Ah, pickles! Who doesn’t love that cool taste, snappy texture, and vinegary bite? Do you know how easy it is to make your own naturally fermented pickles? And do you know the endless varieties that you can make? Your imagination is the only thing limiting the creation of different sorts of tasty pickles, including this Szechuan pickle recipe of Andrew’s. As far as I know, you will not find these Mala Pickles in any store. 

In my early adult life, I spent many years in China. During my time there, I came to love the cuisine of the SiChuan province (often called Szechuan in English). This area is known for its extremely spicy food with something more; they call it “mala.” “La” is translated as “spicy (hot)” and “ma” is directly translated as “numbing.” The “ma” flavor literally makes your mouth water and your tongue tingly-numb. There is only one particular spice that can be used to impart this flavor—the Szechuan peppercorn. That peppercorn is the secret ingredient in these pickles.

Now, I know it sounds strange to our American taste buds, but once you eat these Szechuan-inspired Mala pickles a few times, you start to crave them. Seriously, my wife used to hate them and now her mouth actually salivates at the mention of them, too! Give it a try, and you will quickly be making all of your friends try them!

An Addictive Szechuan Mala Pickle Recipe

Yield:  One quart

Supplies: One Mason jar and a Fermentools kit.

• 1 Tb Szechuan peppercorns
• 1 Tb dill weed
• 1/2 Tb crushed red pepper
• 2 whole dried red chili peppers
• 2 whole garlic cloves
• 1/4 medium onion (sliced)
• 2% salt solution (enough to cover pickles)
• 3-5 pickling cucumbers


  1. Wash the cucumbers.
  2. Leave the cucumbers whole or cut into whatever shape you like your pickles (I have found that cutting them into quarters lengthwise works great).
  3. Put all of the spices, the garlic cloves, and the onion slices in the bottom of the Mason jar.
  4. Pack as many cucumbers into the jar as you can.
  5. Once the jar is full of cucumbers, fill the jar with the 2% salt solution until the cucumbers are covered—leave a little room in the top of the jar.
  6. Put a glass fermentation weight in the jar on top of the pickles (make sure the liquid covers the glass).
  7. Assemble the rest of the Fermentools kit and place on top of the quart jar. Set jar in a cool dark place.

When are my addictive pickles ready?

The amount of time needed to complete the fermentation depends greatly on the environmental conditions. We made Szechuan Mala pickles in 90° Missouri heat and they were ready in just two days. Cooler temperatures will require more time.

After a few days, open the jar and try a pickle. If it tastes good to you, it is done! Stick them in the refrigerator in order to slow the fermentation down, or you can leave them out to let the flavor develop even more. Be aware that the longer you ferment, the softer the pickle, so make sure to keep that in mind.



Andrew and Michelle are the new owners of a 12-acre homestead in rural America. They are just embarking on this journey that is far removed from their city-life upbringing, so they realize that they have a lot to learn in order to succeed in this new place.Come along with them and read more about what they learn as they make this transition at their blog Simple Life Homestead.

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