I Tried a Dozen Different Jars of Dill Pickle Spears and Now These Are the Only Ones I’ll Buy
The motto of tiny Mount Olive, North Carolina, is “We Value Hometown Tradition,” and that seems to be very true — even if literally all of their traditions involve pickles. The town, which covers less than three-square miles in the eastern half of the state, is home to the annual North Carolina Pickle Festival, which includes the presentation of the Pickle Princess pageant winner, a cucumber-themed 5K race, and, obviously, a pickle-eating contest.
And every New Year’s Eve (with the exception of last year), Mount Olive residents assemble at the corner of Cucumber and Vine — no, really — to watch the New Year’s pickle drop. (Take that, Times Square). The oversized pickle slides down a 45-foot pole at precisely 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, which is midnight Greenwich Mean Time. “That way, we are official, we shout Happy New Year! — and we don’t have to stay up until midnight,” the Mt. Olive pickle company, the event’s sponsor, says of the doubly strange tradition.
So yeah, a lot of Mount Olive’s obsession is because its namesake pickle company has been churning out brined cucumbers for more than 90 years. On its website, Mt. Olive says that its pickles are “the #1 pickle brand in the U.S.,” but are they really the best pickles? That’s what this taste test is for — even though we’re several weeks away from the new year.
But first, man, there are SO MANY pickles to choose from. We have dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, spicy pickles, sour pickles — and then you can choose from whole pickles, spears, sandwich-sized slices, or one-bite chips. For the purposes of this highly scientific test, we focused our efforts on dill spears.
How We Tested the Pickles
I tried a dozen different kinds of pickles that were purchased at a supermarket, a big-box retailer, and a specialty grocer. There were well-established brand names, store-specific offerings, specialty small-batch pickles, organic versions, and a special line that also had turmeric listed as an ingredient.
What my co-taste testers and I quickly learned is that it must be hard to make a good dill pickle: Some of the crunchiest pickles had bland flavors, and some of the more flavorful varieties were oddly mushy. Others were too salty, too vinegary, or both. When we’d all finished our selections of spears, we compared notes, and everyone had the same top three.
Mt. Olive Kosher Dill Spears
The pickles in this jar were ultra-flavorful without being overpowering, had an excellent crunch, and were just everything you want from a pickle spear. We kept coming back to these!
Buy: Mt. Olive Kosher Dill Spears, $2.50 for 24 ounces
Vlasic Kosher Dill Spears
Buy: Vlasic Kosher Dill Spears, $2.99 for 24 ounces at Target
Market Pantry Kosher Dill Spears
These pickles — a Target store brand — had a pleasing amount of crunch and a robust but not overpowering flavor. (And admittedly part of the reason why the Market Pantry dill spears were so well-received was because they tasted the most like Mt. Olive’s pickles.)
Buy: Market Pantry Kosher Dill Spears, $2.39 for 24 ounces at Target
Do you have a favorite brand of dill pickles? Discuss in the comments below!