How Much Salt Do You Need to Ferment Pickles?

Safety is key when making any type of fermented food.  No one wants to use too much salt and ruin their pickles either.  You may be wondering how much salt is appropriate for making cucumber pickles and we have the answer

How much salt do you need to make fermented pickles?  The minimum recommended amount of salt for making fermented cucumber pickles is enough to make the brine 3% salt. 

There a couple ways to calculate this amount.  Read on for why proper brine levels matter for pickles, how to measure your salt and water, and a bonus calculator.

What is Fermentation?

Fermentation comes down to good bacteria, lactic acid bacteria, thriving.  The salty brine that the cucumbers go into creates an environment that let this bacteria cultivate.  Lactic bacteria all ready exists on vegetables so you only need water salt and spices for your pickles.  When the bacteria starts to thrive, remember it takes a little time, it eats the natural sugars in the cucumbers and allows your cucumbers to transform into pickles!

lactobacillus – courtesy of

Do I Need Special Salt?

Salty brine creates the environment needed for the cucumbers to turn in to pickles.  The salt you use should be natural, just like they used back in the day to ferment and preserve food.  This means it should have no anti-caking agents or additives.  An example of this is the iodine you find in table salt.  We recommend using kosher salt for this reason.  Salt that ground finer will dissolve easier in water so this is preferential. 

How Do I Know How Much Salt Is Enough for Pickles?

The term “brine” is used in many different contexts, from preparing Thanksgiving turkey to fermenting vegetables.  There is no “one size fits all” brine, as different vegetables require different levels of salt to allow for fermentation.  When making pickles from cucumbers, the salt level of the brine should be at least 3%.  If your brine is lower than 3%, you risk allowing the bad bacteria to grow and that is one of the factors that can contribute to things like botulism.  This is why measuring your ingredients to ensure you have the proper brine level is important.

There is such a thing as too much salt.  Most fermented pickles will be in the 3% to 4% range.  You theoretically could use a 10% brine, but that is the level used for olives, as comparison.

How Do I Measure And Calculate What Salt Percentage My Brine Is?

The salt percentage of brine can be calculated by weight, which is what we recommend as it is more precise, or by the measurements of your ingredients.  In many recipes the water is measured in cups and salt is measured in tablespoons. 

When measuring by weight the calculation is the grams of salt divided by the grams of water.  If you have 30 grams of salt in 1,000 grams of water, your brine is 3% salt.  Converting cups of water and tablespoons of salt to their respective grams require the conversions specific to salt and water.  For those who wish to make their own calculators or do the math on the fly, the conversion factors for these two ingredients is below.

Water (1 cup)236.59
Salt (1 tbsp)17.07

Salt Brine Calculator

Whether you choose to use the recipe measurements or weight, you can check your brine recipe below with this calculator.

Pickle Brine Calculator by Weight

Pickle Brine Calculator by Measurement

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