What on Earth are Cornichons?

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If the tart-flavoured pickle is your thing, we hope you have enjoyed cornichons that resemble dill pickles due to their colour, bumpiness and brininess. However, they are a tad different, not only in texture but also in taste. They are made with baby gherkins that are no bigger than 2 inches long.

A gherkin is a particular type of cucumber species that produce smaller fruit. These miniature cucumbers are pickled at a very young age. Cornichons are preserved in an airtight jar or tightly sealed container and sold under the name of gherkins in the UK, while it is labelled as cornichons in the US. This article will teach you everything you need to know about cornichon pickles.

What are Cornichons?

What are Cornichons

In most English-speaking countries, these small pickles are sold under their French name, but the English call them gherkins. So you may be wondering what are cornichons. They come from a few different types of gherkin plants that are generally small and picked when quite young. The most popular used varieties of cucumber used for cornichons are Parisienne cornichon de Bourbonne and fin de Meaux cucumber.

Gherkins have a striking resemblance to cucumbers, but they are not true cucumbers. They are close relative to the cucumber but have a bumpy exterior. They are one to two inches long, and their width is about the size of a child’s finger. The texture of this little cucumber cousin is crunchy, and the taste is tart and mildly sweet.

In French cooking, pickles do not have a huge part, but the crunchy bite of cornichons balances out pâté, cured meat and cheese. Moreover, terrines, charcuterie items and raclettes welcome this tiny crisp pickle with open arms. They are great on appetizer platters, added to salad and sandwiches and chopped up in classic deviled eggs.


While the roots of Cornichons run deep in France but they are not native to France. It was first discovered in India and then spread across Africa and Europe. Cornichons were primarily grown for pickling. After the 18th century, the French began to use these miniature cucumbers in their cuisine.

Once they found their way into French cooking, local people extensively cultivate them in gardens. They created new varieties of this small fruit after its integration into French cuisine.

 In the late 1800s, they were first introduced to America, where people call them cornichons. Today in France, they are found in pickled form. You can even find them fresh in some selected local markets to use them in French cuisines.

Cornichons are available throughout Europe and are especially popular in Germany, UK and Ireland. They are found in limited quantities outside of Europe, such as in Asia, Africa and North America.

Quick Facts

  • Family: Cucurbitaceae 
  • Key component: Cucumber
  • Size: 2 to 7 centimetres in length
  • Texture: Bumpier 
  • Taste: Sweet and tart
  • Availability: Summer through the fall.
  • Nutritional value: Contains vitamin C, potassium, iron, magnesium, folate, and phosphorus.
  • Pair well: Salads, steak tartare, cured ham
  • How to store: In Refrigerator

Uses for Cornichons

Cornichons come in the pickled form, and they are a charcuterie platter essential. This finger food is used as a garnish, eaten plain, incorporated nicely with the mixed olives, and added to sandwiches due to its mildly sweet and tart flavour. This tiny pickle is also a great addition to any buffet setting.

You can enjoy its tart flavour more when it is contrasted with a mild or sharp cheese like Gruyere and Raclette. Many recipes call chopped cornichons like steak tartare and beef stroganoff. It also goes very well with potato salad and egg salad.

Pork dishes like pork chops, potted pork and pork loin with Dijon mustard sauce are complemented with cornichons. This small tart pickle is also used to make charcuterie sauce that adds so many to pork and other meats.

It is a classic French sauce made with white wine, chopped cornichons, onions and mustard, then simmered in vinegar and basic demi-glace. You can serve cornichons as a relish plate item and sprinkle them on the buttered toast. In short, you can use them as any other pickle.

Here is an overview of the uses of cornichons:

Sauces: Cornichons are the key ingredient of many sauces like charcuterie sauce, rémoulade sauce, and tartar sauce. 

Main dishes: This tiny pickle also has its place in some regional dishes, such as southern deviled eggs. You will also find it featured in a juicy rib-eye steak salad.

Culinary specialities use: Cornichons are also used to make German culinary specialities delights such as German Pasta salad and German beef roulade. No typical grill party or potluck party is complete without this delicious salad that consists of German bologna, elbow pasta, Gouda cheese, peas, boiled eggs, cornichons, noodles, and sausages dressed in mayonnaise.

