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The Addictive Nature of Fried Pickles (A Southern Delicacy)

It seems like fried pickles are the rage right now. You can find them trending on TikTok and in every hipster joint around.

What’s with the fried pickle craze? And where did it begin?

Today, we’re unpacking this fresh trend.

Let’s jump in!

What Are Fried Pickles?

A pickle is a cucumber preserved in brine or vinegar. People pickled food, extending its shelf life, as far back as 2300 BC. They submerged different fruits, veggies, and meats in salt water or vinegar and antibacterial plants such as garlic to keep microbes from rotting. And as it turns out, pickling food changes its taste in appetizing ways.

Pickles come in dozens of flavors, but the two most popular are dill and sweet. Dills are fermented in a salt-vinegar brine and seasoned with dill and other spices. The sweet version uses sugar and water in addition to vinegar and spices. You’ll typically find sweet pickles atop burgers and in potato salad.

But the mighty dill is the most popular in America. Mostly sour with a touch of sweet flavor, you’ll find these next to most sandwiches in the form of crunchy spears. And back in the 60s, folks decided to try frying them.

Although fried pickle recipes hit the California papers in 1962, a diner in Arkansas made the idea famous. The Duchess Drive-In sold deep-fried dills for fifteen cents a bag. And people were crazy for them. So Berell Austin’s family kept their 1963 recipe under lock and key as business boomed.

Luckily, the craze spread across the country. Batter recipes vary, but you can usually count on a nice mayo dip or ranch dressing with your pickle basket.

Fried Pickles, a New Craze in Comfort Food

After fried pickles put Atkins, Arkansas, on the tasty treat map, the snacks became a novelty item. Society wasn’t quite ready to have them on every menu. That said, by the 80s, they were common at state fairs and other seasonal events, especially in the summer months.

The popular bites became a regular menu item at most Southern sports bars in the 90s. Anything greasy makes sense for long hours of drinking beer and watching the game. Bars tended to use prepared pickle discs tossed in fryers. But occasionally, you could find cooks experimenting with what batter they use and how to specialize the taste.

Nowadays, fried pickles are popular because of their comfort factor more than anything. Basic food is trending as people seek ways to feel more at ease during these chaotic times. So while some restaurants experiment with spicy flavors, many others just keep it simple.

Pro Tip: Pair your fried pickles with one of these 5 Best Fast Food Burgers.

Fried pickles
Fried pickles are all the rage at the moment.

Are Fried Pickles Healthy?

If you go to a health food store, chances are you won’t find vendors sharing their latest fried pickle samples. Although the crunchy treats have a lot of vitamin K and calcium, their health benefits lose value when you deep fry them. Suddenly these low-fat spears become high-calorie carbo bombs.

Try a light batter in an air fryer to make your fried pickles healthier. Like any fried food, most of the bad news comes from the oil we fry it in. Heat, oil, and batter make delicious crunchy fun snacks, but you’ve got to eat them in moderation.

Have a salad on the side.

How to Make Fried Pickles

Fried pickles are easy to make at home. Although the process is pretty simple, you’ll need a couple of key tools – a fry oil thermometer and paper towels. And a deep skillet or wide pot.

First, you’ll want to slice your dill pickles and lay them on paper towels. Whether you make them circles or spears, pat them dry on both sides. Next, prepare a dry mixture of flour, salt, pepper, and any seasonings you want, like garlic or oregano. Some recipes call for cornstarch to thicken the batter. 

As you heat about one to two inches of oil to 375 degrees, prep your wet ingredients in a separate bowl. This is usually water or eggs and milk. Finally, you dunk each pickle in the wet bowl, then dry mix, and lay them gently in the oil. Cook for about two minutes on each side, and voila!

Fried pickles
Making your own fried pickles at home is a quick and easy treat.

Chips vs Spears, Does the Pickle Shape Matter?

The pickle shape debate is highly contested. Especially when you’re hanging out with friends watching your favorite sports match. But which shape is better depends on what you want from your treat and where you eat it.

Take the sports bar scenario. A large basket of small fried pickle chips to share with friends might be better than juicy spears. They’re small bites with plenty of crunch. But if you love their taste, and want the batter as more of an accent, then spears are where it’s at. The crispy batter is merely an accent to your delicious pickle. 

So yes, the shape absolutely matters!

Obsessed, What Else Is Going on With Pickles? 

The trend of pickle-flavored everything has reached new heights. You can drink pickle beer with a pickle-topped pizza. And for dessert, you can try pickle cotton candy or ice cream. Sonic Drive-In even offers a pickle juice slushy now and then. What’s up with that?

Pickles have been a part of American culture since the 1700s in New York. But as time passes, we’ve become rather inventive with their flavor. Dills are especially easy to work with because they’re both sour and sweet. Their taste profile can complement almost anything.

But there’s also a science behind why we love them. They can activate the reward center in our brains. And they can help with dehydration and electrolyte loss. In fact, the juice has been used for muscle cramps by athletes for years. No wonder that pickle back after a shot of whisky is so darn good.

Pro Tip: On a frying kick? Learn more about What Exactly Are Fried Green Tomatoes?

Are Fried Pickles Worth It?

Fried pickles are on over 6% of American menus. This is up from about 1% ten years ago. And with more and more people eating plant-based foods, chances are they’re here to stay. Although they’re not the healthiest choice, it’s ok to enjoy comfort food occasionally. So they’re definitely worth it!

That said, the fried versions aren’t for everyone. You’ve got to be a pickle fan, or you’ll just be freaked out when you bite into these salty, sour snacks!

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