the locals of Mazandaran, who have a great fondness for it. Each of the northern provinces has its own special recipe for preparing Nazkhatun, but what is common in all these recipes is the use of “Abghooreh” (unripe grape juice) in the preparation of this pickle.

The people of Mazandaran, who consider themselves the creators of this delicious pickle to some extent, use grilled eggplants, tomatoes, garlic, local aromatic herbs, chili powder, and Abghooreh to make Nazkhatun. However, in some recipes, red vinegar is used instead of Abghooreh. Making Nazkhatun pickle requires some skill, but undoubtedly, with the help of a precise and professional recipe, you can succeed in making it.

Liteh Pickle: The Flavorful Companion of Dizi

As you may know, Dizi is a famous traditional Iranian dish, and Liteh is its beloved companion. It is not clear where this delicious and unique pickle was first prepared in Iran, which is why people from different cities have tried to associate it with their own names by modifying the original recipe. If you search online, you will come across recipes titled Bandari Liteh, Northern Liteh, Tehran Liteh, and so on, making it difficult to determine the first recipe for making Liteh.

The main ingredients required for preparing Liteh pickle include cabbage or white cabbage, carrots, various peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, garlic, aromatic herbs (mint, tarragon, parsley, dill, basil, and coriander), pickle spices (dried mint, black and green cumin, caraway, turmeric, coriander seeds, black seed, and marjoram), salt, and vinegar. The method of preparing Liteh pickle is relatively more challenging compared to the Seven Bijar Pickle or Mixed Pickle, but it is not impossible. Just be patient and take your time to create a delicious Liteh pickle at home.

Mashhadi Pickle or Seasonal Pickle

Mashhadi Pickle, also known as Seasonal Pickle, is one of the most delicious types of Iranian pickles. What sets it apart is the use of tomato juice, which gives it a tangy flavor without an excessive amount of vinegar. This quality has made Mashhadi Pickle one of the most popular homemade pickles in Iran.

As mentioned, the method of preparing this pickle is quite different from other types of pickles due to the use of tomato juice. Unlike other pickles that are made with vinegar or a combination of vinegar and water, Mashhadi Pickle is prepared with a combination of tomato juice and vinegar. The main ingredients required for making this pickle include cabbage, carrots, celery, pickled potatoes, cucumber sticks, garlic, green peppers, coriander seeds, tomatoes, marjoram, mint, and salt.

Mixed Pickle, Simple yet Delicious

Lastly, we introduce you to one of the most popular Iranian pickles, which is none other than Mixed Pickle. It has a large fan base and serves as a tasty condiment alongside most dishes. This pickle is prepared with a similar recipe throughout the country, and you can easily find commercial varieties of it in various markets.

The main ingredients for making this pickle include cucumbers, eggplants, carrots, cabbage, garlic, salt, vinegar, aromatic herbs, turmeric, and pepper.

Red Cabbage Pickle, a Companion for Iranian Kebabs

The sight of Red Cabbage Pickle in the corner of a kabab platter is familiar to everyone. This pickle is the most common accompaniment for various Iranian kebabs, and although few people may attempt to make it at home, the recipe for Red Cabbage Pickle is actually very simple and quick. If you lack pickle-making skills and want to start with the easiest types of pickles, our recommendation would undoubtedly be this colorful and glossy pickle.

To make Red Cabbage Pickle, you officially don’t need any specific ingredients. Simply purchase a red cabbage and combine it with salt and vinegar. Your pickle will be ready to enjoy after one week. As you can see, cabbage, vinegar, and salt are the only things you need to make this pickle.

Famous types of pickles around the world

Perhaps people around the world don’t consume pickles in the same way Iranian do, but they also use specific pickles as condiments alongside certain dishes. In the following, we will introduce some of the most famous pickles categorized by country.

