Reworking summer's condiment -- the sweet pickle relish

  • Courtesy of Don MauerSweet pickle relish might be called summer's condiment. Here's how you make it without the telltale sugars.

    Courtesy of Don MauerSweet pickle relish might be called summer's condiment. Here's how you make it without the telltale sugars.

Posted7/27/2022 6:00 AM

Sweet pickle relish is pivotal to making my tuna salad, salmon salad, topping a hot dog or a hamburger, or making my Thousand Island dressing or tartar sauce. If you believe that "pivotal" seems too strong, imagine what those would be like without pickle relish.

What bothers me about any regular sweet pickle relish is what makes it sweet: sugars.


Let's look at the nutrition facts label on Target's Good & Gather brand Organic Sweet Relish. A tablespoon delivers 20 calories. Organic cucumbers lead the ingredient list, followed by organic sugar. There are 4 grams of added sugar, which means 16 calories of that relish's 20 calories come from sugar. Sugar delivers 80% of that relish's calories; cucumbers contribute just 4.

Are no-sugar sweet pickle relishes available? Certainly.

Mt. Olive Pickle Company makes a No-Sugar-Added Sweet Relish sweetened with sucralose (Splenda).

Splenda, like NutraSweet (aspartame), is made in a chemical laboratory and depending on whom you believe, Splenda can be a dietary problem. Google it.

Does any pickle company worth its cucumbers make a sweet relish without artificial sugar substitutes like sucralose or NutraSweet?

None that I could find.

Are organic sweet pickle relishes available? You betcha.

Any that don't have added sugars? Nope, they all do.

One solution to my sweet pickle relish dilemma is an organic dill pickle relish that's unsweetened. It is great from the sugar side but tastes like the sour pickle from which it is made.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

If I wanted a sweet pickle relish made from organic cucumbers sweetened with an organic sugar substitute, I would have to make my own.

There were many sweet pickle relish recipes online. One recipe from Linda Amendt's book "Blue Ribbon Canning: Award Winning Recipes" caught my eye. If this recipe won a state fair blue ribbon, it seemed like a terrific place to begin.

I found organic Kirby (pickling) cucumbers at my local farmers market. Kirby cucumbers look different from regular cukes. Kirbys are usually smaller; sort of ugly compared to their smooth-skinned relatives.

When considering the sweetener, some organic stevia sugar substitutes contain erythritol (low-calorie sugar alcohol). Erythritol has a cooling (minty) effect on my palate -- not what I wanted, so I steered clear of that.

Making a quart of relish seems like too much, and it may be for some. However, I knew that a quart works for me with all my sweet relish uses. Since it's cooked, made with vinegar (a natural preservative) and refrigerated, this batch would last a long time.


How did my relish turn out? As good as any commercial relish, regular or organic. Definitely worth the effort and the refrigerator space.

Give it a try.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at

No-Added-Sugar Organic Sweet Pickle Relish

2 pounds medium-size organic Kirby (pickling) cucumbers, unpeeled, ends trimmed and diced

1 cup finely chopped organic onions (about 1 medium onion)

1½ tablespoons kosher salt

12 packets organic stevia* (equal to ½ cup granulated sugar)**

1 cup organic cider vinegar

¾ teaspoon mustard seeds

¾ teaspoon celery seeds

½ teaspoon sea salt

Add the diced cucumbers and onion to a medium glass or ceramic mixing bowl; tossing to combine. Sprinkle evenly with the Kosher salt and toss again. Cover and let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. Liquid will accumulate at the bottom of the bowl.

By the handful, squeeze the cucumber mixture over a sink to remove as much water as possible; transferring each drained handful to a clean bowl.

In a 5- or 6-quart stainless steel (do not use aluminum) saucepan, combine the stevia, vinegar, mustard seeds, celery seeds and sea salt. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the stevia dissolves, about 1 minute.

Add the drained cucumber mixture to the pot and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and carefully transfer the relish to a clean quart jar and allow to cool slightly before screwing on a clean lid. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate.

Makes 1 quart

Nutrition values per tablespoon: 4 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0.7 g carbohydrates (0.6 net carbs), 0.3 g sugars, 0.1 g fiber, 0.1 g protein, no cholesterol, 50 mg sodium.

*I used Sweet Leaf brand organic stevia

**Or, 3/4-cup allulose natural sweetener.

Based on relish recipe from "Blue Ribbon Canning: Award-Winning Recipes" by Linda J. Amendt.

Go to comments: 0 posted
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.