Pickled Onions Recipe

pickled onions

Ingredients for Pickled Onions:

  • 3 lb (1.4 kg) pickling onions or shallots
  • 1 lb (450 g) salt
  • 2½ pints (1.4 litres) water
  • Approx 1 pint (570 ml) Spiced Vinegar

Method for Pickled Onions:

  1. Make a brine by boiling the water and salt together in a pan until all the salt has dissolved. Leave until quite cold before using.
  2. Put the onions, unpeeled,  into the brine and soak  for 24 hours, using a plate or something similar to keep the onions below the surface of the brine.
  3. Drain and peel.
  4. Put into fresh brine and leave to soak again for a day or two.
  5. Rinse well.
  6. Pack into clean, sterilized jars and cover with cold spiced vinegar.
  7. Cover and label with contents and date.

Note: Leave for a couple of months before using.  If you want a sweeter pickled onion, add a teaspoon of sugar to each jar of onions.

Pickled onions, kept in properly sterilized and sealed jars, should keep for a year in a cool dark place. Once opened, keep in the fridge and try to use within 4 weeks.

For More Information on Pickles & Vinegars

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Posted in Val's Preserves, Vegetable Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes, Pickles, All Recipes, Onions
71 comments on “Pickled Onions Recipe
  1. Steve Salter says:

    Why do you need to soak onions in salt water before pickling.
    Do you need to do this at all.

  2. Val says:

    Yes it is necessary. It allows the brine to penetrate the onions and remove some of their moisture. Something to do with osmosis in the cell and part of the preserving process.

  3. Lynda Bishop says:

    I have a large garden, what are the best variety of onions to grow for pickling?

  4. Val says:

    Paris Silverskin and Brown Pickling SY 300 are the general ones for pickling. We find that all shallots pickle well. Have a look at this link http://www.allotment.org.uk/vegetable/onion-shallot/grow-onion-seed.php

  5. carole says:

    hi is there a method or receipe for making the pickling spice for onions as i would like to make my own but dont know how. many thanks.

  6. Val says:

    Go to the recipe for Quick Spiced Vinegar https://www.allotment-garden.org/recipe/157/quick-spiced-vinegar-recipe/
    It’s easy to make.

  7. Teresa says:

    Hi Val,
    Does it matter what vinegar is used for the pickling… could I use malt or has it got to be white vinegar?

  8. Val says:

    You can use either but make sure that it is over 5% acetic content.

  9. elaine says:


  10. karen says:

    thank you for pickled onion recipe


  11. sarah says:

    great recipe will give to my friends

  12. steve says:

    I have boiled my water and salt to make the brine, but the salt does not seem to have all dissolved and as the water cools the salt is forming a crust on the top. Is this ok.

  13. Val says:

    Yes its fine.

  14. Colin says:

    thanks for your very easy recipe very pleased with results

  15. den russell says:

    instead of making a brine mix. just pack the onions into jars when peeled,and smother with table salt,leave for 24hrs,rinse under running cold water, dry,put 2 chopped chillis in each jar with a good portion of whole black peppercorns,fill jars with malt vinegar and leave in a dark cupboard for a min 3 weeks.they will be fantastic.give it a go.

  16. fairy princess says:

    I have pickled shallots twice and never soak them in salt water first, to be honest cant be bothered, but they always come out lovely.

  17. Susanne says:

    Great website – I googled pickled onion recipe and found your site, then, miraculously the recipe appeared before me. Other searches do not achieve such instant results. Thanks.

  18. Malcolm says:

    I used to pickle my own years ago, I’m just wondering, have i left it too late to have them ready for Christmas?

  19. Malcolm says:

    Oh I just realised I didnt put todays date. 28th november

  20. Val says:

    It’s best to leave them for a couple of months but you could try it.

  21. Noel says:

    I couldn’t wait after making 4 jars, I opened one within two weeks and tasted ok but a bit more onion than pickled onion, still ate the lot. I opened one jar one month in and to be honest if I couldn’t wait again this is the minimum that I would wait. As for the last couple of jars, they were both opened and eaten over the Christmas – New year and were fantastic. I would have liked to have made them with 3 months to pickle instead of the 2 months. So…..here I go again at making another new batch into 2010 for spring.

  22. Malcolm says:

    Thanks I ended up buying already made but I’ll makesure as soon as i seen them in the shops next year I’ll do my own.

  23. Leslie.R.C. says:

    Hi Val. I would like to thank you Sooooooooo Much for your help in this matter of pickling onions, I grow all my own veg and this year I put in Total 5 rows that amounts to almost a kilometer of them. I started out thinking I knew what I was doing and have done 27 jars when I stumbled on your link, I did not know anything about it at all. So I am just waiting for the brine to cool and I will get back to you in a few weeks. Thanks again Regards Les. R. C. 18/2/2010

  24. Paul says:

    I live in Menorca and to buy malt or pickling vinegar is difficult, if not impossible. Could you use wine vinegar?

  25. Val says:

    I can’t see why not. You could add spices to taste. White would be better than red though.

  26. Hilary says:

    I also live overseas and cannot get hold of malt vinegar so have been experimenting with different vinegars. My preference is actually for red wine although I sometimes do 50/50 red and white. Also enjoy making own spice mix – chilli and star anise give the onions a real lift.

