Recipes Gone Wild: Quick Ginger Carrot Pickles

Illustrations by Libby VanderPloeg

Growing up, I lived a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan.  Nearly every day during the summer I’d go to the beach, but on the hottest afternoons, I stayed indoors. On these lazy days, I’d grab a fistful of freshly peeled carrots (this was before the ubiquity of packaged “baby carrots”) and a stack of picture books, and disappear for a while to my hiding spot— above a floor vent, under a sunny window, behind a big, blue chair.

On my summer reading list: Tomie DePaola’s Strega Nona, The Funny Little Woman by Arlene Mosel, Peggy Parish’s Amelia Bedelia, and anything that included cooking. One of my favorite books was a Looney Tunes Little Golden Book featuring Porky and Petunia Pig harvesting carrots of all shapes, sizes, and colors: yellow, white, purple, orange, long, short…and so on.  I found all of this variation fascinating, as I’d only seen my favorite crunchy snack in orange.

It wasn’t until I was grown up and at an NYC Greenmarket that I experienced my own awakening to the world of carrots. It’s just as Porky said it would be, I thought. There are so many different kinds of carrots, each with unique characteristics — some sweeter, some crunchier, some squat like a turnip. I love them all, which is why I want to keep them all…forever…in my cellar…mwwwahahaha… Or maybe just keep them for a week or two in my fridge, in a  lovely brine of my own creation! After all, they’re so irresistibly tasty that they’re not likely to hang around for more than two weeks.

Pickling for Beginners: If you haven’t tried making pickled vegetables sooner because you thought you needed some special canning equipment and know-how, think again. Yes you can! Start with the simplest technique— the refrigerator pickle. Unlike making shelf-stable pantry preserves, you will not need to use a boiling water canning bath. With quick pickles, you generally just slice up your vegetables, bring your brine to a boil, and pour the boiling liquid over the fresh, raw veggies. The mixture is then cooled to room temperature, packed into some sort of air-tight container, and kept in the fridge for a couple of weeks to a month. Start with a tested recipe, but don’t be shy about using your own favorite spices to create your perfect pickle.

These Ginger Carrot Pickles are a variation on Smitten Kitchen’s Pickled Carrot Stick recipe. Where she used dill, I warmed the flavor up with notes of star anise, cinnamon and fresh ginger. I like to put these on shredded chicken lettuce wraps, then top finish with an extra splash of brine and a squeeze of lime.

Quick Ginger Carrot Pickles

1 lb. carrots, any color, peeled and cut into roughly ½” x 4” spears
1 ¼ cups water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup sugar
2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
1 2”-3” long piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1½ tbsp. salt
6 pods star anise seed
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions: Lay carrots in a medium-sized, heat-proof bowl. In a medium-sized pot, combine the water, vinegar, sugar, garlic, salt, and spices. Bring the brine to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Carefully pour brine over carrots and allow the mixture to come to room temperature. Pack into jars or Tupperware and chill for a day so in the fridge to let the flavor develop. The recipe divides nicely into two pint-sized jars, but you can also just pack them into one tupperware container. Carrot pickles will keep nicely in an air-tight container for up to a month.

More Easy Pickling Recipes and Resources:’s Garlic Dill Pickles
David Lebovitz’s Jalapeño Pickles
Mark Bittman’s No-Vinegar Kosher Pickles
Serious Eats’ Lemony Pickled Cauliflower

About Libby V

Libby VanderPloeg lives and makes work in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She grew up in Michigan on the edge of the Great Lakes dunes, and has lived in Chicago, New York, and Stockholm. Her work comes out of her deep affinity for storytelling, music, letterforms, printed ephemera, and wildlife. None of these works could have been made without the world's finest brioche and several good, strong cups of coffee.


  1. paula says:

    Great post, love the back story. May try this recipe out, thanks.

  2. Tony L says:

    I love these illustrations.

  3. John says:

    I tired the recipe: Too much star anise flavor and hardly any ginger. Perhaps putting the weight in grams of the star anise and ginger would make the recipe easier to reproduce.


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