Pickled Onions

pickled onions on a plate with crackers and cheese

The Spruce/Madhumita Sathishkumar

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
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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 11mg 1%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 61mg 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


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

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

  • 35 ounces malt vinegar

  • 6 ounces sugar

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds

  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed

  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

  • 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    ingredients to make pickled onions

    The Spruce/Madhumita Sathishkumar

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

    adding salt over peeled onions

    The Spruce/Madhumita Sathishkumar

  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).

    bowl of peeled pearl onions in a glass bowl

    The Spruce/Madhumita Sathishkumar

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

    pearl onions on a napkin

    The Spruce/Madhumita Sathishkumar

  5. Place the malt vinegar, sugar, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, and dried chili flakes in a large stainless steel pot.

    adding mustard seeds into a pot with malt vinegar

    The Spruce/Madhumita Sathishkumar

  6. Heat on medium to dissolve the sugar, but do not boil.

    pickle brine in a stock pot

    The Spruce/Madhumita Sathishkumar

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

    peeled pearl onions in glass jars

    The Spruce/Madhumita Sathishkumar

  8. 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.

    pouring pickle brine over pearl onions

    The Spruce/Madhumita Sathishkumar

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

    adding lid to jar with pickled onions

    The Spruce/Madhumita Sathishkumar

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.

    pearl onions on a cutting board

    The Spruce/Madhumita Sathishkumar

  2. Then place the onions in a large heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over to cover.

    pearl onions in a glass bowl

    The Spruce/Madhumita Sathishkumar

  3. Drain the water after 10 minutes, and presto, the skins will just rub right off.

    peeled pearl onions in a bowl

    The Spruce/Madhumita Sathishkumar

  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 pearl onions on a napkin

    The Spruce/Madhumita Sathishkumar


  • 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.