Spanish Pickle

One of the most famous pickles worldwide, which can even be found in Iranian pickle shops, is the Spanish mixed pickle. The ingredients for making this pickle include olives, sweet corn, carrots, bell peppers, vinegar, salt, aromatic herbs, and sometimes mushrooms. It has a very simple recipe, and you can easily prepare a jar of Spanish pickle at home.

Greek Pickle

Unlike Iranian pickles,Greek pickles are usually simple and quick to prepare. This pickle is ready for consumption within a day, and its taste and flavor also appeal to Iranian taste buds. To make this pickle, you need mushrooms, sweet corn, wheat or mung bean sprouts, bell peppers, green olives, black olives, vinegar, red pepper, salt, and olive oil. Mix these ingredients together, put them in a jar, and refrigerate for two days until it’s ready to eat.

Kimchi Pickle

You are probably familiar with the name “Kimchi Pickle.” If you follow food videos on social media, you have surely seen an image of this pickle alongside a bowl of noodles or sushi. Kimchi is one of the oldest seasonings used in South Korea, and the people of this country are without exception true fans of this pickle. The history of Kimchi Pickle in Korea is so long that it cannot be separated from Korean cuisine. In fact, this seasoning is introduced as part of the culinary culture of the Korean people. It is interesting to note that this seasoning is considered a national dish in the country.

But what are the ingredients used to make Kimchi Pickle? From its name, you cannot guess what the main ingredient is, but we will tell you how the Koreans make Kimchi. Kimchi Pickle is a ready-made spicy pickle made from fermented cabbage, which was first invented in the 1700s. Its predominant taste is spicy, and three main ingredients are used in its preparation, all of which are spicy.

Napa cabbage, fresh garlic, and hot pepper are the only primary ingredients used in making this pickle, and all three have a spicy flavor. Kimchi Pickle is one of the most common seasonings in Korea, and people consume it alongside dishes like fried rice or noodles. It is estimated that Koreans consume at least 18 kilograms of Kimchi Pickle per person each year!

Japanese Pickled Ginger

Japanese Pickled Ginger is one of the most popular and beloved types of pickles in Japan. If you visit an Asian restaurant in Tehran right now, you will definitely be served a little bit of this pickle alongside dishes like sushi. Its aroma and taste are very unique, and not everyone may like it, but Japanese Pickled Ginger is still one of the most well-known types of pickles in the country.

Japanese Pickled Ginger has a spicy and tangy taste and is usually served alongside rice or bland dishes. The primary ingredients used in making this pickle include Japanese cucumber, ginger, special pickled ginger seasoning, and vinegar. Those who are not fond of spicy and tangy flavors may not enjoy eating this pickle.

Moroccan Lemon Pickle

 This pickle is originally a famous Moroccan pickle that has fans in many countries. People make Moroccan Lemon Pickle using fresh lemons, where the lemons are either sliced into rings or cut into diamond shapes and then placed in a mixture of lemon juice, salt, and water. The people of Morocco have a great fondness for consuming this pickle alongside their meals.

Indian Mango Pickle

We also have mango pickle in Iran, which is specific to southern provinces. It is extremely spicy and made from Iranian mangoes. However, originally, mango pickle is an Indian pickle that Indians have been serving as a beloved condiment alongside their meals for many years. Since most South Asian countries cultivate mangoes, they prepare this popular pickle with some variations to the Indian recipe at home.

One of the key differences between Indian mango pickle and other types of pickles worldwide is the ingredients used in its preparation. As you may know, pickles are typically made using vinegar or a mixture of water, salt, and vinegar. However, Indian mango pickle is based on oil! This factor gives the mango pickle a distinct shape and flavor.

The world of pickles is much more extensive than you may think. All the examples mentioned in this article represent only a small fraction of Iranian pickles and some from other countries that are currently prepared and enjoyed in various parts of the world. There are still hundreds of other pickles that you may have never even heard of. Aside from that, it is possible that new combinations for creating a new pickle are invented every day.