How to Pickle Onions

Want to know how to pickle onions? You’re in the right place! It’s way easier than you think, much more delicious and tender than shop bought and (bonus) also makes a beautiful homemade gift! Just like my pickled beetroot, I guarantee you’re not going to want a fridge without these glistening jewels of deliciousness!

A jar of pickled onions with a fork inside on a white mottled background with a green linen napkin, cinnamon sticks and another jar

What makes these pickled onions different to all the others? Well, the carefully selected extra ingredients and spices make these pickled onions a delightful Asian twist on a British classic.

A jar of pickled onions with a fork inside on a white mottled background with a green linen napkin and cinnamon sticks

You can of course leave them all out and just pickle them traditionally in vinegar and sugar, but I implore you to give the recipe a go exactly as is. They’re the kind of pickled onions that make you say WOW. 

Pickled onions on a white plate with a wedge of pecorino cheese and a cinnamon stick laid on a white mottled background with a fork

The kind of pickled onions that sit perfectly on any buffet table, on any cheese board or inside any sandwich. Where everyone will be asking you where you got them from and if they can have the recipe!

A jar of pickled onions on top of a green linen napkin

Are pickled onions bad for you?

Yes and no. In truth, just like most things, they should be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy, well balanced diet. Onions themselves are considered to be a healthy vegetable, but the vinegar and sugar they’re pickled in aren’t so good for you. 

Pickled onions on a white plate with a wedge of pecorino cheese and a cinnamon stick laid on a white mottled background

Why do pickled onions go soft?

If you soak any food in liquid over a period of time, it will become soft. This is because it absorbs the liquid and consequently, the flavours. 

A jar of pickled onions with a fork inside on a white mottled background with a green linen napkin and cinnamon sticks

How long do you soak onions in vinegar?

It depends what you want out of them. If you like your onions to have a more subtle flavour, it’s fine to eat them after 24 hours. However, if you like the flavour to be absorbed right through the onion and not just on the outer layers, I’d give it at least a week before opening them.

Pickled onions on a white plate with a wedge of pecorino cheese and a cinnamon stick laid on a white mottled background

What do you use pickled onions for?

You can use pickled onions in all sorts of ways!

  1. Slice and have them in a sandwich
  2. Add to potato salads (or any rich creamy sauce)
  3. Enjoy with your cheese board
  4. Add to a buffet table
  5. Perfect addition in salads
  6. Top tacos or burritos with them
  7. Add to pasta meals or pasta salads

 

What’s your favourite way to enjoy pickled onions?

A jar of pickled onions with a fork inside on a white mottled background with a green linen napkin, cinnamon sticks and another jar

What is the easiest way to peel pickling onions?

First trim them by cutting off the top and bottom (the tunic and root) then gently score the top layer from top to bottom with a knife. You should then be able to easily peel off the dry outer layer.

A jar of pickled onions with a fork inside on a white mottled background with a green linen napkin and cinnamon sticks

Ingredients

Here’s everything you need to know about the ingredients required to pickle onions in this recipe.

  • Onions – The type depends on the time of year. You could use pickling onions, shallots or baby onions. No more than 1″ in diameter.
  • Chilli – I use a standard red chilli pepper but, if you like a little heat, by all means, go hotter!
  • Ginger – Fresh root ginger is best here but you could use pickled if you needed to.
  • Vinegar – White wine vinegar is my favourite, you could also use apple cider vinegar.
  • Sugar – Caster (superfine) sugar is best as it’s a small grain and dissolves quickly.
  • Cinnamon – I use whole cinnamon sticks which are readily available in most supermarkets nowadays.
  • Chinese 5 Spice – It is what it is and it adds a great deal of flavour! Don’t skip it and don’t substitute it!

 

A jar of pickled onions with a fork in it, on top of a green linen napkin

How do you make pickled onions from scratch?

It really is much easier than you think!

  1. Trim and peel the onions.
  2. Put them in a pan with all the other ingredients.
  3. Bring to the boil.
  4. Meanwhile, sterilise your jar(s).
  5. Pour the onions and pickling liquid into into your hot sterilised jars.
  6. Seal and allow to sit for a minimum of 24 hours before eating.

