What Are Cornichons and How Are They Different from Gherkins?

You might think you’re a pickle pro, but do you know about cornichons? What are cornichons? Let’s talk about those tiny pickles so you can complete your PhD (pickle hotshot degree). 

How do you feel about pickles? For some, they are an unbeatable, low-calorie snack with intricate savory flavors. For others, they are wet, sour things that must be avoided at all costs. Once, a bartender in Cleveland decided to make my Martini with pickle juice instead of olive juice without telling me, but other than that, I’m fairly pickle neutral. Except when it comes to cornichons. I get really excited about cornichons. What are pickled cornichons? What do they taste like? Let’s unscrew the answer jar and find out. 

What is a cornichon?

While basically any vegetable can be pickled, when we talk about “pickles,” we’re generally referring to pickled cucumbers. So, the answer to the question, “what are cornichons?” is pretty simple: They’re very small pickles. That is to say, they’re a variety of small cucumbers that have been cured in brine and spices. 

How to pronounce cornichons correctly?

Now that you’ve seen the word “cornichon” a bunch of times, you might be wondering how exactly to pronounce it. If you haven’t brushed up on your French lately, this one might be a bit of a puzzler. But cornichon is pronounced like this: “core-knee-shon.” Got it? Ah, c’est magnifique!  

Are cornichons the same as gherkins?

Even if you have never had a cornichon, perhaps you’re familiar with another member of the small pickle family, the gherkin. What is a gherkin? It’s actually the name for a type of small cucumber used for pickling. To that end, all cornichons are in fact gherkins, but not all gherkins are cornichons.

To be a cornichon, a gherkin cannot be over a certain size—a “baby finger” as many sources colorfully describe it. It also typically has a different flavor profile than the gherkins you’d pick up at the grocery store; gherkins tend to be sweeter, while cornichons are more tart. Finally, we must acknowledge that cornichons sound much fancier, whereas the word “gherkin” is just silly. 

What do cornichons taste like?

If you’re wondering “are cornichons sweet like a bread and butter pickle pickle?” the answer is no. They’re seasoned with tarragon and pepper and are far more tart, even more so than a dill pickle, enough so that you might get a slight pucker upon first sampling one. Texture-wise, they have more of a snap than a standard pickle with a satisfying crunch when you bite down on them. 

Because of their strong flavor and small size, they are an ideal addition to a charcuterie plate. Their vinegary sourness is a great contrast to the heavy, salty flavors of meat and cheese, and even the green offsets the reds and yellows of the rest of the plate. 

Why not try some of these delicious delicacies the next time you’re putting together a picnic? They’re guaranteed to add a touch of Parisian sophistication to your meal. Unless, of course, you think pickles, no matter how small, are gross. 

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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