Can You Compost Pickles?

Pickles are one of my favorite foods and go great with lots of homemade meals. Whether I am having them with burgers or on the side of some fried chicken, the vinegar of pickles cuts through the grease of our favorite comfort foods and gives our meals a boost of probiotics and nutrients. I have even tried making homemade pickles, which were pretty tasty.

Sometimes after a BBQ or when cleaning out the fridge, I notice there are pickles that need to be disposed of. I know that most food items are compostable materials, but things like meat and dairy products shouldn’t be thrown in the compost heap for fear of attracting wild animals. Can a dill pickle be added as organic material to a compost pile? Let’s find out!

Can You Put Pickles in a Compost Bin?

A dill pickle and other jars of pickles cannot be safely composted if all the pickle juice is dumped with it. Gallons of pickles added to the compost piles, either store-bought pickles or homemade, will throw off the balance of compost and result in slowed or halted decomposition. Small amounts of pickles can be added to the composting process on a regular basis and add valuable nutrients to the soil.

Compost Bucket

Wild animals are attracted to the scent a dill pickle gives off and can root through your pile looking for them. Animal waste near a compost pile could indicate that the vinegar in pickles has attracted a pest. The sour smell of the ingredients of pickles reminds compost critters of the scent of decay and may bring more issues to your pile.

It is important to get all the green material you can into your compost mix, so adding pickles when possible is a good idea. But adding the pickles incorrectly with other acidic materials like pine needles or without enough brown natural materials can cause problems. There are ways to help make pickles a better natural material for your compost mix.

How to Prepare Pickles for Compost Piles?

A dill pickle or other type of pickle can add excellent nutrients and are a good source of compost. You need to reduce the acidity of pickles before you add them to a compost pile, and you should never add the juice when composting or recycling; however, pickle juice can be saved for other uses.

Drain The Juice

Pour the juice out of the jar and collect it in a bowl or another container and save it for later. Place the pickles on a plate to dry and try to collect as much of the dill and other ingredients as possible. Pickle juice is a great natural weed killer, so don’t discard it too soon.

Rinse the Pickles

Taking water and rinsing the pickles is the best way to remove extra salt and acidity from commercial pickles. Common pickles will have vinegar and a brine solution, both of which will slow down compost tremendously. After the pickles are rinsed, they won’t harm the microorganisms in the soil.

Chop Them Up

Pickles may be large or small, but if you want them to decompose quicker, then cut them into pieces before using pickles as a source of compost. Cutting pickles smaller makes it harder for animals to find the pieces in the compost and can prevent pest infestation. It also makes it easier to mix the brown material and green material together.

Add Brown Materials

Adding brown materials with a higher pH can help balance the acidic ingredients of pickles. Leaves and paper products are great carbon materials. Pine needles or other acidic natural materials should not be added with pickles as they can lead to drops in compost pH and bad microbe conditions. Animal bedding and animal fur can make great additions of brown matter to the compost as well.

Bury in the Middle of the Compost

To keep your kitchen scraps and organic matter safe in your compost, bury it deep. Pest can smell well and will dig up what they can. Every time pests dig holes in your compost, it slows the breaking-down process, and they can steal your leftover scraps, making a mess.

Nutrients Pickles Add To Compost

Any type of pickle provides excellent nutrients for garden soil. Kitchen scraps can be used to improve alkali soil or acidic soil and increase the nitrogen content in compost. As the organic matter around pickles breaks down, the biodegradable materials supply an abundant material that plants and microbes can use for growth.

NutrientFound InBenefit
PotassiumCucumber, DillMovement of water nutrients and carbs in plants
MagnesiumCucumber, DillEnables the chlorophyll molecule in plants to be formed.
CopperCucumber, Dill, SpicesSeed production
ManganeseCucumber, Dill, SpicesMetabolic roles in plant processes


Potassium is needed in high amounts for garden soil to be productive. This nutrient is responsible for protein, starch, and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production. The kitchen scraps and food that have high amounts of protein help compost build and provide the source of nutrients plants need for photosynthesis.


A natural product from the pickle decomposition process is often magnesium. Along with a boost of nitrogen, magnesium helps plants develop chlorophyll or the lifeblood of the plant body. Leftover scraps in garden soil are the source of nutrients plants need to grow and operate successfully.


Like magnesium in fresh soil, copper also helps plants with chlorophyll production. Biodegradable items high in copper, especially acidic items that strip more nutrients down to be available in garden soil, can help plants grow strong. Copper is also needed for the process of making seeds. Everything from herbs to citrus fruits needs copper to produce viable seeds.


Organic matter high in manganese is needed to allow plants to regulate metabolic function within different compartments. Common kitchen scraps and waste products like store-bought pickles contribute to the nitrogen content and nutrient levels of finished soil. The soil texture and acid level determine whether nutrients like manganese can be absorbed by plants, so add alkali ingredients as well.

What to Do with Leftover Pickles?

If you have some leftover pickles that you don’t want to throw away, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your natural waste products. Before throwing pickles in the trash or even the compost, try these things out.

  • Relish –When I find pickles left over in the fridge, I will often make them into a relish. Mincing the pickles and adding various spices and seasonings can make an oversized, nearly empty pickle jar into a compact container of pickled, relish, delish.
  • Weed Killer – The juice from pickles should never be poured into a compost pile as it will have a negative effect on the microorganisms. Instead, add the pickle juice to a spray bottle and mist stubborn weeds in your yard. You can also heat pickle juice up and pour the hot pickle juice on a tough invasive shrub or tree species to kill it but not the neighboring plants.
  • Insect Repellant – Weeds aren’t the only pest deterred by pickle juice. Ants and other insects that rely on pheromones to communicate can become disoriented by the strong smell of the vinegar in pickles. Other soft-bodied insects like aphids can be killed by contact with vinegar. Make sure to dilute the pickle juice to a ratio that is deadly to pests but not harmful to leaves before using it directly on plants. The best way to use pickle juice is to repel pests from areas before they have a chance to infest.