 

Pickled onions on a white plate with a wedge of pecorino cheese and a cinnamon stick laid on a white mottled background

How long before you can eat pickled onions?

You can eat pickled onions as early as 24 hours after making them. However, I would recommend leaving them in the jar for at least a week to allow the flavours to properly develop and permeate the onions.

A jar of pickled onions with a fork inside on a white mottled background with a green linen napkin, cinnamon sticks and another jar

Recipe tips

Still unsure about how to make pickled onions? Here’s a few tips that might help…

  • Read through the whole recipe before you begin so you know what’s coming!
  • Prepare all your ingredients before starting so you’re ready to go.
  • Make sure you use small onions that are no bigger than 1″ in diameter.
  • Don’t have a 1 litre jar? Divide it between two 500ml jars instead. You may need another cinnamon stick though as they don’t halve that easily!
  • Ensure you sterilise your jars properly before filling them or your onions may go bad.
  • Don’t forget to remove any rubber seals when sterilising your jars. They will melt and that stinks! (In more ways than one…)
  • Check your onions are completely covered in the pickling liquid before you seal them.
  • Leave your pickled onions to sit for at least a week to allow the flavours to develop and penetrate the onions.

 

Pickled onions on a white plate with a wedge of pecorino cheese and a cinnamon stick laid on a white mottled background with a fork

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A jar of pickled onions with a fork inside on a white mottled background with a green linen napkin and cinnamon sticks

How to Pickle Onions

Here is what you will need to make a 1 litre jar (or 2 x 500ml)

(For a printer friendly version, see the recipe card at the end of this post)

  • Approx 30 x small pickling onions *
  • 1 x Red Chilli, deseeded and finely diced
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Ginger, peeled and finely diced
  • 300 – 400 ml (1 + 1/4 Cups – 1 + 2/3 Cup) White Wine Vinegar
  • 90g (3/4 Cup) Caster/Superfine Sugar
  • 1 x Small Stick of Cinnamon #
  • 1 tsp Chinese 5 Spice

 

Essential Equipment

  • Chopping Board
  • Sharp Knife
  • Large Saucepan
  • 1 x 1 Litre Jar (or 2 x 500 ml Jars)
  • Baking Tray

 

 

*you can also use baby onions or shallots as long as they are no bigger than 1″ in diameter

#if you are using two 500ml jars, you may need 2 x cinnamon sticks

 

Variation: If you’d rather make more traditional pickled onions, omit the chilli, ginger, cinnamon and Chinese 5 spice.

 

First and foremost, preheat your oven to 190ºC/fan 180ºC/374ºF.

Then on a chopping board using a sharp knife, trim and peel the onions (approx x 30) and place them into a large saucepan.

Peeled and trimmed baby shallots in a large saucepan

Meanwhile, wash your 1 litre jar (or 2 x 500 ml jars) in hot soapy water and dry it (them). Place it (them) onto a baking tray and place into the preheated oven for 20 minutes to sterilise. You will want to try and time this with finishing preparing the onions as the jar(s) need to be hot when adding them.

Two clean jars in a baking tray ready to be sterilised in the oven

Now add the red chilli (1 x deseeded and finely diced), fresh ginger (1 tbsp peeled and finely diced), white wine vinegar (300 – 400 ml | 1 + 1/4 Cups – 1 + 2/3 Cup), caster/superfine sugar (90g | 3/4 Cup), cinnamon stick (1 x for 1 litre jar | 2 x for two 500 ml jars) and Chinese 5 spice (1 tsp) to the saucepan with the onions.

Peeled and trimmed baby shallots in a large saucepan with white wine vinegar, sugar, chilli, chinese 5 spice, ginger and cinnamon.

Place the saucepan over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Stir gently every now and then.

Peeled and trimmed baby shallots in a large saucepan on the stove with white wine vinegar, sugar, chilli, chinese 5 spice, ginger and cinnamon.

Peeled and trimmed baby shallots in a large saucepan simmering on the stove with white wine vinegar, sugar, chilli, chinese 5 spice, ginger and cinnamon.