  27. Penny says:

    Hi, do you have a recipe for boozy pickled onions – I bought a couple of jars at a school fete years ago and they were absolutely fab, we all still talk about them lol, I have just used your recipe and pickled my shallots for Christmas but would love to give the boozy option a try if you have a recipe.



  28. Wendy says:

    I soaked my onions in the brine for 24 hours as described, but when I rinsed them prior to putting in the jars, some of the onions had gone a bit soft, is this normal.
    This is my first time at pickling so not sure if that is how they are supposed to be?


  29. Val says:

    Which type of onions did you use?

  30. Wendy says:

    It was a bag of pickling onions that I bought from my local greengrocer so not really sure, they were just labled up as pickling onions.

  31. Lizzy says:

    I want to make sweet pickled onions as I dont like spiced, so can’t I just use white wine vinegar – not the Spiced Vinegar?

  32. Val says:

    Yes you can and you could also add a teaspoon of white sugar to each jar to make them sweeter.

  33. Lizzy says:

    ok thank u

  34. Lizzy says:

    hi if i put chillis in will that make it spicy?

  35. collin says:

    I dry my onions in a very low set oven to remove the moisture, they are always crunchy

  36. les says:

    You do not need to soak in brine overnight. You can just peal, rinse and put in jars and cover with spiced (or un-spiced)vinegar. This is very quick and easy (and its the method recommended by Delia Smith!). However, they will not keep as long so eat at about 3 months and don’t keep more than 4. Also do not add hot water to make the skins easier to remove, as some recipes suggest, as it make the onions soft rather than crunchy.

  37. Adam Spain says:

    Hi I’m making my own pickled onions, can you use fresh chillies or do they hav to be dried?

  38. mary says:


  39. Aileen says:

    Going to make my first lot of pickled onions this year – for alternative xmas gifts. Think personal presents making a return. Thanks for the recipe -wish me luck XX

  40. Jenny says:

    Thank you so much for the receipe. It is my first time to make pickled onions and have just bought all the ingredients -will let you know how I get on.

  41. kerry says:

    I used shallots from my allotment this year, I didn’t soak them just used a jar of malt ready spiced and they were lovely. Iv’e just brought brought the white vinegar to make for xmas 2011.

  42. Paul says:

    @kerry: What you have to bear in mind if you don’t soak them in brine they will not keep if you use them immediately its fine but if you wish to keep any for an amount of time 3 months or upwards they tend to go soft if they haven’t been soaked.

  43. Jo says:

    We have grown far too many normal onions this year and have cluster grown many (so they are quite small). Can you pickle normal onions or will they be too strong?

  44. Mandie says:

    Can you pickle ordinary onions sliced, would treat them in the same way as pickling onions – we are over run with large onions

    Many Thanks

  45. Val says:

    I’m afraid I really don’t think it would work well. You’d be better of using them in something like this: https://www.allotment-garden.org/recipe/1635/caramelised-onion-chutney-recipe/

  46. Chris Bond says:

    Hi, I have been pickling onions for 40 years and have never soaked them or rolled them or covered them in salt, nor do I necessarily use shallots, common pickling onions always work fine, peel, wipe with a clean moist cloth, if necessary, pack into clean jars, and add coriander seeds black mustard seeds black and or white peppercorns ground or whole all spice,bay leaves chilli peppers,whole cloves, cardamom pods small amount of salt,and a little water to each jar and top up with the cheapest supermarket malt vinegar (around 14 to 18 pence a bottle) spices are entirely to your preference, no strict quantities here this mix adjusts to any pallet, and I have always had to guard these onions from my family and relatives, they would have every jar I make. I have also never had storage problems as the vinegar is a preservative in itself.

  47. Stephen says:

    @Steve Salter: Val is quite right. Osmosis is diffusion through a semi permeable membrane, like a plant cell wall. By putting salt in the soaking water an osmotic pressure is created, with water seeping out of the onions to dilute the brine. It takes a pretty strong brine to achieve this quickly. The result is that the onions are “dried” by a process that appears very wet. With less water inside the onion, there is less to dilute the vinegar added subsequently, so it preserves better and more easily penetrates the onion. Commercially, onions are kept in strong brine for months, then pickled in vinegar as required before despatch to the shops. Keeping them in vinegar would result in a less consistent product.

  48. Steve says:

    I was very pleased to find this site. I have pickled Beetroot, Onions and Red Cabbage and have just made Green Tomato Chutney, all following your recipes. The Beetroot was fantastic, I found myself eating it out of the jar with a fork. The Cabbage is delicious. Got to wait a couple more weeks to try the Onions and Chutney but know they will be absolutely delicious.Thank you for providing these great recipes.

  49. rosemary says:

    I found your site last night, exactly what I was looking for. I want to make green tomato chutney and pickle some onions. Chutney recipe by Pam sounds ideal,will be picking all my tomatoes today and having a go. I had already covered some pickling onions in salt to leave overnight before going on-line to look for a recipe, so did not know I needed to put them in brine, hope they turn out o k. At least now I can go on your site before I attempt any further pickling.

  50. James webber says:

    Thanks for all the tips! Just peeled them all, going to put chille and a garlic clove in each jar, that sound ok ??

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