For as long as I can remember, I have been the guy who asks, "Are you going to eat your pickle?" In fact, I have an appreciation for dill pickle-flavored anything: almonds, potato chips, mustard and even ice pops (yes, these are delicious; no, I am not missing a section of my tongue).
But when it comes to the OGs (the jarred variety, of course, since I’m not fishing them out of a barrel), I was completely clueless as to which brand offered the best. So I decided that this week’s taste test would be a jarred pickle battle for the ages. Quite the big dill, if you ask me.
Of course, in the interest of fairness, all of the contenders had to be spears (to maintain texture and size consistency), cold (I refrigerated anything that wasn’t) and available nationwide. I am fully aware that there are artisanal and hyper-local options that more-likely-than-not blow this competition out of the water (and vinegar!), but save yourself the hate email or tweet because I didn’t include the variety made by that random dude who sells them from his pedicab in Brooklyn. I am a taste tester for the people, which means mainstream varieties only. Sorry, not sorry.
8. Great Value Kosher Dill Pickle Spears
I want to preface this list by saying that no pickle was what-the-hell-is-this-doing-in-my-mouth levels of awful, but Great Value’s spears missed the mark with a somewhat off-putting aftertaste that was slightly reminiscent of wet cardboard. (Not that I’ve eaten wet cardboard before, but I can imagine that the flavor would be similar). It did, however, have a pepperiness that I enjoyed and a wonderful crunch. But if you’re looking for herbaceousness or garlic, this ain’t it.
7. Mt. Olive Kosher Dill Spears
This was one of the most well-balanced of the bunch, but there was nothing about the cuke that really stood out. It’s nostalgic — we love a Mt. Olive pickle — but other jars and tubs shined a little bit brighter. That’s all.
6. Vlasic Kosher Dill Spears
The signature crunch of a Vlasic makes this jar a pantry classic. It’s a larger spear that tasted more salty than tangy, which is great to quell any sudden hankerings for sodium. But it’s maybe not the best as a sandwich topper that is already laden with sodium-heavy cold cuts and condiments. Again, this pickle is not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but it simply didn’t stack up to its competition.
5. 365 Whole Foods Market Kosher Dill Spears
These were shockingly one of the most refreshing of the bunch. There was a subtle hint of garlic and a sort of lightness to each bite that made them an ideal pickle to snack on throughout the day. I really had no complaints other than I wish there was a slightly stronger depth of dill flavor.
4. Happy Belly Kosher Dill Spears Pickles
This was a pleasant surprise from Amazon with a very tart, vinegar-forward flavor that reminded me most of the neon green pickles I’d nosh on as a kid in restaurants. The only downside was that they weren’t crunchy, so if a somewhat soggy center is a deal breaker for you, then you’ll be quite disappointed and want to smash these against a nearby wall. A little dramatic, sure, but some of you demand pickle perfection.
3. Claussen Kosher Dill Spears
Claussen puts Vlasic’s salt presence to shame. It is absolutely the briniest of the lot, but salvaged by mustard seed and dried red peppers that offset a potential one-notedness. I really, really, really enjoyed these and think they’re entirely deserving of the fanfare and cult-like following (that I’m somewhat afraid of, TBH).
2. Dietz & Watson Kosher Pickle Spears
Introducing this week’s sleeper hit: Dietz & Watson. Sometimes bigger is better with these oversized spears that were heavy on size, garlic, dill, crunch and salt. In fact, they were so neck-and-neck with the winner that I gave myself 24 hours to rethink my decision. Ultimately, it came down to flavor boldness and what left a lasting impression. But Dietz & Watson makes a wonderful first alternate in case the winner doesn’t fulfill its pickle duties (i.e. when it’s sold out).
1. Grillo’s Pickles Fresh Pickle Spears
Rise and brine! Garlic-heavy, sour and full of crunch, Grillo’s took home top honors in this contest of the cucumbers with a pickle that excelled in practically every category. But for the love of all things holy, please come up with a different container. The plastic doesn’t close properly and spills everywhere. And while I freakin’ love a pickle, its juice is not something I’d like to become my signature scent. Thank you, kindly.