Pickled vegetables have been around for thousands of years and have many different health benefits. Those on a low sodium diet may feel like they can’t eat pickled vegetables because of the high salt content. But this is simply not true, in fact, pickled veggies can be part of a low sodium, heart-healthy, kidney-friendly diet. Read more to learn about Asian pickled vegetables and how you can make your own in a quick and simple way!
This post was written by Juliette Siu, dietetic intern, and reviewed by Edith Yang, RD, CSR, CLT, FAND.
Hello! My name is Juliette Siu and I am a dietetic intern and graduate student at Marshall University. I am interning with Edith Yang and excited to share with you some of my favorite foods, Asian pickled vegetables!
As a child, I loved the tangy sides that would come at so many different Asian restaurants. As a Registered Dietitian to be, I am thrilled to learn how these dishes play an important role in health! Let’s explore some Asian pickled vegetables, why they’re great for you, and how you can pickle at home.
Types of Asian Pickled Vegetables
- Tsukemono in Japan is the name for all pickled vegetables, including gari (ginger), takuan (daikon), umeboshi (Asian plums), kyurizuke (cucumbers), and more. Focusing on bright and vibrant colors is important for this balancing part of traditional Japanese meals.
- Kimchee is a popular Korean side dish using fermented Napa cabbage and Korean radish. Its history dates over 3,000 years ago and helped store vegetables to be used over the cold winters. Today, it is Korea’s national dish.
- Pao cai 泡菜 is another ancient dish from the Sichuan region of China. It is made up of carrots, daikon, ginger, long beans, radish mustard stems, pepper, and cabbage. This pickled dish is often spicy, as are many other dishes from the Sichuan region.
- Achaar is the pickled dish can be traced back 4,000 years ago in India. It can be any pickled item, but the most popular is unripe mango. Often pickled with chili powder and lime, achaar is sure to be packed with tangy flavor to complement any meal.
- While India has achaar, the Philippines have atchara. As you may have guessed, their pickled dish is inspired by their Indian friends. Instead of mango, they often use green papaya mixed with other common vegetables like ginger, carrots, and garlic.
- If you’ve ever tried a bánh mì then you’ve probably tried đồ chua, literally “pickled stuff”. Made with daikon and carrot, this dish isn’t just great with sandwiches, but with most other Vietnamese dishes, from bánh xèo (savory crepes) to bún thịt nướng (grilled pork and noodles).
- Pak gad dong is Thailand’s delicious pickled mustard greens. It can be used in stir fry dishes, soups, salads, or as a garnish to any other dishes. This pickled mustard is sure to add great flavor to anything you choose!
Benefits of Pickled Vegetables
- Extends shelf life – The first and most obvious benefit of pickling vegetables is the extended shelf life. Depending on the pickling method used, pickled vegetables can remain safe to eat for weeks and even years. This makes for an easy, no-cook side dish that can be enjoyed over and over.
- Rich in antioxidants – The antioxidant levels of vegetables are maintained or even in some cases, increased, once pickled. Antioxidants in food are extremely important in our diet as they help fight the oxidative stress that contributes to aging and disease in our body. A study done in 2015 tested the antioxidant levels of 10 different vegetables after being pickled and found that even up to 60 days later, the antioxidant activity stayed about the same.
- Disease prevention and management – It may be shocking to hear that pickled foods can be beneficial for disease management, but it’s true! The vinegar used to pickle holds so many health benefits in itself! Vinegar protects against heart disease, control blood glucose levels, manage obesity, and improve gut and kidney functions. It also has anticancer effects. The best part is, any vinegar you use holds some or all of these benefits! My favorite vinegars to use are rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and just plain regular white vinegar.
- Pickles can be low sodium – If you have concerns about the salt intake in your diet, you can still enjoy the health benefits of pickled vegetables! Just skip the store bought items and pickle at home! Quick pickling is an easy way to make your own pickled vegetables at home, and you can control the amount of salt that gets used!
Quick Pickling at Home
The following recipe is for Đồ Chua (Daikon Radish & Carrots), but feel free to change the vegetables to any vegetable of your choice and add extra seasonings to experiment with different Asian pickled vegetables!
Quick Pickled Đồ Chua (Daikon Radish and Carrots)
- 1 Sterile Pickling Jar
- 1 Small Saucepan
- 1 Mandolin or knife
- 300 g daikon radish julienned
- 200 g carrot julienned
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Combine pickle brine ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat once salt and sugar are dissolved.
- Place vegetables in a sterile pickling jar.
- Pour pickle brine over vegetables in the jar. Be sure all vegetables are submerged in the brine.
- Allow the mixture to cool, then place in the fridge. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.
- Please note that the sodium content shown in the nutrition label includes the pickle brine. One serving of the vegetables removed from the brine is likely to have less sodium than listed.
- Keep refrigerated for up to 2 months.
Perumpuli, P. A. B. N. & Dilrukshi, D. M. N. (2022). Vinegar: A functional ingredient for human health. International Food Research Journal, 29(5). 959-974. doi.org/10.47836/ifrj.29.5.01.
Sayin, F. K. & Alkan, S. B. (2015). The Effect of Pickling on Total Phenolic Contents and Antioxidant Activity of 10 Vegetables. Journal of Food and Health Science, 3. 135-141.