Pickled Cauliflower

Step by step instructions for how to make quick pickled cauliflower. Cauliflower is combined with slivered onions, mustard seeds and dried chiles and covered in a hot vinegar. The florets are tangy with a kiss of salty sweetness and super good!

Pickled Cauliflower

Pickled cauliflower is great to have on hand. You can make it with any color cauliflower you like, although I can't resist purple cauliflower because the compounds in it react with the hot vinegar solution to turn the florets a beautiful neon. The perfect punctuation to any plate. Keep a jar on hand and serve these alongside tacos and spring rolls, inside bentos and as an accent in salads.
Quick Pickled Cauliflower in a Mason Jar
Here (below) you can see the pickled cauliflower as part of a bento lunch situation. The cauliflower is nestled between a chile-coated hard-boiled egg, spicy sesame coleslaw, purple rice, a curry leaf and pepita tadka, and a bunch of kale chips. It delivers a good amount of tang and crunch in the midst of less structured components.
Pickled Cauliflower in a bowl along with other lunch food

Pickled Cauliflower: The Process

It's possible to have a jar full of pickled cauliflower done in ten minutes. The steps are straight-forward and quick. The first thing to do is toss your florets with any other ingredients and seasonings you might be using. I like to use onions, mustard seeds, and dried chiles - reflected in the recipe below. You can do the same or play around. Sometimes I'll add carrot coins, other times I'll substitute shallots for the onions, etc. 
Cauliflower florets, onions, mustard seeds and chile in a glass mason jar

Pack the Jar

The next step is transferring the mixture to a quart-sized Mason jar. Fill nearly all the way to the top as you can see pictured below.Side view of a jar filled with cauliflower florets, onions, mustard seeds and chiles

Make A Hot Vinegar Solution

The last stage in the process is heating a mixture of vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small saucepan. It simmers until the grains of sugar and salt have dissolved. The hot vinegar is poured over the cauliflower until it is completely covered. This is when you'll see the color shift if using purple cauliflower.
Quick Pickled Cauliflower in a Mason Jar

A Great Make-ahead Component

I love making pickled cauliflower this way because you can enjoy a crunchy hot bite just a few minutes after the hot vinegar hits. And then things get even better in the days following. I tend to try to use any quick pickles within about a week, but they usually are enjoyed before then.
Pickled Cauliflower as a part of lunch spread
If you're interested in more of the feel-good lunch ideas pictured, here's where you can find the spicy sesame coleslaw, and the tofu salad is actually just my favorite wonton filling from this wonton soup recipe. Enjoy!

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Pickled Cauliflower

5 from 2 votes

I love the color flare that happens when the hot vinegar hits purple cauliflower, but you can use any color cauliflower here.

  • 3 cups cauliflower florets (purple)
  • 1 small white or red onion, sliced
  • 5 dried arbol chiles, torn up
  • 2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon fine grain sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  1. In a medium bowl toss the cauliflower, onion, chiles and mustard seeds. Transfer to a clean, quart-size mason jar, The ingredients should come nearly to the top (see photos).
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat combine the vinegar, water, salt and sugar. Bring to a simmer. Cook for a few minutes, stirring a bit, until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Carefully pour the hot vinegar into the mason jar, over the cauliflower. Fill to within about 1/2-inch of the top. Close the jar, allow to cool, and refrigerate. Use within a week.

Makes 1 quart.

Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
3 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

Post Your Comment

Recipe Rating


Hi Heidi, Do you feel that sugar is necessary for balance in any pickling recipe? I'm trying to avoid added sugars when possible and wondered if this would be just as good without it. Thanks!


    Hi Maghil - I feel like the sugar takes a bit of the edge and sharpness off the vinegar and balances things out. You might play around with the amount though...

    Heidi Swanson

I love these! I season mine with a bit of whole coriander, fennel, black peppercorns and maybe some chili peppers torn into pieces. They work well lunch in boxes but my favorite time to muinch on these is cocktail hour when I’m working hard to avoid the potato chips, pretzels, etc my husband loves . These are better!

Gail W-H

    Love this Gail!

    Heidi Swanson

I love to make pickles and this recipe looks fabulous. However, I've recently been advised to go to a low sodium diet for medical reasons. How little salt can be added for pickles? Any advice on that? TIA


    Hi Tobie -for a quick pickle like this one you can basically salt to your liking.

    Heidi Swanson

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