German beef roulade is a mouthwateringly delicious German dish featuring thin and long slices of beef slathered with mustard and filled with a mixture of cornichons, onions and bacon.

What do Cornichons taste like?

These bumpy and crunchy cucumbers offer varying flavours that depend on the time required for the fermentation process, the type of brine used and the herbs and spices used. Cornichons are typically seasoned with spices and herbs like pepper and dill. Other additional ingredients include onions, sugar, salt and mustard seeds.

They are tart and sweet in taste, and their flavour is generally briny and less salty than dill pickles. The commercial cornichons also taste tart due to the solution used to pickle them. For instance, the most famous French brand Maille, includes salt, spices, and spirit vinegar in their pickle solution. Most people are familiar with it as a gustatory treat. They also benefit from the addition of dill, white onions, bay leaves, cloves and other aromatics.

Where to buy it?

Cornichon pickles can be found with pickle and pickled condiments in local markets, speciality food shops and grocery stores. You might also find these flavorful crispy cucumbers at the olive bar if your supermarket or grocery store offers one.

If you are unable to find them at your nearest grocery store, you can order them online. There are various popular brands that produce cornichons in the United Kingdom, such as Maille UK. You can also order top-quality cornichons from Tesco and Amazon UK.

If you don’t love online shopping or are unable to find them at the nearest market, you can make them at home. Take some tiny cucumbers (2 inches long is best) and pickle them in pickled brine of white vinegar, salt, herbs and spices. They will take around one to two months to be pickled.

What is the best substitute for cornichons?

Despite being small in size, this finger-sized cucumber pickle comes with a hefty price tag. If you are looking for its substitutes to add tanginess to your next meal, dill gherkins are one of the best substitutes for cornichons. It is a type of pickled cucumber that is very small in size and crunchy than other cucumber varieties.

 It offers a distinctive tangy flavour as it is pickled in brine or vinegar. Like cornichons, dill gherkins also contain spices and herbs like peppercorns, garlic and dill. They are good to eat with almost everything– enjoyed as a part of a cheeseboard, eaten plain, chopped them up and added to the tartare sauce and briny accessory to homemade burgers.

Storing Cornichons

Pickles such as cornichons, once opened, can stay fresh in the fridge for many months. An unopened jar of cornichons has a good shelf life and lasts for up to 12 months.

Processed pickles are usually stored in dry, cool and dark places. So store the jar of cornichons in the fridge. However, an unopened jar of pickles can be stored in the pantry or in the fridge. To prevent cross-contamination, keep it away from meat.

You should preserve no more than you and your family consume in a year for the best nutritive value and quality. Once opened, cornichon will stay fresh for the same length of time as long as it is stored in the fridge in an airtight jar.

It is important to remember that pluck the cornichons from the jar with a clean stainless steel pickle picker or fork rather than your fingers. This practice will minimize the amount of bad bacteria that goes with every snack. To keep it fresh and live long, it is advised to use nature-friendly material to store cornichons like glass. Airtight glass jars have been a popular choice over the years.


Gherkins vs. Cornichons

Most people confuse gherkins with cornichons. The only difference between these two is where you live. In the UK, people call them gherkins, while they are known as cornichons in the USA as they are sold there under their French name, cornichons. Here’s the gherkin vs. cornichons overview: 

  • Cornichons are little green pickles made with mini gherkin. This tiny cucumber is tasty finger food that can be enjoyed with beef, pork, smoked fish and cheese.
  • A gherkin is a baby cucumber that is one to 2 inches in length. It is usually prepared in vinegar and brine and left to ferment for some time. This miniature cucumber can be enjoyed in burgers and used as a condiment vegetable. 
Andy Canter


Ever since I started cooking I’ve been fascinated by how different people’s techniques are and how they best utilise the ingredients around them. Even the person living next door will have their own unique way of frying an egg or cooking a salmon fillet.

This fascination led me on a journey across the globe to discover the countless practices and traditions the world of cooking has to offer. I thought you’d enjoy and find value in sharing that journey with me so I created Cooked Best!