Pickled Onions

Pickled Onions Recipe

 The Spruce

Prep: 40 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Brining Time: 12 hrs
Total: 12 hrs 55 mins
Servings: 30 servings
Yield: 2 quarts
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
44 Calories
0g Fat
9g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 30
Amount per serving
Calories 44
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 325mg 14%
Total Carbohydrate 9g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 2mg 9%
Calcium 12mg 1%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 62mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This old-fashioned pickled onion recipe is truly a national treasure in Great Britain. The onions appear alongside fish and chips, on a Ploughman's Lunch, with savory pies, and just about every dish where they can. You can buy any of the hundreds of commercial varieties groaning on the supermarket shelves, but nothing beats a jar of homemade pickled onions.


Click Play to See This Pickled Onions Recipe Come Together

We will not pretend that, though easy to make, the process of pickling onions isn't quite tedious. So put the radio on or prop the iPad up and catch a little music while you are doing it. You will soon discover that pickled onions are so worth the effort, and you can lighten the load and save yourself hours if you read the note about peeling onions at the start of the recipe.

Tiny pickling or button onions are mainly available in the autumn and if prepared and stored early enough will be perfect for Boxing Day to eat with cold meats or pork pie. Some say Christmas is never the same without them. Also, they will keep almost year-round on a pantry shelf with no need to refrigerate.

Easy Pickled Onions/Tester Image

"These sour-sweet whole pickled onions are wonderful on a cheese tray with strong cheeses like aged cheddar and blue cheese. I advise using onions no more than 2-inches in diameter. You can also use Cipollini onions when in season, or quarter the onions if necessary." —Danielle Centoni

A Note From Our Recipe Tester


For the Onions:

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 kilogram) pickling onions, peeled (see note below)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (25 grams) table salt

  • 4 teaspoons pickling spice mix (recipe follows)

For the Pickling Liquid:

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds

  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed

  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

  • 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes

  • 35 ounces malt vinegar

  • 6 ounces sugar

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients for the onions.

  2. Sprinkle the salt over the dry, peeled onions.

    Peeled button onions in bowl sprinkled with salt

    The Spruce

  3. Stir to make sure the salt is distributed. Cover, refrigerated overnight (do not leave longer than overnight if you want your onions to be crisp).

    Salted button onions in bowl, stirred

    The Spruce

  4. When ready, rinse the onions and dry with kitchen or paper towels.

    Button onions rinsed and drying on paper towel

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  5. Gather the ingredients for the pickling liquid.

  6. Place the malt vinegar, sugar, and all the pickling spice ingredients in a large stainless steel pot.

    pickling spices and vinegar in stainless steel pot
     The Spruce
  7. Heat on medium to dissolve the sugar, but do not boil.

    Pickling spices in vinegar in stainless steel pot on stove

    The Spruce

  8. Pack the onions into clean, sterilized jars (about two wide-mouth, quart-size canning jars, or smaller jars, if desired).

    Onions in clean, sterilized jars

    The Spruce

  9. Pour the vinegar-spice liquid over the onions to fill the jars, making sure each jar has pickling spices and that there are no air pockets.

    Three sealed jars of pickled onions

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  10. Seal the jars and let cool. Store refrigerated. The onions will be ready to eat after about one month.

The Easy Way to Peel Pickling Onions

  1. Peeling pickling onions is fiddly and time-consuming. To speed up the process, cut off the top and tail of the onions.

    Pickled Onions on cutting board with knife
     The Spruce
  2. Then place the onions in a large heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over to cover.

    unpeeled onions in bowl of water
     The Spruce
  3. Drain the water after 10 minutes, and presto, the skins will just rub right off.

    peeled onions next to bowl of unpeeled onions in bowl of water
     The Spruce
  4. Do not leave in the water too long or the onions will start to go mushy when you preserve them. Dry the onions with a kitchen towel or paper towels. Proceed with pickling.

    peeled onions on paper towel
     The Spruce


  • The onions will be ready to eat after about one month, though they will be better if kept for two.
  • The jars can be processed and canned so that refrigeration is unnecessary. Refrigerate after the jars are opened.