How to cook with leftover brine

Pickled peppers in the fridge

Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Support Styling by Claire Spollen

If you’re about to clean out your fridge, stop: there are flavor bombs you can throw away. where? Head over to the shelf where you keep packaged goods like capers and olives, and take a break. Right there, in those little glass jars, is liquid gold, which deserves as much attention as the ingredients it houses. Whether it’s included in a marinade or added to a sandwich spread, the tartness and salty flavor of brine is an easy way to instantly boost whatever you’re cooking. Adding acid to a dish can help balance rich ingredients, as well as brighten the taste (like when you squeeze a lemon over fried seafood). Salt not only adds salty depth, but it can also enhance other flavors in the dish, like when you add salt to chocolate to intensify the taste and contrast the sweetness. Brine brings all these elements together in one package.

Another bonus: By choosing to reuse bottled brine, you’re also helping to reduce waste in your kitchen. So cooking with it is pretty much a win-win situation. If you need a road map to get started, here we’ve put together a collection of recipes, organized by type of brine, that offer different ways to cook with brine. Take a look and start experimenting. Once you rummage through your fridge to see what brines you have and play around with different combinations, your new favorite marinade or dressing may just be a few ingredients away.

If you have olive brine…

Olive brine marinated pork recipe with roasted olives and beans

Olive brine marinated pork recipe with roasted olives and beans

John Kernick

You can use olive brine (and many of the other brines on this list) to marinate proteins, like in this recipe for Olive Brined Pork with Olives and Roasted Beans, where it’s combined with extra virgin olive oil , ground sage, lemon. zest, and salt. Or, use the brine, plus a little oil from a jar of Calabrian chiles, to add a kick to the braising liquid of this citrus and fennel chicken. For an upscale appetizer, these deviled eggs with caviar are the way to go. The liquid from a jar of pepper-stuffed green olives seeps into the creamy yolk filling, giving it a nice kick, and the savory flavor beautifully complements the dollop of caviar that crowns each egg.

If you have pickle brine…

Easy Fried Chicken Recipe

Easy Fried Chicken Recipe

Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners

If you have brine and pickled chicken, you’re in luck—we have several fried chicken recipes that call for pickle brine in the marinade. In this pickled fried chicken recipe, we found that adding it to a classic buttermilk marinade gives the chicken flavor and a subtle sweetness. It also contributes to these juicy and crunchy Super Crispy Fried Chicken Sandwiches. But you don’t have to limit yourself to meat. If you have a jar of dill pickles, use the juice to give slabs of extra-firm tofu a quick soak, like in this recipe for a crispy fried tofu sandwich.

If you have caper brine…

Really dirty martinis

Really dirty martinis

Charissa Fay

Caper brine is one of the many ingredients included in our chicken a la Marbella recipe. It is added to the chicken thighs along with Castelvetrano olives, prunes, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried apricots and more to marinate the chicken thighs while they sit overnight in the fridge. Fancy a drink? Try these Seriously Dirty Martinis. Dirty martinis are known for their inclusion of olive brine or olive juice, but this recipe takes it a step further and uses olive juice month caper brine Martinis are finished with a dash of black pepper and make an elegant drink for entertaining.

If you prefer a seafood recipe, this Salmon Coulibiac with Pickled Beetroot and Kale, a stunning holiday centerpiece, uses the tartness of the caper brine to brighten the rich, creamy creme fraiche sauce. And speaking of sauce, this Rib-Eye Steak au Poivre also uses a touch of caper brine in its sauce.

If you have pickled pepper brine…

Roasted broccoli with pickled pepper vinaigrette

Roasted broccoli with pickled pepper vinaigrette

Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Support Styling by Claire Spollen

Pickled pepperoncini and some of their brine play an important role in our spin on Philadelphia roast pork sandwiches, the buns of which are slathered with mayonnaise mixed with the peppers, brine and grated garlic. Brine is a great way to gently add heat to mayonnaise. You can also use pickled pepper brine in a vinaigrette for this pan-roasted broccoli, either from this refrigerator pickled peppers recipe or store-bought pickled peppers.

If you have feta brine…

Chicken sandwiches with feta

Chicken sandwiches with feta

© John Kernick

The simple combination of salty feta brine and hot sauce – that’s it! – gives chicken ribs a wonderful, tangy flavor after just 30 minutes of soaking in the fridge in these feta-brined chicken sandwiches. Feta is also used, whipped with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice to form a soft sandwich.

If you have ramp brine in vinegar…

Pickled ramps

Pickled ramps

Photo by Huge Galdones / Food Styling by Christina Zerkis

If you pickled ramps in the spring, here’s a bonus: Not only did you preserve a famously short-lived ingredient, but you also created a flavorful, tangy brine in the process. Use this brine to make a delicious vinaigrette for an Heirloom Tomato Salad, a summer dish that would be right at home in the kitchen and al fresco dinners. (And if you want to make your own pickled ramps, we’ve got a recipe for that, too.)

If you have Giardiniera brine…

Vegetarian muffulettas recipe

Vegetarian muffulettas recipe

Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners

Say hello to these vegetarian Muffulettas! Instead of traditional sausages, this sandwich features garlic-roasted vegetables, provolone cheese, and a tangy olive relish. The taste is where the giardiniera and its brine come in: they combine with capers, Castelvetrano olives and garlic cloves (plus oil in which they were cooked) to make a flavorful sandwich. The seasoning can also be used as a topping for grilled or roasted fish, or in a bean or pasta salad.

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