Sichuan Pickle Jar – Complete Beginner’s Guide

Today we would like to share with you how to make Sichuan Pickle at your own kitchen.

sichuan pickle
My first batch!

I’ve become interested in starting my own pickle jar after seeing the viral @cookingbomb‘s TikTok video ‘My pickle jar is older than you!’

This led me to dive deep into the world of Chinese social media, analyzing the traditional methods involved. The whole process is super interesting, similar to keeping a sourdough starter. The goal is to keep the microorganisms fed and happy. In return, you’ll be rewarded with deliciousness after the long fermentation period!

The basic science behind Sichuan pickle fermentation lies in the natural microbiota present on the surface of the vegetables. When submerged in a brine solution, lactobacillus bacteria, a group dominant in this microbiota, thrive in the anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment. These bacteria ferment the natural sugars present in the vegetables into lactic acid. Despite the absence of vinegar in the initial preparation, the lactic acid produced during fermentation imparts a sour flavor to the pickle.

From ChatGPT

It is definitely an exciting journey because you never know if your pickle jar will turn out to be a success effortlessly, or if it will spoil. A sign that the jar is going bad is the appearance of foamy white substances floating on top. The jar could go bad even if everything is properly managed.

I was fortunate to succeed on my very first attempt. I attribute it to studying multiple approaches and methodologies. I will share my recipe at the end of this article!

There are two major approaches regarding the type of water to use in the brine: Tap Water vs. Distilled Water. Interestingly, both work, yet both carry the risk of contamination that can lead to the development of bad bacteria.

  • Tap Water: Use tap water directly. Wash the veggies, chop them into the ideal size, and then add them to the pickle jar.
  • Distilled Water: Boil a pot of water and wait until it completely cools down. Wash the veggies, place them in a clean area to air dry completely, and then add to the jar. In the future, when adding new veggies, always repeat this process and make sure that tap water never gets into the jar.

The second method involves more steps and is more time-consuming. It is tedious to maintain your jar and veggies in an ultra-clean condition, especially since I have a goal to keep this jar for the next 18 years! Meanwhile, the tap water method, commonly used in Sichuan households, can also lead to success. However, I am unsure if my tap water quality can achieve the same results. Therefore, I decided to develop a new method that combines both.

I boiled a whole pot of water in my kettle the night before. By the morning of the next day, it has completely cooled and ready for use. I firstly wash the veggies with tap water, then chop them and fully soak them in the cold boiled water. I also fill the jar with the same cold boiled water and use clean chopsticks to transfer the vegetables from the water bowl into the jar.

This way, I don’t need to wait for the long air dry process, and they are pre-washed in the clean boiled water before being added to the jar.

Here are some important notes for a successful Sichuan Pickle Jar:

  • Use disposable gloves to handle all ingredients. Oil is strictly prohibited.
  • Avoid exposure to light. The traditional method uses a clay pickle jar. However, if you are like me, want to observe how the veggies develop and are using a glass jar, make sure to keep it in a dark area, such as a cabinet.
  • Always make sure there is water in the “moat” area.
  • Consume within 3 days or wait until 2-3 weeks to avoid the peak of nitrite production as the nitrite levels fluctuates during the early stages of the fermentation process in pickles. For a new jar, it is likely there won’t be much flavor developed on the first 3 days, so I would recommend to keep it for 2-3 weeks!
Before / After (20 days later)

Ideal vegetables to use

  • All kinds of radish
  • Carrot
  • Pepper like jalapeño or thai chili pepper
  • Long string beans
  • Broccoli stem
  • Ginger (ideally the younger version, though it still tastes good if you can’t find it).

For cabbage, many people mentioned that it tends to spoil the water and can contaminate the entire jar. Therefore, it is recommended to scoop out some brine once the flavor has developed and keep it in a separate jar. (currently testing it and will share the result soon!)

Other ingredients: rock sugar, Sichuan peppercorn. Garlic isn’t necessary, but if you decide to add it, no need to peel the skin; otherwise, the water will become sticky.

Ways to use the pickles

  • Stir-fry with protein
  • Mix with garlic and chili oil for direct consumption

sichuan pickle
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Sichuan Pickle

Homemade Sichuan pickles. It is simple, tangy, and flavorful!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time0 mins
20 d
Total Time20 d 20 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Sichuan
Keyword: pickle
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 35kcal
Cost: $5


  • Pickle jar


  • vegetables of choice
  • water boiling water, cooled down
  • salt 5%
  • 1 tsp high % alcohol e.g., vodka; plus amount for rinsing the jar
  • 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorn
  • 6-10 pieces Chinese rock sugar optional, but it will help the fermentaion process; you can also use 1 tbsp of granulated sugar as alternative


  • Prepare the Pickle Jar: Clean the pickle jar with water and rinse it thoroughly with high percentage alcohol (like vodka) to sterilize. Discard the alcohol after rinsing. Dissolve salt in the water (5% ratio, eg. 50 grams of salt per liter of water / approx. 6.7oz of salt per gallon of water). Make sure the salt is fully dissolved in the water, I used lukewarm water and wait it complete cool down.
  • Prepare Vegetables: Wash your vegetables thoroughly.
    If using tap water in the jar, you can proceed to add them directly. If using cooled down boiling water or distilled water, completely air-dry the veggies before adding to the jar.
    My approach combines two methods: wash the vegetables thoroughly under tap water, then soak them in cold boiled water before adding to the jar. This step kind of set the vegetables to a similar environment within the jar.
  • Jar Filling: Add 1 tbsp of Sichuan peppercorns and 6-10 pieces of rock sugar to the jar. Pour the saltwater solution over the vegetables and make sure they are completely submerged. Fill the water close to the jar's entrance to minimize air exposure. Add 1 tsp of high % alcohol in the end.
  • Sealing: Use a small piece of saran wrap to pre-seal the jar, which will prevent the water in the "moat" accidentally entering the main jar and causing contamented. Cover with the lid and fill water into the moat. Always make sure the moat area contains water, which helps keep out oxygen.
  • Wait for 2-3 weeks, enjoy!
    Note: if it goes bad on the first batch, discard the veggies and repeat the process.


Calories: 35kcal