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What Are Cornichons And How To Use Them?

Last Updated on September 30, 2023

What are Cornchons? If you’ve ever been to a French bistro, you’ve likely heard of pickled cornichons (or French gherkins).

But what are they exactly and why do they seem to be everywhere?

In this blog, we’ll demystify the tiny pickles known as cornichons, so you’ll know when, where, and how to enjoy them!

a jar of cornichon pickles

Cornichons

Cornichons are small, tangy gherkin pickles. They are a variety of small cucumbers, usually harvested when quite young.

They are less than two inches long and at the peak of their ripeness. Cornichons can range in shape from slightly curved to almost cylindrical, depending on the type of cucumber used. 

Nowadays cornichons can still be found growing wild around corners of Europe.

These little pickles are pickled in vinegar for just a few weeks before being served as a delicious accompaniment to burgers, appetizer plates, or other charcuterie plates for culinary use.

what are cornichons

Cornichons have been popular in France and other European countries. The tartness of these pickled cucumbers adds a delightful crunch and flavor to almost any gourmet dish, particularly when they’re given time to pickle properly.

You can find cornichons in most grocery stores and online retailers these days, but if you’re a fan of pickles and feeling adventurous, you might want to look into making them at home.

History of Cornichons

They are also known as French gherkins, French pickles, or baby pickles. A type of pickled cucumber can be found in many dishes around the world.

The small, sour pickles vegetables are often served alongside charcuterie boards and are also an ingredient in many French and other European cuisines. 

Historically, cornichons were often used to preserve vegetables in the summer when vegetables weren’t always available.

However, the exact date of origin for cornichons is still uncertain since references to these pickles date back to the 1600s in France.

cornichon

Traditionally, the cucumbers used for making cornichons were small cucumbers that grew along a trellis near old castles. Cornichon comes from the old French word for “small horn” due to its shape. 

In the old-school French methods of preparing cornichons, white vinegar or tarragon vinegar is combined with herbs such as capers or dill to make them especially flavorful.

Today, the pickling process of most commercially sold cornichons is produced according to factory specifications. But generally, they contain several key ingredients including:

  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Garlic
  • Mustard
  • Pepper (or Peppercorns)
  • Salt
  • Seasonings

In some cases, they may also be flavored with additional herbs and spices such as dill or tarragon.

However, they are more commonly sold in cans or jars and you will be able to find them in the preserved foods aisles of supermarkets and specialty shops worldwide.

Types of Cornichons

Cornichons come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including traditional whole baby gherkinspickled slices, and even relish-style blends.

Whole cornichons are small, tart pickles that are typically preserved in an acidic brine – some of the more popular brines are made with white vinegar or wine vinegar.

The pickled cornichon slices have a more briny taste (similar to capers and olives), but some people do like their distinct and tart flavors. 

small pickles

Cornichon relishes generally contain a blend of vegetables such as pearl onions, zucchini, carrots, and of course, tons of tiny cornichons to add an extra punch of flavor.

Whole cornichons tend to be a bit sweeter than their chopped cousins because all the flavor is contained in the brine itself; however, most recipes call for both whole baby gherkins and sliced dills for the perfect balance of texture and flavor.

Health Benefits

As well as providing a flavorful accompaniment to your meal, they are also surprisingly good for you. Here are some of the health benefits of adding cornichons to your diet:

pickled cornichons
  • Source of Nutrients: Cornichons contain an array of essential vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C and potassium. These nutrients help support overall health, keeping the body functioning optimally.
  • Improve Digestion: The vinegar in cornichons can help aid digestion by stimulating stomach acid production. This can speed up the breakdown of food particles so they can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Reduce Inflammation: Cornichons contain an anti-inflammatory compound called quercetin that can fight inflammation due to its antioxidant properties. This means it can be helpful in reducing pain associated with chronic diseases like arthritis or fibromyalgia.
  • Healthy Skin: The Vitamin C content in cornichons helps promote skin health by producing collagen which is important for skin elasticity and strength against damage caused by free radicals from environmental pollutants or foods we eat that contain processed ingredients like trans fats or sugars.
  • Heart Health Benefits: Cornichons provide heart-healthy benefits due to their high potassium levels – just two tablespoons provide nearly 7% of your daily requirement! Potassium helps keep blood pressure levels low by dealing with sodium in the body which would otherwise increase blood pressure levels dramatically if left unchecked.

(Source: Medical News Today)

How to Use It in Cooking

They are commonly used as a condiment or garnish for foods such as sandwiches and salads.

Cornichons are tart and sweet with a crunchy texture that adds contrast to the creamy textures of some dishes.

difference between pickles and cucumbers

They can be eaten straight from the jar as a sharp snack or used to add flavor to other foods.

Here are other creative ways to use them:

  • Chopped and used in salads or pasta dishes
  • Pickled along with other vegetables
  • Blended into dipping sauces or salad dressings
  • Added whole to cold cuts for extra crunchiness
  • As a condiment for picnic sandwiches

You can also use them in place of capers for a unique twist on classic recipes such as potato salad. Experiment with cornichons in your cooking – you’re sure to find creative ways to use this tart and tasty addition!

mini pickles

Tips for Choosing and Storing

When shopping, look for fresh-looking pickles that appear evenly green in color and crisp in texture. Avoid jars with stubborn or wrinkled cucumbers at the bottom. Cornichons should smell lightly vinegary and not overly sour or bitter.

Once you’ve picked out a high-quality jar, it’s critical to store it properly to maintain peak flavor and texture. Here are some tips for ensuring your cornichons stay fresh:

  • Store jars of cornichons in the refrigerator where they can be kept between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit to preserve maximum crunchiness and flavor.
  • If the cucumbers have been cut open, it is advisable to transfer them into an airtight container, such as a Mason jar or Tupperware®. This will keep them from drying out or going limp.
  • Cornichon pickles tend not to last long once the jar has been opened – try to use up the entire portion within a few days; otherwise, freeze the remaining cucumbers for up to two months (if desired).

With these simple steps, you’ll be able to enjoy all of your favorite recipes featuring this beloved tart, bite-sized pickles!

cornichon definition

Final Takeaway

In conclusion, cornichons are small, tart pickles typically made from small and young cucumbers.

They are often used as a garnish for salads and sandwiches, or as an accompaniment to charcuterie boards and other appetizers. 

While both cornichons and traditional pickles have similar flavors, cornichons are generally much more sour as they are made with a brine of vinegar, salt, and other spices.

Besides their distinct flavor and crunchy texture, they also come with a lot of health benefits. You should start adding more cornichons to your diet more often from today!

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a jar of cornichon pickles

5 Best Cornichons Substitutes

These little pickles are pickled in vinegar for just a few weeks before being served as a delicious accompaniment to burgers, appetizer plates, or other charcuterie plates in culinary use. Here are 5 Best Cornichons Substitutes you can use if you don't have cornichons in hand!
5 from 4 votes
Print Rate
Author: SHU-CHUN

Ingredients

  • 1. Pickled Capers
  • 2. Pickled Pearl Onion
  • 3. Pickled Vegetables
  • 4. Pickled Relish
  • 5. Dill Gherkins

Instructions

  • Choose your favorite substitute from the list above.
  • Prepare your substitute according to the recipe directions.

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