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How to pickle onions: simple steps and easy recipes

how to pickle onions

Complete steps for how to pickle onions easily, with suggestions for spice variations and several quick recipes to try out.

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When you pickle onions, you’re not only making them last longer. With different spices and your favorite type of vinegar, you can also give them an interesting flavor note. The effort is relatively low and the required ingredients are available in almost every household. Once the work is done, the pickled onions will last a good year in the store room or pantry.

The onion varieties

There are many different types of onions and in principle any onion can be pickled. Provided that they are still nice and plump and have no withered or half rotten areas. Onions that have mold on one side should no longer be used.

The most famous onions are the normal kitchen onions with a yellowish-brown skin. These onions have a strong aroma and good heat. The red onions are a bit milder in taste and not as hot.

There are also white onions, pearl and silver onions , the well-known shallot and the thick vegetable or butcher’s onions . All of these onions can be used both raw and cooked and as pickled onions are a real taste experience .

Prepare the vegetables for pickling

All onions must be peeled before pickling. Remove the dry skin, the base of the stem and the root remains. Rotten spots must also be removed. Moldy specimens are not used. If the onions are very large, such as vegetable onions, you should cut them into smaller pieces or rings so that the onions fit better into the glass.

Peeling onions is not hard work, but it is quite tearful. Try protective goggles or swimming goggles that will hold back at least some of the onion essential oils. The onions are also easier to peel if you put them in warm water for a few minutes beforehand.

How to pickle onions: ingredients

What exactly you put in the onions is a matter of taste, there are many different variants. Vinegar is usually sufficient, which is also particularly low in calories. However, there is also a sweet and sour variant in which honey or sugar are used in addition to the vinegar. This of course also increases the calories.

A good vinegar should be used for the pickling, for example balsamic vinegar in red or white, red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar of good quality. You can also add various spices to the glasses. When it comes to spices, you can choose from, for example, peppercorns, chili peppers, mustard seeds or even ginger. You can also replace water with a little wine. As far as the taste is concerned, there are no limits… What is allowed is whatever pleases and, above all, tastes good.

How to pickle onions: Basic recipe


  • 1 kg of onions
  • 500 ml vinegar (e.g. balsamic or white wine vinegar)
  • 250 ml of water
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • Spices to taste (e.g. peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves, mustard seeds, thyme, preserving spices)

Tip: If you want to pickle the onions sweet, add a little honey. If you like it spicy, however, use chilli. There are no limits to your individual taste.


  1. Put the vinegar, water, salt, and spices in a large saucepan.
  2. Peel the onions.
  3. Remeber, as we mentioned above, peeling can be made easier by soaking the onions in lukewarm water for a few minutes. This makes the peel a little more pliable and makes the onion easier to peel. And a sip of water, which you should keep in your mouth when peeling and cutting, should help against the tears.
  4. Small onions can be pickled whole. You should chop larger types of onion.
  5. Add the peeled onions to the prepared stock in the pot.
  6. Now bring everything to a boil and cook the onions in the stock for three to four minutes.
  7. Take out the onions and place them in clean mason jars.
  8. Let the brew boil again.
  9. Fill the jars with the brew to just below the brim and seal them airtight.
  10. The pickled onions can be kept airtight in the cellar for up to a year or longer. Once opened, the jars should be stored in the refrigerator.

Tip: Let the onions soak well (at least a week) before serving.


  • Instead of water, you can also use organic wine , i.e. organically grown white or red wine. This will give your onions a different flavor.
  • Instead of regular vinegar, you can also experiment with balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or other varieties. Pay attention to regional products from ecological cultivation or make the vinegar yourself .
  • You can also add various spices when boiling: For example, a teaspoon of mustard seeds, two allspice seeds, a chilli pepper or chopped garlic.
  • If you want to sweeten the onions a little, you can add a teaspoon of organic honey or organic sugar.

How to pickle onions: alternative recipes

Quick pickled red onions

how to pickle onions - quick pickled red onions

Deliciously sweet and sour pickled red onions – ready to be enjoyed after just 20 minutes.

  • 1 red onion
  • little salt
  • 50 g apple cider vinegar
  • 20 g of water
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Peel the red onions and cut into fine, even strips.
  • Put the onion strips in a bowl, add a little salt and briefly mix everything by hand.
  • Put apple cider vinegar, water, and honey in a small bowl. Mix everything until the honey has dissolved, then pour over the onions and mix well.
  • Put in a glass or bowl with a lid and let it steep for 20 minutes.
  • Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. The longer the onions steep, the milder they will be.

This is the basic recipe, if you keep the onions for a few days, you could also flavor them with peppercorns, rosemary or other spices as you like.

