How to Make Pickled Onions (2022)

Pickled onions are absolutely delicious and incredibly versatile. They’re perfect on sandwiches, salads, burgers, and just about anywhere you’d like the savory taste of onion balanced with tangy vinegar.

How to Make Pickled Onions (1)

Pickled onions are a staple of fancy burger bars and upscale restaurants, adding zip to an otherwise everyday sandwich and balancing out the richness on a charcuterie plate. Believe it or not, they’re incredibly easy to make at home with just a few everyday pantry staples ingredients.

They’re incredibly versatile and can be made with all manner of seasonings to suit your tastes, provided you follow a few basic rules, ensuring there’s enough vinegar for a proper pickle.

I’ll take you through four different recipes for pickled onions, all of which are staples in my house.

  • Classic Pickled Red Onions, which are as beautiful as they are tasty.
  • Bread and Butter Pickled Onions, perfect for burgers and summer cookouts.
  • Pickled Pearl Onions, for cocktails and charcuterie plates, these have a bit of heat.
  • Lime Pickled Onions, made with fresh lime juice, perfect for complementing both Mexican and Indian dishes.

Each of these recipes can be made as quick refrigerator pickles, and all but the lime pickled onions are approved for home canning as well.

How to Make Pickled Onions (2)

Pickled Onion Recipes

The success of homemade pickled onions largely depends on the brine. A basic pickling brine for making pickled onions contains vinegar, salt, sugar, and any spices you might want to add. There are some key ratios to keep in mind, but beyond that, there’s an incredible amount of flexibility in these pickled onion recipes.

To make a proper “pickle,” the brine must be at least half vinegar (5% acidity). The other half of the liquid is usually water, but it can be other flavorful liquids like wine or juice, or even just more vinegar for a bit more sour tang in the finished pickled onions.

The ratio you prefer is entirely based on personal preference, anywhere from 1 part vinegar to 1 part water, all the way up to just vinegar alone.

A brine made with a 1:1 ratio of vinegar to water is perfect for kids or anyone who doesn’t like their pickled onions too tangy. I love super-tangy pickles so I use more vinegar (for example, 1 1/2 cups of vinegar and 1/2 cup water).

You can also add ingredients like sliced jalapeño peppers, ginger, or horseradish to really kick the flavor up a notch. If you’re planning on canning your pickles, you’ll want to make sure you’re working with a brine that’s at least 50 percent vinegar.

You can also play around with the salt and sugar quantities. Some pickles, like my recipe for bread and butter pickled onions, call for more sugar. Don’t worry about too-sweet pickles, the sugar is mixed with undiluted white vinegar which keeps the pickles zippy and full of that signature bread and butter flavor.

A basic starter brine, which makes enough to fill one 1-quart jar or two 1-pint jars, looks like this:

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • A few teaspoons of spices (depending on the brine you’re making)

When making pickled onions, the brine is heated until very hot or boiling and then poured over the dry spices and chopped onions (or whole onions, if using pearl or pickling onions). At this point, the jars can be stored in the fridge as refrigerator pickles for a month or two, or they can be canned and stored as shelf-stable pickles.

Whether you make refrigerator pickles or canned pickles, give them at least 2 to 3 days to marinate before eating — the small wait is definitely worth it.

(Video) How to Make Homemade Pickled Red Onions | SAM THE COOKING GUY

I’ve included three recipes for vinegar pickled onions, and one unique recipe for lime pickled onions that don’t follow the rules.

With the lime pickled onions, they’re ready in about an hour and are best consumed fresh. Don’t attempt to preserve lime pickled onions using the canning method, the fresh lime juice flavor is lost and the texture of the red onion rapidly becomes slimy.

Pickled Red Onions

These pickled onions are an old school standby; great for piling onto burgers, adding to a peppery arugula salad, or serving with grilled or roasted fish. Apple cider vinegar gives the pickles a mild fruity sweetness and helps blunt some of (but not all) the heat from the sliced red onions.

I like to give these pickled red onions as gifts when I make a batch; they have a wide enough range of culinary uses that they appeal to a large audience (not to mention, the pretty pink color is just so darn pretty).

To make a quart, start with 4 cups sliced red onions, then pack into the jar and pour boiling brine over the top. My brine includes:

  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. pickling salt
  • 1 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Adjust the spices/sugar/salt to your tastes, but make sure the brine is at least half vinegar.

How to Make Pickled Onions (3)

Bread and Butter Pickled Onions

You can use almost any type of old white or yellow onion in this recipe for bread and butter pickled onions, the turmeric-tinged brine transforms even the hottest onions into a sweet and tangy pickle. Unlike bread and butter pickled cucumbers, which tend to lose some of their crisp texture over time, these pickled onions stay crunchy indefinitely.

