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Gherkin vs. Cornichon: What's the Difference?

By Aimie Carlson & Harlon Moss || Updated on March 4, 2024
Gherkin refers to any small cucumber used for pickling, while cornichon is a specific type of tart, pickled gherkin traditionally used in French cuisine.

Key Differences

Gherkins and cornichons are both small cucumbers, but their distinctions lie in their taste, preparation, and culinary uses. Gherkins, a term broadly applied, can refer to any young cucumber suitable for pickling. Cornichons, on the other hand, are a specific type of gherkin that is picked when very small and pickled in a brine with vinegar, tarragon, cloves, and often small pearl onions, giving them a distinctively tart and slightly spicy flavor.
While all cornichons are gherkins, not all gherkins are cornichons. The term "gherkin" can encompass a wider variety of pickled cucumbers, including those used in American and British cuisines, which are often sweeter due to the addition of sugar in the pickling process. Cornichons are specifically known for their crisp texture and sharp, vinegary bite, making them uniquely suited to complementing rich and fatty foods.
In terms of culinary applications, gherkins are versatile and can be used in sandwiches, burgers, salads, and as relish. Cornichons, with their sharp flavor, are particularly good at cutting through the richness of meats, terrines, and cheeses, enhancing the flavors of the dish without overwhelming it.

Comparison Chart


Any small cucumber used for pickling
A specific type of small, tart pickled cucumber


Can vary from sweet to tangy
Distinctively tart and slightly spicy

Pickling Ingredients

Vinegar, sugar, spices
Vinegar, tarragon, cloves, pearl onions

Culinary Uses

Sandwiches, burgers, salads, relish
Pâtés, charcuterie, tartare





Gherkin and Cornichon Definitions


Versatile in use, from relishes to snacks.
Gherkins are a must-have in my picnic basket.


A tart, pickled cucumber used in French cuisine.
Cornichons add a nice tang to the charcuterie board.


Common in American and British pickles.
Bread and butter pickles are a type of sweet gherkin popular in the US.


Characteristically small and crisp.
The crispness of cornichons is unmatched in the pickle world.


Used in a wide range of dishes.
Chopped gherkins add a zesty flavor to potato salad.


Served with rich, fatty foods.
Cornichons are the perfect accompaniment to pâté.


A small cucumber, especially one used for pickling.


Pickled with tarragon and cloves for a unique flavor.
The subtle hint of tarragon in these cornichons is delightful.


A pickle made from such a fruit.


Known for their sharp, vinegary bite.
The sharpness of cornichons cuts through the richness of the cheese perfectly.


A vine (Cucumis anguria) native to Africa and widely cultivated especially in the West Indies, having prickly fruit often harvested when immature for pickling.


A crisp, sour pickle made from a small cucumber.


The fruit of this plant.


A dill-pickled gherkin cucumber.


A small cucumber, often pickled whole.


A French-style pickled miniature cucumber.


A kind of small, prickly cucumber, much used for pickles.


Any of various small cucumbers pickled whole


Small prickly cucumber


A small pickled cucumber, varying in flavor.
I added sliced gherkins to my sandwich for an extra crunch.


Sweet or tangy based on pickling ingredients.
These homemade gherkins have a perfect balance of sweet and tangy.


Are cornichons only used in French cooking?

While cornichons are a staple in French cuisine, their popularity has spread, and they are used in various culinary traditions worldwide.

Why are cornichons more expensive than other pickles?

Cornichons can be more expensive due to their meticulous cultivation, smaller size requiring more labor-intensive harvesting, and their importation from Europe, especially for authentic French varieties.

How are gherkins different from regular cucumbers?

Gherkins are smaller, have a bumpier texture, and are specifically cultivated for pickling, whereas regular cucumbers are larger and eaten fresh.

How long do gherkins and cornichons last once opened?

Once opened, both gherkins and cornichons should be stored in the refrigerator and can last for several months if kept submerged in their brine.

What is the difference in the pickling process between gherkins and cornichons?

The main difference lies in the spices and herbs used; cornichons often include tarragon and cloves in their brine, giving them their distinctive French flavor, while gherkins can be pickled with a variety of spices, including dill, garlic, and mustard seeds.

Can I substitute gherkins for cornichons in recipes?

Yes, you can substitute gherkins for cornichons, but keep in mind the flavor difference; gherkins are often sweeter than the tart cornichons.

Do gherkins and cornichons have any health benefits?

Both gherkins and cornichons are low in calories and fat, and the vinegar in the pickling solution can have probiotic benefits, though the sodium content should be consumed in moderation.

What makes a pickle a gherkin?

A pickle is considered a gherkin if it is made from a small cucumber specifically grown for pickling.

What's the best way to serve cornichons?

Cornichons are best served cold as a crunchy, tangy counterpoint to rich meats, cheeses, or as part of an appetizer platter.

How do I choose the best gherkins or cornichons for pickling?

Look for firm, small cucumbers with no soft spots or blemishes, and choose varieties specifically recommended for pickling for the best results.

Can gherkins or cornichons be used in weight loss diets?

Yes, both can be a low-calorie, flavorful addition to a weight loss diet, but their high sodium content means they should be consumed in moderation.

Can I make cornichons at home?

Yes, making cornichons at home is possible by pickling small cucumbers in a vinegar brine with traditional spices like tarragon and cloves.

Is there a nutritional difference between gherkins and cornichons?

Nutritionally, both are low in calories and provide some dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but the specific pickling process and ingredients can affect their sodium and sugar content.

How can I reduce the sodium content in store-bought gherkins or cornichons?

Rinsing them under cold water before consuming can help reduce their sodium content, though this may also lessen their flavor.

Can diabetics safely consume gherkins or cornichons?

Diabetics can consume them as part of a balanced diet, but should be cautious of the sugar content in sweetened gherkins and monitor their overall sodium intake.

Are there any allergens in gherkins or cornichons I should be aware of?

While cucumbers themselves are not common allergens, the spices, herbs, and vinegar used in pickling could trigger allergies in sensitive individuals, so it's important to check the ingredients if you have food sensitivities.

What's the environmental impact of growing cucumbers for gherkins and cornichons?

Cucumber cultivation for gherkins and cornichons can have environmental impacts like any agriculture, including water use and pesticide runoff, but choosing organic or sustainably farmed cucumbers can mitigate some of these effects.

Do gherkins or cornichons need to be refrigerated after opening?

Yes, to maintain their crispness and prevent spoilage, they should be stored in the refrigerator after opening.

Can I pickle other vegetables using the same brine as for cornichons?

Yes, the brine used for cornichons can be used to pickle other vegetables, like carrots or onions, giving them a similar tart flavor.

What are some creative ways to use gherkins or cornichons in cooking?

Beyond serving them as accompaniments, you can chop them into tartar sauce, slice them into sandwiches or salads, or even use them as a garnish for cocktails like Bloody Marys for an extra flavor kick.
About Author
Written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.
Co-written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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