Pickling onions completely transforms their taste and texture. The ones we’ll be making below turn pungent red onions into a sweet and sour delight that can improve just about any savoury meal.
Just as there are many different ways of cooking an onion, there is no single way of pickling them either. Here we’ll show you how to pickle sliced red onions, but you may be more familiar with the classic European style of pickled pearl onions. You know, the small white ones, which are often served as a side dish with meats, a garnish on cheese boards, or as a snack in and of themselves. You can learn how to make that type of pickled onions here.
The thinly-sliced red onions we’ll show you how to make below are quite different. They’re a little lighter, less aggressive, and a lot more summery. You could safely serve these at a picnic without risking an upset to more fragile palettes. However, as with all pickling, making them will stink up your kitchen a little. If you don’t have a stovetop vent, we’d recommend cracking open a window first.
So why would you make these? Well, they’re incredibly versatile for a start. They taste great inside burgers, burritos and sandwiches, or as a topping on tacos, salads and nachos. And if you do go down the Mexican / Tex-Mex route, you can add chilli flakes to the recipe for a fiery punch.
There’s plenty of room to experiment here too. Once you’ve mastered the recipe below, why not alter the flavour of your next batch by trying different vinegars? You could use rice vinegar and a tablespoon of soy sauce to make an easy side dish for your next east Asian meal. Or add chopped basil for an accompaniment to an Italian antipasti plate. You can try it with other types of onions too.
Best of all, these pickled red onions are low in calories and really easy to make. Compared to most pickles, these take no time at all. So if you’re new to pickling, or have ever been put off by the multiple day turnaround times, then this is the pickle for you. After about 10 minutes of prep, all you need to do is wait half an hour for the pickling liquid to cool down and they’re ready to go.
One important point for new picklers to be aware of, however, is that this is a refrigerator pickle. That means – unsurprisingly – that you’ll need to keep your jar of pickled red onions in the fridge. But it also means that it won’t be suitable for long-term storage. Unlike some pickles, you won’t be able to can this and keep it in a cupboard. You’re better off eating these within a matter of days, although they should last up to three weeks.
Pickled red onions ingredients
- 1 medium red onion
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ tablespoons sweetener (like maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar)
- 1 ½ teaspoons fine salt
- ¼ teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)
Pickled red onions equipment
- Heat-safe mason jar (approx. 1 pint / 570 ml)
- Small saucepan
Pickled red onions step-by-step method
Slice your red onion really thinly into rings.
Pack the onions tightly into your mason jar.
In your saucepan, combine the water, vinegars, salt and your choice of sweeter (also add the chilli flakes now if you prefer your pickled onions spicy).
Over a medium heat, bring the pickle mixture to a gentle simmer.
Spoon the mixture into the jar of onions (we recommend doing this over the sink or a large bowl to catch any mess).
Using your spoon, press the onions down into the vinegar in order to pop any air bubbles that may have formed in the jar.
Allow the onions to cool for about half an hour (or until they reach room temperature).
Your red onions will now be pickled enough to serve. Seal the rest in the jar and keep in the refrigerator. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.