Pickled Red Onions

I keep on making things that when I think about it, would be enhanced with some pickled red onions. Bean soup, liverwurst, salmon, and especially hot dogs and hamburgers would all be terrific with some pickled onions on the side. All you really need to make pickled red onions is some sliced red onion, vinegar and sugar. There’s lots of leeway with the spices and herbs used. For this batch I used cinnamon, cloves, star anise, bay leaf and red pepper flakes. You could easily thrown in some ginger, swap out the chile flakes for some cumin, or allspice for the cloves.

Pickled Red Onions Recipe

  • Yield: Makes 1 1/2 pints.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb red onions (about 2 med or 1 large), thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Spices

  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 star anise
  • Dash red pepper flakes

More spices (optional): Fresh ginger slices, allspice berries, oregano, garlic, cumin seeds, mustard seeds

Method

1 Blanch red onions in a saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain in colander.

2 While the water is heating in step 1, in a separate saucepan combine the vinegar, sugar and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

3 Add blanched, drained onions to the vinegar mixture. Simmer for 1 minute.

4 Transfer to a glass jar. Allow to stand until cooled. Will keep several weeks refrigerated.

Links:
Molly's pickles based on the Zuni Cafe recipe from Orangette
Orange and pomegranate salad with pickled onions from Frugal Cuisine
Smoked Salmon and Salmon Roe on Crispy Potato Pancakes with Horseradish Cream and Pickled Onions from Champaigne Taste
Chicken legs and thighs braised in red wine with concord grapes and pickled onions and ginger from Chef Brett of In Praise of Sardines

26 Comments

  1. Karolina

    Wonderful recipe!!! I made a red onion tart a while ago and I’ve just fallen in love with the mixture of red onions, vinegar (I used balsamic one), and sugar.

  2. Pille

    I love the pink colour, and would like to try this recipe, Elise! However, could you please tell me what’s the strength of the white vinegar in the US? We cannot buy it here in Estonia (we use a 30% vinegar that must be diluted, or then wine vinegars), and I want to be sure I mix the right strength for the brine..

  3. Rachel

    This is similar to a Vietnamese version of pickled red onions which is served with hot beef noodle soup. (Pho)

    You cut onions into large square chunks and soak in white vinegar for a couple of hours. I think there is a bit of white sugar added, but I can’t remember!

    This condiment is served alongside the soup, dipped in a mixture of hoisin sauce and Shark brand hot sauce.

  4. milee

    When we were growing up my mum would have a great big jar of pickling onions, whole green chilies and pips of garlic. It’s been ages since we have had these. We use small red onions and leave them whole. It’s sort of an Indian way I guess.

  5. Dee

    I love pickled onions! I particularly like the recipe posted with panucos. Usually I just use a bay leaf and some peppercorns in the water for another Mexican version, but the Yucatecan version is delish!

  6. katy

    I’ve never pickled anything before, but I will definitely have to try this out. Excellent use for leftover veggies, right? Silly question, but does it have to be a glass jar? Could I use tupperware, or would that interfere with the flavor?

  7. Rita

    I just made something similar to this last week. I’m following the South Beach diet so I didn’t even use any sugar.

    1 cup of chunked or sliced sweet onion (such as Mayan, Vidalia, Walla, Red etc.)
    1 large sweet red bell pepper chopped
    1 large cucumber sliced
    2 TBSP chopped fresh basil
    1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    Mix all the ingredients and refrigerate overnight. The natural sugars in the vinegar and the veggies made it very sweet. It’s a nice refreshing crunchy salad.

  8. Amber

    I love pickled onions! They’re great with Mexican food, too. I mix them in with steamed yucca, and serve them on the side of slow-cooked achitoe pork. I also often mix in a few beet slices with the pickling mixture. It makes the color even more brilliant, and the sweetness of the beets is a nice contrast to the sharper onion flavor.

  9. Art

    PilleAccording to my sources, white vinegar’s acidity level is 4.2% in the United States. I could be mistaken, but that is the number I have seen for regular, plain distilled (or white) vinegar.

    It looks like this recipe can be adapted to any vegetable that I would like to pickle! Would that be a fair assessment? Of course, I would likely change out the spices a bit depending on the produce (i.e. carrots with cumin, dried chiles, garlic, etc).

  10. Jenifer

    I just made this tonight. I couldn’t find any star anis, but used anis seed (I know they’re not the same). They have the same licorice flavor though. They came out great. We had them over turkey burgers we made ourselves. We started with toasted wheat bread, a bed of fresh spinach, mushrooms (sauteed in earth balance), homemade turkey patty, melted cheese, and finally the Pickled red onions. The best burger I EVER had.

    As soon as I saw this recipe I was excited. But I was soo impressed when I tasted how GREAT they were. Oh yeah, I also added mustard seed!

  11. katy

    So, I tried pickling some onions last night. I sliced a yellow onion really thin, blanched it, and stuck it in a jar with some vinegar, marjoram and two bay leaves. This morning, I came downstairs and tasted one, and I was a little grossed out. Just tasted like onion and vinegar. So, while I was checking your site for new recipes today, I looked back at this pickling recipe to see what I had done wrong and… sugar! Whoops! I am such a dope — I’m going to add some sugar over heat now and hopefully they’ll taste good by tomorrow!

  12. TheShiffy

    The Ecuadorian version of this uses lime juice instead of vinegar and some sugar and salt. It makes for a fruitier flavor than the sharp vinegary taste that some may not like. Also it’s never seasoned.

  13. Carol

    I just made this and it’s really delicious! I had never pickled anything and didn’t realize it was that easy and fast. Thanks for the great recipe!

  14. Andrea

    Hi again Elise,
    I just made this recipe and stored it in the fridge. I put it in a glass jar, but it was not completely full. Is there any issues with this? What kind of jar do you use, what size?
    Thanks,
    Andrea

    You can use whatever glass jar you want. I think for this recipe I used two jars, a one pint jar and an 8 ounce jar. ~Elise

  15. Cass

    What do you mean by “allow to stand until cooled”? Is this before I put the lids on or before you put them away? And when you say “will keep several weeks refrigerated”, do you mean they have to be stored in the preserving jars in the fridge, or are they ok sitting in the pantry out of the fridge like most preserves? Thanks.

    These instructions are for refrigerator pickles, not canning instructions for something shelf stable. Allow to stand until cooled means just that. Let the filled jar cool down a bit before you put it in the refrigerator. I would put the lid on first. ~Elise

  16. Cass

    Thanks Elise. I put the lids on whilst still hot as if preserving and they turned out perfect (as all your recipes do). Giving to my brother for Easter – he’s a pickled onion fan so it’s as good as chocolate to him. They smell devine. Two of three jars wouldn’t seal. I tried everything to fix them. Faulty seals I think.

  17. Heather

    Does this recipe have a high enough acid content to be appropriate for hot water bath canning?

    I’m guessing yes, but with canning you never want to guess. I suggest consulting a canning book or website for guidance on this one. ~Elise

  18. Cindy

    Hi Elise – can you use different onions?

    Yes, you might try sweet vidalia onions. Those would be good too. Or any onion, actually. ~Elise

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