What Are Chinese Pickles?-Quick Answer&Tips

Chinese pickles are preserved vegetables and a part of their tradition. Today, they boast more than 100 different types. They are a flavorful appetizer or side dish. The pickled ingredients vary from cabbage to bamboo shoots and are pickled in a combination of vinegar and water. You can choose from the endless variety of preserved vegetables to provide your main dish with the extra crunch. In this article, we will look at the history of Chinese pickles, the types available, how to make them, and more.

What does Chinese pickle mean?

Pao Tsai
Pao Tsai

Chinese pickle means Chinese preserved vegetables. Chinese pickles or Chinese preserved vegetables, also romanization as Pao Tsai, also known as Pao Cai, Chinese sauerkraut, or pickled cabbage, is referred to fermented vegetables in Chinese. These can consist of vegetables and fruits that are fermented through pickling using high-fiber fruit or vegetable such as carrots and vegetables. Also, you can ferment by marinating different types of vegetables, such as cucumbers, cabbages, and radishes, among others. To balance the flavors of the Chinese pickles, you need to wait for them to ferment. Some are quick pickles, and you can eat them in hours or days of preparation. However, most of them take months for the fruit and vegetables to ferment. 

Chinese pickle history

The Chinese pickle history dates back to the Zhou dynasty. In Chinese, the word pickle means to salt and incubate. Therefore, the practice of pickling fruits and vegetables people refer to today is from the 6th century B.C.E. The ancient people pickled food to preserve the food far past the day of its expiration. The pickling process was done during the harvesting season to consume in the later parts of the year. Today, there are over 130 kinds of pickles available.  

Types of Chinese pickled vegetables

chinese suan ca pickled
chinese suan ca pickled

Some Chinese pickled vegetables are Gongcai, Suan Cai, Meigan Cai, Zhacai, Prunus mume, Tianjin preserved vegetables, and Pao Cai, among many others. The pickled ingredients are mainly cabbages, garlic, eggs, radishes, lettuce, bamboo shoot, and mustard. 

How to make Chinese pickles?

There are two ways to make Chinese pickles. You can choose the fermenting or marination process. For fermented Chinese pickles, salt the vegetables and plums to allow the fermentation process to start with the help of the lactic acid bacteria. Also, you can ferment the vegetable using Chinese spices and wine. Some of these preserved vegetables, such as Meigan Cai, Suan Cai, and Changzhou dried turnips, are repeatedly dried after fermentation as a way of producing them. 

To make the Chinese pickles through marination. The vegetables are marinated in a soy sauce mixture with vinegar, sugar, salt, and some spices. First, boil them lightly before leaving them to cool and absorb the marination. Cucumbers, garlic, radishes, and bitter melon are some vegetables marinated to make the Chinese pickle. 


Chinese pickling is an ancient tradition most of them follow today. To prepare the pickles, they use special pickling urns. There are endless varieties you can prepare, and each region in China has its favorite. They are sweet, spicy, savory, sour, and refreshing. You can enjoy them as an appetizer side dish or to bring flavor to your food as condiments. 

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