These pickled onions are immensely satisfying on burgers, roast beef sandwiches, and grilled sausages (preferably on a bun, for the full ballpark experience).

The brine for bread and butter pickled onions is almost the same as in my recipe for Bread and Butter Pickles. My recipe calls for a good bit of sugar, but the addition of undiluted vinegar and spices yields a perfectly tangy and not-too-sweet finished product.

Start with 4 cups of sliced white or yellow onions in a quart jar, and then pour boiling brine over the top, made from these ingredients:

  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. pickling or canning salt
  • 1 Tbsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric

Some people like their bread and butter pickles sweeter than this, so feel free to increase the sugar if you like (or decrease it, either way).

How to Make Pickled Onions (4)

Bread and Butter Pickled Onions

Pickled Pearl Onions

These pickled pearl onions are infused with heat from horseradish and spicy peppers. Despite their small size, they pack a punch in cocktails (try these onions the next time you’re in the mood for a Gibson) and a small bowl of pickled pearl onions is never remiss on a cheese and charcuterie platter.

(Video) Why I always have Pickled Onions in my fridge.

This recipe calls for peeled pearl onions, but don’t let that deter you from trying this pickle recipe out for yourself.

The most efficient way to peel these tiny onions is to blanch them in a big pot of boiling water until the skins loosen (about 3 to 7 minutes). Drain the onions and plunge them into a bowl full of ice-cold water and let sit for a minute before draining and peeling — the skins should slip right off.

Note you’ll need a bit more brine to make pickled pearl onions, as they don’t pack as tightly in the jar as sliced onions. To make the bring, bring the following ingredients to a boil:

  • 2 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pickling or canning salt
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 or 2 tsp. prepared horseradish
  • 1 small red chili peppers, such as cayenne, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 bay leaf

Feel free to skip any of the spices that don’t suit your tastes, though the heat from both the horseradish and the hot peppers really makes these special.

How to Make Pickled Onions (5)

Lime-Pickled Onions

Undeniably magenta and unbelievably delicious, lime-pickled onions are made with only three ingredients: red onions, lime juice, and salt. I use these easy refrigerator pickles on everything (well, almost), but especially enjoy them when they’re piled onto a taco or a plate of pulled pork.

I don’t recommend canning lime-pickled onions, they’ll lose that fresh lime flavor and the texture will deteriorate quickly. Beyond that, there’s just not enough acidity or liquid in this recipe to can safely, so don’t try it. Make these fresh, and enjoy them for the bright citrus and savory onion flavors they add right out of the fridge.

This recipe yields a relatively small batch that can be stored in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks.

For lime pickled onions, you’ll need:

  • 4 cups red onion, sliced
  • 6 Tbsp. lime juice (from around 3 limes)
  • 1 tsp. salt

These are for quick refrigerator pickles only, not for home canning.

How to Make Pickled Onions (6)

Canning Pickled Onions

Once you’ve mixed the onions, spices, and brine, you can store the pickles in the fridge (let the jar and its contents come to room temperature first). They won’t store at room temperature without canning, but they will keep in the refrigerator for a month or two.

Canning pickled onions allows you to make a big batch and store them in the pantry without refrigeration for 12 to 18 months.

If water bath canning is completely new to you, my Beginner’s Guide to Water Bath Canning is a great resource. You’ll find detailed instructions for raw pack (and hot pack) canning, as well as tips and troubleshooting for anything canning-related that might come your way while you prepare your pickled onions.

These pickled onions are made using the raw pack canning method, which means the raw onion and other vegetables are added to the jar before being covered with hot brine, leaving a 1/2 inch of headspace between the underside of the lid and the top of the brine or food.

Prepare a water bath canner along with canning lids and rings. Since this is a raw pack pickled onion recipe, the canner water should be around 140 degrees F when the jars go in.

(Video) Pickled Onions Recipe Overnight!

Pack the dry spices, onions, and other vegetables into the jars, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace at the top. Pour boiling brine over the top and seal with 2-part canning lids to finger tight. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes for pints, 15 minutes for quarts. For higher elevations, process for 15 minutes for pints (20 for quarts) at 1,000 to 6,000 feet or 20 minutes over 6,000 feet (25 for quarts).

As I mentioned before, these pickled onion recipes are made using the raw pack canning method. This means that the water in the water bath canner should be 140 degrees F when the jars are added (hot enough to burn your hand, but nowhere near the simmering or boiling point). This helps to prevent thermal shock and ensure an even temperature during the relatively short canning time. The water is then heated to a rolling boil.

The timer starts when the canner comes to a full rolling boil.

When the timer goes off, turn off the heat but let the jars sit in the hot water for another 5 minutes, at which point they can be carefully removed from the canner and allowed to cool at room temperature. Any unsealed jars should be kept in the fridge and eaten within a couple of weeks.

Pickled onions will maintain peak quality on the pantry shelf for 12 to 18 months if properly sealed, and be technically good to eat for much longer, but they’ll begin to degrade in quality after about 12 to 18 months.

(Reminder, this technique is only for the vinegar pickled onions, but is not safe for the lime pickled onions.)

How to Make Pickled Onions (7)

Yield: Makes 1 quart

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Canning Time (Optional): 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Pickled onions add crunch and zip to everything from tacos to charcuterie plates. Make your own pickled onions using the quick refrigerator method or a water bath canner.

(Video) Pickled Onions | Crunchy Pickled Red Onions Recipe

Ingredients

Pickled Red Onions

  • 4 cups red onions, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 2 pounds as purchased)
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. pickling salt
  • 1 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Bread and butter pickled onions

  • 4 cups thinly sliced onions (white or yellow)
  • 2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. pickling or canning salt
  • 1 Tbsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric

Pickled pearl onions

  • 4 cups pearl onions, peeled**
  • 2 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pickling or canning salt
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 or 2 tsp. prepared horseradish
  • 1 small red chili peppers, such as cayenne, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 bay leaf

Lime-pickled red onions*

  • 4 cups red onion, sliced
  • 6 Tbsp. lime juice (from around 3 limes)
  • 1 tsp. salt

Instructions

1. Add dry whole spices to the bottom of a 1-quart jar.

2. Fill jar with sliced raw onion or whole pearl or pickling onions, adding any other vegetables called for in the recipe at this stage as well. Leave 1/2 inch headspace at the top of the jar.

3. In a stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and ground spices. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve.

4. Pour the hot brine over onions (again, leaving 1/2 inch headspace between the brine and the lid).

5. Seal the jar with a lid and refrigerate.

Notes

*To make lime-pickled red onions, toss the sliced red onion with lime juice and salt (a larger container will help ensure the onion slices are evenly coated). Let the onion slices marinate for at least an hour, at which point the pickled onions can be transferred to a small glass jar. Store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Do not can lime pickled onions.

**To peel pearl or pickling onions: Blanch onions in boiling water until the skins loosen, about 3 to 7 minutes. Drain the onions and plunge them into ice cold water. Let them sit for a minute, at which point the skins should slip off easily. Note pearl onions require a bit more brine than the other recipes since they don't pack as tightly in the jar.

Canning instructions: Heat water in canner to 140 degrees F. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes (pints) or 15 min (quarts), starting the timer once the water has come to a boil (for high elevations, 15 minutes for pints (20 min quarts) for 1,000 to 6,000 feet, 20 minutes for pints (25 min quarts) at 6,000 feet and up).

Remove jar from water canner and allow to cool at room temperature. If the lid is sealed properly, the pickles can be stored in a cool dry place for at least 18 months. If the seal is broken, store and serve as recommended for refrigerator pickles.

Easy Pickle Recipes

Looking for more easy pickle recipes?

  • Dill Pickle Recipe for Canning
  • Pickled Peppers
  • Sweet Dill Pickle Relish
  • Pickled Golden Beets
  • Homemade Gherkins (Baby Cucumber Pickles)
  • Pickled Eggs (Not for Canning)

How to Make Pickled Onions (8)

(Video) Every way of making pink pickled onions, the greatest condiment

Related

FAQs

Do I need to soak onions before pickling? ›

Soak peeled onions in concentrated brine solution for 24 hours (no more no less) before pickling. This stage is really necessary as it draws the moisture out of the onions and it is this that contributes most to keeping them crisp. Then rinse the onions with clean water to remove saltiness.

How long do homemade pickled onions last in a jar? ›

Pickled onions can last in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. I like them best during the first week because they are the most crisp, but they're still yummy later on.

What vinegar do you use for pickling? ›

Most pickle recipes call for distilled white vinegar. This is the clear, colorless vinegar made by fermenting grains. It has a mellow aroma, tart acid flavor and does not affect the color of the light-colored vegetables or fruits.

Can you pickle with just vinegar? ›

Brine Basics

Any basic vinegar is game — white vinegar, apple cider, white wine, and rice vinegar all work well. You can use these vinegars alone or in combination. Steer clear of aged or concentrated vinegars like balsamic or malt vinegar for pickling.

