Pickles vs Cucumbers – Are They Really That Different?

Chris Starks
Written by
Last update:

Is the Cucumber A Vegetable or A Fruit?

Are cucumbers fruits or vegetables …is the big question. Ask 10 different people and get 10 different answers.

There are many ways to answer this question, but the debate is a long one.

Cucumbers are edible plants belonging to the gourd family. It's widely cultivated and makes a nutritious addition to any diet. Cucumber is usually considered a vegetable because of how it's used in the culinary world. However, as it grows from flowers and contains seeds, it's botanically a fruit.

Why Are Some Cucumbers Called Burpless Cucumbers?

Many people simply call them cucumbers, but these fruits are often called by various other names. These include picklers, Kirby cucumbers, West Indian cucumbers, African cucumbers, and salad cucumbers. You may even come across some that are called gherkins or waxed cucumbers. One popular variety is called burpless cucumber.

They all pretty much belong to the species Cucumis sativus, and they’re all closely related.

So why are they called so many different things?

The terminology comes from the type of cultivar of fruits being grown.
For instance, a pickler cucumber is an old variety that produces tiny fruits. These are grown for pickling instead of eating fresh, and they are typically less than 6 inches long.

West Indian cucumbers usually produce small fruits that are great for adding to salads. These are also known as gherkins.

The difference between a Kirby cucumber and a salad cucumber may appear to be minor, but it’s more than skin deep. The Kirby cucumber is a multi-purpose variety, suitable for both eating and pickling.

Burpless cucumbers are cucumbers bred with no or reduced levels of cucurbitacin. This reduces bitterness and reportedly the likelihood of burping. Cucurbitacin is highest on the skin and stem of the cucumber fruit.

When Did Cucumbers Become Pickles?

Cucumbers have been around for at least 4,000 years, and they were first mentioned in ancient Persian manuscripts, the texts of which were written during the reign of Darius the Great (522-486 BCE). Earlier than the ancient Persian days, cucumbers were cultivated and consumed by ancient Chinese and Indian societies. On the other hand, pickles have a much shorter history – they were first mentioned in the 15th century.

Fourteen centuries ago, cucumbers were a Persian delicacy. Cucumber cultivation spread around the Mediterranean region during the ensuing centuries, and it was a standard crop in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. On the other hand, pickles were made for the first time in northern Europe in the 1500s, and over the following centuries, pickles became a favorite in England, Ireland, and Poland.
Over the following years, the pickle export and trade grew, and today the term “pickle” is used to encompass cucumbers.

What Is The Difference Between Cucumbers Pickled in Vinegar and Brine?

Color – Many individuals think that pickles are simply cucumbers marinated in vinegar. While both pickles and brined cucumbers are most often green, they can also be yellow, white, or purple, depending on the type of vegetable used.

The bright green color of pickles comes from either chlorophyll or food grades coloring added to the pickling vinegar to give it its familiar color.
Some claim the colors are natural and that the same coloring used in the processing of squash and other green vegetables is used on cucumbers. The brined cucumbers might be a bit yellow or white because of a physiological reaction to salt or the way they are stored.

Taste – The bite of a brined cucumber is more subtle than that of a pickle because of the process of "lactic fermentation," which is the root cause of their soft texture. To create pickles, cucumbers are designed to have a crisp texture and a zesty taste.

What Is The Difference Between Baby Pickles, Cornichons, and Gherkins?

Growing up in the south, two pickles always stocked in my parents’ pantry – the standard dill and the neon green half-sour. Even today, they are still the only two pickle varieties I will eat.

I was recently introduced to gherkins and baby pickles. I was surprised by how much I loved them. I was surprised because very similar to the baby corn many of us have enjoyed at home, there is something about pickles, gherkins, and cornichons that begs the question, “are baby pickles, cornichons, and gherkins that different, or are they simply the same pickle with a different label?”

Cornichons are dilled gherkins, not sweet gherkins. If a recipe calls for cornichons, it refers to the dilled variety of gherkins. You can substitute tiny slivers of dill pickles for cornichons. Remember, all cornichons are gherkins, not all gherkins are cornichons.

Are Pickles More Nutritious Than Cucumbers?

Pickles are more nutritious than cucumbers on a per-weight basis. But since they are not eaten in large quantities, it doesn’t make much nutritional difference. Cucumbers are high in water, and their nutrients are diluted in it. Pickles are low in the water, consistent in size, and their nutrients are more concentrated, so they have more antioxidants and lower calories.

However, when it comes to health benefits and nutrition, you’re better off eating a real cucumber than a cucumber-flavored pickle. Cucumbers are better for you because:

  • You get more nutrients. On a per-weight basis, you get a lot more nutrition from cucumbers – more than ten vitamins and minerals. Cucumbers have higher levels of vitamin A and C, folate, and potassium than pickles.
  • You get more fiber. Eating a real cucumber will give you twice as much fiber as a pickle.
  • You’re consuming fewer calories. A cucumber has only about 15 calories versus about 20 calories in a pickle.

So, choose cucumbers over pickles and enjoy their benefits without thinking that you aren’t eating pickles.

Pickles vs. Cucumbers – A Summary

Cucumbers and pickles are the same things. They have no difference except that pickles have undergone food processing involving certain food seasonings. Pickles are also cucumbers. It is short-term for pickled cucumbers. People call them pickles in the US, UK, and Australia. If a cucumber was pickled in vinegar or brine. It can also be left to ferment with other solutions for another taste and variety. There are several types of pickles produced worldwide.

Briefly, whether you eat a pickle or a cucumber, you consume a vegetable from the Cucurbitaceae family. The pickle is low in calories and contains very little fat, but the cucumber is higher in protein and fiber than the pickle. The cucumber is also low in sodium compared to its pickled counterpart.
Cucumbers are composed of around 96% water, and they are packed with a variety of antioxidants, vitamin C, and vitamin K. They are also a good source of potassium and magnesium.

On the other hand, pickles contain high sodium levels, making them less healthful than juicy cucumbers. Pickles also have vinegar, which may lower blood pressure and perhaps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. They are also a good source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium.