Do Homemade Pickled Eggs Need to Be Refrigerated?

By Maxine Wallace

A perishable food prone to spoilage, pickled eggs should always be refrigerated. Easy to make and a simple introductory pickling project, don't let fears of spoilage keep you from making these tasty treats. Enjoy pickled eggs on their own or add them to sandwiches for a tangy kick that brightens almost any meal.

Jar of pickled hardboiled eggs
credit: Jupiterimages/ Images
Pack a dozen eggs into a clean quart jar for pickling.

A Matter of pH

While most pickled products do not need to be refrigerated, pickled eggs are an exception and should be refrigerated at all times. Egg yolks usually have a pH of 6.8, which can allow for the growth of the deadly Clostridium botulinum bacteria when not fully acidified at the beginning of the pickling process. This bacteria produces the toxin that leads to botulism, a foodborne illness. Unable to grow at a pH lower than 4.6, the bacteria can reproduce under the right conditions in an egg yolk even if the pickling liquid is acidified well below a pH of 4.6.

Keeping Things Cool

When refrigerated below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the bacteria that causes botulism will not grow and reproduce. Eggs are perishable and whether pickled or not, they should be kept outside of the danger zone of 40 to 140 F, a temperature range where bacteria will reproduce rapidly. Bacterial spores are everywhere and you cannot stop them, but you can stop them from growing and reproducing by refrigerating your pickled eggs within two hours of making them.

Full Force Acidity

Along with refrigeration, it is important to acidify your pickled eggs correctly so they are less prone to spoilage. Use a 5 percent vinegar for all pickling projects to ensure it is strong enough to bring the overall pH well below 4.6 and keep your eggs safe. Do not water down the vinegar or boil it excessively, as it is important to have the correct strength vinegar to properly acidify the entire egg.

Refrigeration and Serving Tips

Most pickled egg recipes require that the eggs marinate in the pickling mixture for several days before eating. Place the pickled eggs near the back of your refrigerator where it is the coolest and the eggs can sit undisturbed while they marinate. Once they are ready to eat, remove pickled eggs using a clean utensil to prevent contamination in the remaining pickled eggs. Serve pickled eggs sliced or whole.