Why are my pickled onions soggy? ›

Why did my onions go soft? Probably because you brined them first in salt and water as some recipes suggest.

How long after pickling onions can you eat them? ›

Set aside to cool to room temperature, then store the onions in the fridge. Your pickled onions will be ready to eat once they're bright pink and tender - about 1 hour for very thinly sliced onions, or overnight for thicker sliced onions. They will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Is pickled onions good for you? ›

Pickled onions, for example, can be a beneficial part of a healthy diet. The pickling process does use a large amount of salt and sugar, but when eaten in moderation and considering the fact that pickled vegetables retain their nutritional values, they can be included in your diet.

Should pickled onions be refrigerated? ›

Let the pickled onions cool to room temperature (about 20 to 30 minutes), at which point they should be sufficiently pickled for serving. Cover and refrigerate leftover pickled onions for later. Quick-pickled onions are best consumed within three days, but they keep for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

Do you need to Sterilise jars for pickled onions? ›

Ideally, leave the pickles to mature for three months before using. Label them with an opening date, if you like. TO STERILISE JARS AND LIDS It's important to sterilise all jars or bottles and their lids before filling them.

Do you boil vinegar before pickling? ›

Vinegar-based pickling is a much faster process than fermentation pickling. In its quickest form, you'll just boil a vinegar solution, pour it over the the object of your pickling desire, let it all cool and stash it in the fridge.

What is the best ratio of vinegar to water for pickling? ›

The Basics of Making Refrigerator Pickles

The basic ratio for quick pickles is 1:1 vinegar to water, and includes some combination of salt and sugar. Another ratio that is commonly followed is the 3:2:1 method, using three parts vinegar, two parts water, and 1 part sugar.

Do you need to heat vinegar for pickling? ›

It involves pickling without boiling, instead requiring a no cook method of heating water and vinegar and adding it to a jar. Complete the recipe with some spices, and the cucumber slices are ready to marinate! I personally love to use garlic and red pepper flakes for an end result that packs a slight punch.

Can I use apple cider vinegar for pickling? ›

Use apple cider or white distilled vinegar, but the pickles may taste best with the recommended type in the recipe. Apple cider vinegar is milder and offers a different flavor note than white distilled vinegar. Any vinegar should be at least five percent acetic acid. Read every recipe carefully.

Do you need to boil jars for pickling? ›

Keep the jars in the hot water until you fill them with pickles. If the recipe calls for presterilized jars, boil the jars completely submerged in water for 10 minutes before turning down the heat. In a separate small container, heat the lids (flat discs) in hot, but not boiling water.

Why do you need sugar in pickling? ›

Sugar in pickling is used to balance the tartness of the vinegar. Although the sugar can be eliminated from pickle recipes, the pickles are likely to be too sour. Note: Under no circumstances should the amount of vinegar be decreased or diluted to compensate for less sugar.

Are pickling onions just small onions? ›

Pickling onions

Also called pearl onions. These small onions are around the size of a 20-cent coin with a flavour similar to brown onions. As their name suggests, their size makes them favoured for pickling. Pearl onions are also great in casseroles and roasts, just peel and add in whole.

What do you eat with pickled onions? ›

Tacos: The sweet acidity is especially good on fish tacos and carnitas. Mayo-based salads: Add chopped pickled red onions to egg salads and potato salads, or use as a topper for deviled eggs. Green salads: Top any salad with pickled red onions to add flavor and eye-candy.

Can you freeze pickled onions? ›

If you need to keep your fresh onions longer, you can freeze them. I recommend chopping them and storing them in plastic zip bags in the freezer.

What are the best onions for pickling? ›

Silverskin (Onion De Paris)

The classic pickling onion and usually what you will find in a jar of pickled onions from the supermarket.

Can you reuse pickled onion brine? ›

You're only using it to make refrigerator pickles. Once a brine has been used to can something, that's it. You can't do it again because you can't guarantee the acidity level once it has been heated up, hot water processed, absorbed by vegetables and refrigerated for an unknown amount of time.

What does salt do to onions? ›

Add salt to help onions cook down and brown

The salt helps bring the moisture out of the onions. It will help them cook down and brown up a little bit faster, so you get a nicer, deeper, browner flavor. They sweat a little bit with the salt.

Do you have to dry shallots before pickling? ›

Re: Do you need to dry shallots before pickling them? Dry them a bit and yes salt overnight is important.

What are the best onions for pickling? ›

Silverskin (Onion De Paris)

The classic pickling onion and usually what you will find in a jar of pickled onions from the supermarket.