Your jars should be sterilised by now so remove them from the oven and, if your jar(s) require it, carefully put the seals on.

Two hot jars on a heat proof mat with the seals on

Then carefully put the onions, along with the pickling juice and spices etc, into the jar(s). Make sure the liquid covers all of the onions.

Two jars filled with onions and a spiced pickling liquid on a heat proof mat

While the jar(s) and onions are still hot (this is important or they may not seal properly), seal the lids.

Two sealed jars filled with onions and a spiced pickling liquid on a heat proof mat

Allow them to cool completely at room temperature. You can eat them in 24 hours but, if you really want the flavours to develop and permeate the onions, allow them to sit undisturbed for at least 1 week.

A jar of pickled onions with a fork inside on a white mottled background with a green linen napkin and cinnamon sticks

How to store pickled onions

When sealed, pickled onions will last up to a year (sometimes more) when stored in a cool dark place. Once you’ve opened your onions, store them in the fridge and consume within 4-6 weeks.

A jar of pickled onions with a fork inside on a white mottled background with a green linen napkin and cinnamon sticks

 

Have you made this recipe?

Have you made these gorgeous pickled onions? I’d love to know if you have! Send me your pics, comments and questions on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram or email me at emma@kitchenmason.com.

Pickled onions on a white plate with a wedge of pecorino cheese and a cinnamon stick laid on a white mottled background with a fork

 

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A jar of pickled onions with a fork inside on a white mottled background with a green linen napkin and cinnamon sticks

A jar of pickled onions with a fork inside on a white mottled background

A jar of pickled onions with a fork inside on a white mottled background with a green linen napkin and cinnamon sticks

How to Pickle Onions

Yield: 1 x 1 Litre Jar
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Learn how to pickle onions with this easy step by step recipe! Oooh they're like little glistening jewels of deliciousness...

Ingredients

  • Approx 30 x small pickling onions *
  • 1 x Red Chilli, deseeded and finely diced
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Ginger, peeled and finely diced
  • 300 – 400 ml (1 + 1/4 Cups – 1 + 2/3 Cup) White Wine Vinegar
  • 90g (3/4 Cup) Caster/Superfine Sugar
  • 1 x Small Stick of Cinnamon #
  • 1 tsp Chinese 5 Spice

Essential Equipment

  • Chopping Board
  • Sharp Knife
  • 1 x 1 Litre Jar (or 2 x 500 ml Jars), washed and dried
  • Baking Tray
  • Large Saucepan

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 190ºC/fan 180ºC/374ºF.
  2. Trim and peel the onions on a chopping board with a sharp knife.
  3. Place your jar(s) on a baking tray and pop into the oven for 20 mins to sterilise. (Don't forget to remove any rubber seals or they will melt!)
  4. Meanwhile, place the onions and all remaining ingredients into a large saucepan set over a medium heat.
  5. Bring it up to the boil, gently stirring occasionally. Keep hot until the jars are sterilised.
  6. Once the jars are ready, carefully replace the seals.
  7. Decant the onions (including the pickling juice and spices) into your jar(s) and seal while still hot.
  8. Cool at room temperature. Store unopened pickled onions in a cool dark place for up to 1 year. Once opened, keep in the fridge and consume within 4-6 weeks.

Notes

*you can also use baby onions or shallots as long as they are no bigger than 1″ in diameter
#if you are using two 500ml jars, you may need 2 x cinnamon sticks

Variation: If you’d rather make more traditional pickled onions, omit the chilli, ginger, cinnamon and Chinese 5 spice.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 105Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 199mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 1gSugar: 10gProtein: 4g

Nutritional information on kitchenmason.com should only be used as a general guideline, I am not a certified nutritionist. Please always check labels for allergens where applicable.

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2 thoughts on “How to Pickle Onions”

  1. Try them with Fish and Chips and mushy peas. The best!

    1. Emma says:

      Ooooh that’s a great idea Craig, thanks! Emma x

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Hi, I’m Emma. Let me help you impress with delicious dishes using my easy recipes, step by step pics, tips & videos.