Pickled Saffron Onions

how to pickle onions

1,000 gOnion (s), small round
500 mlwater
3 tbspsalt
500 mlWine, (white wine) mildly fruity
250 mlBalsamic vinegar, white
200 gsugar
1 teaspoonPepper, white, whole
1 teaspoonPepper, black, whole
1 tbspMustard seeds, yellow
3 piece (s)Chilli pepper (s), red dried
1 cansaffron
1Bay leaf, coarsely crushed
10 grainspimento
  • Put the peeled onions in a bowl, pour boiled salted water over them and let them steep for at least 12 hours.
  • Then pour off the water and collect it.
  • Bring the vinegar, wine, sugar and all other spices (except for the saffron) to the boil, add the onions and cook for approx. 5 minutes, season with the onion water, bring to the boil again.
  • Fill the onions into the prepared jars, add the saffron to the stock and then pour the onions with the stock and close the jars immediately.
  • Let cool and store in a cool and dark place.

Onions pickled in red wine

how to pickle onions
1 ½ kgOnion (s), white, small
15thGarlic cloves)
200 gsugar
700 mlWine, red, dry
250 mlVinegar, (red wine vinegar)
4 branch / srosemary
3Bay leaves


  • Peel the onions and garlic
  • melt the sugar in the saucepan over medium heat and let it turn golden brown, turn the onions in it
  • deglaze with red wine + red wine vinegar, add the herbs, add the garlic as well. 
  • Simmer for 30 minutes in a closed pot on a mild heat.
  • Cool, put the onions in the stock in a large container and let steep for 2-3 days.

Vietnamese pickled onions

3 m.-largeOnion (s), red, thinly sliced
1 tbspGinger, finely sliced
100 mlRice vinegar
2 tbspMirin, optional
2 tbspsugar
1 teaspoonsalt
  • Squeeze the finely chopped onions together in a mason jar.
  • Briefly bring the remaining ingredients to the boil with approx. 100 ml water and pour them hot to the onions. 
  • Press everything down again firmly, preferably with a spoon, so that everything is covered with the brew. 
  • Depending on your taste, the ginger slices can be removed or left in. Let it steep for at least two hours.
  • You can also add some star anise for variety.
  • The onions are served on a Vietnamese sandwich (Banh Mi), it is enough as a side dish to starters such as Vietnamese spring rolls or summer rolls or top rice noodle bowls with them.

Sweet and sour pickled red onions

how to pickle onions
4 m.-largeOnion (s), red
100 mlBalsamic vinegar, white
150 mlWater, cold
1 teaspoon, heapedsugar
½ tspsalt
  • Dice the onions and place in a large screw-top jar. 
  • Mix all other ingredients into a marinade and pour over the onions. 
  • Let the onions steep for at least 2 hours.
  • Serve the drained onions with gyros or pan-fried dishes.

Pickled onions Mexican style

1 kgOnion (s), red
1 literVinegar (sugar cane vinegar)
1 tbspPreserving aid for pickles (bay leaves, mustard seeds, etc.)
2Chilli pepper (s) (Habanero), fresh
1 tbspsalt
1 teaspoonPepper, black
  • Peel and halve the red onions and cut the halves into slices. 
  • Then blanch the onions for about 2 minutes in boiling water and then drain the water through a sieve.
  • Place the washed and sliced ​​chillies in a very large screw-top jar with at least 1 – 2 liters content. 
  • Pour the preserving liquid over it, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then pour the onions into the glass and fill the glass with the sugar cane vinegar until all the onions are covered.
  • Now screw on the jar and store it in the refrigerator. The onions are ready to eat after approx. 4 days. But the longer the onions soak, the better their taste will be.

Note on the ingredients: Sugar cane vinegar is available in most Asian shops. But you can also use any other vinegar. Habanero chilli peppers are as hot as hell and usually very difficult to get if you don’t grow them yourself. Here you can also fall back on the Asian variant, which is also available in Asian shops. If you don’t like spicy food, you should leave out the chillies entirely.

The onions taste very good as an accompaniment to cold dishes, e.g. cheese

Pickled onions Greek style

Water, warm
1 tbspsalt
1 tbspsugar
3 tbspvinegar
some stemsparsley
  • Cut the onions into slices, place in a sealable container and fill with warm water until the onion rings are completely covered. 
  • Add salt, sugar, vinegar and chopped parsley and mix, close the container and let it steep for +/- 12 hours.
  • Goes well with gyros, souvlaki and other pan-fried dishes.

How to pickle onions: long do pickled onions last?

  • You can usually store onions in cool rooms such as cellars or pantries for up to six months. The advantage of pickled onions is that they keep much longer – namely over a year.
  • In addition to pickling onions, there are other methods you can use to preserve onions for a shorter period of time: You can freeze onions in cubes or soak them in oil.