Do you need to Sterilise jars for pickled onions? ›

Ideally, leave the pickles to mature for three months before using. Label them with an opening date, if you like. TO STERILISE JARS AND LIDS It's important to sterilise all jars or bottles and their lids before filling them.

Are baby onions the same as pickling onions? ›

Pearl onions

Also known as button or baby onions, these are larger than pickling onions and have a sweet, delicate flavour. Uses: Add whole to stews and casseroles or cook them very gently in a little butter and a splash of balsamic vinegar for 20-30 minutes until tender, serve with roasted meat.

Can you add sugar to pickling vinegar? ›

We'd recommend no more than two tablespoons of sugar, because once your pickled products get too sweet, there's no going back to their savory goodness. As far as salt, you don't need much since you're adding vinegar, but a good rule of thumb is to use one teaspoon for every two tablespoons of sugar.

How long do you leave shallots to dry before pickling? ›

Once peeled, layer in a bowl and sprinkle each layer with salt. Cover and leave overnight or up to 24hrs.

What is the difference between a shallot and a pickling onion? ›

Shallots have a delicate and sweet flavor with a hint of sharpness, while onions bring a more intense heat. You can substitute shallots in nearly any recipe that calls for onions—just make sure you're using the same volume. (For example, several medium shallots equals about one small yellow onion.)

Is pickled onions good for you? ›

Pickled onions, for example, can be a beneficial part of a healthy diet. The pickling process does use a large amount of salt and sugar, but when eaten in moderation and considering the fact that pickled vegetables retain their nutritional values, they can be included in your diet.

Can you reuse pickled onion brine? ›

You're only using it to make refrigerator pickles. Once a brine has been used to can something, that's it. You can't do it again because you can't guarantee the acidity level once it has been heated up, hot water processed, absorbed by vegetables and refrigerated for an unknown amount of time.

What are small pickled onions called? ›

Pickled onions are a food item consisting of onions (cultivars of Allium cepa) pickled in a solution of vinegar and salt, often with other preservatives and flavourings. There is a variety of small white pickled onions known as 'silverskin' onions; due to imperfections they are pickled instead of being wasted.

Why do you boil vinegar when pickling? ›

The key is knowing that first off, boiling your brine (vinegar mixture) will help all the flavors meld better, and that if you add in your pickling subject while the brine is hot, your pickle will be briefly cooked, and you risk losing some of the crunch.

How do you prepare jars for pickling? ›

Put jars and lids in a kettle and cover completely with hot water. Bring water to a boil, covered, and boil jars 15 minutes from the time that steam emerges from kettle. Turn off heat and let jars stand in hot water. Just before they are to be filled, invert jars onto a kitchen towel to dry.

How do you seal pickling jars? ›

How To Fill & Seal Your Kilner Jars - YouTube

What are pickled onions called? ›

Cebollas encurtidas or pickled onions are the most basic curtido and are served with a lot of different dishes, they are basically the same as the onion and tomato curtido but without the tomato and cilantro, though cilantro is sometimes added to onion curtido.

What are pickled onions used for? ›

10 Ways to Use Pickled Red Onions

Sandwiches: Brighten up any deli sandwich, burger, or saucy BBQ sandwich. Tacos: The sweet acidity is especially good on fish tacos and carnitas. Mayo-based salads: Add chopped pickled red onions to egg salads and potato salads, or use as a topper for deviled eggs.

Videos

1. How to Pickle Onions - Homemade Pickled Onions Recipe - Make Pickled Onions at Home!!!
(Whats4Chow)
2. HOW TO MAKE PICKLED ONIONS - Crisp not Soggy
(Steve Owens)
3. Rick Bayless Pickled Red Onions
(Rick Bayless)
4. 60-Second Video Tips: How to Make Awesome Pickled Onions
(America's Test Kitchen)
5. Pickled Onions- 3 Different Ways! I Simple Seasoning
(MoreSeasoning!)
6. The Fastest and Bestest Pickled Onions | It's a Thing
(Beryl Shereshewsky)

Top Articles

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Neely Ledner

Last Updated: 08/17/2022

Views: 6174

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (42 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Neely Ledner

Birthday: 1998-06-09

Address: 443 Barrows Terrace, New Jodyberg, CO 57462-5329

Phone: +2433516856029

Job: Central Legal Facilitator

Hobby: Backpacking, Jogging, Magic, Driving, Macrame, Embroidery, Foraging

Introduction: My name is Neely Ledner, I am a bright, determined, beautiful, adventurous, adventurous, spotless, calm person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.