[Recipe] Award winning pickled onions

This is the ultimate recipe for pickled onions. Crunchy, simple and not too sweet!

For me, pickling is serious business! It's great for a few reasons:

  • You can shop seasonally and then preserve your favourite fruit and vegetables so that you enjoy them all year round.
  • A jar of something homemade is a great gift - make a big batch and you'll never turn up to someone's house empty handed.
  • It reduces food waste. If you feel like you won't get to eating something while it's fresh, then turn it into a pot-luck pickle!

Whenever you are preserving something it's really important to properly sterilise your jars and lids. So important that I've dedicated an entire blog post to the process. I urge you not to skip this step otherwise you'll open up a jar of mould (I've done it too many times to remember) - it's so disappointing to wait a month and then see that all your hard work has been a waste!


  • 1kg of small (white) pickling onions - you can always mix this up and try red onions but traditionally a white onion is used.
  • 1/4 cup of salt - I use kosher as there are no additions.
  • A few chillies - this is optional, you could also use dried chillies or leave them out completely.
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of peppercorns
  • 4 cups or white vinegar - don't buy the cheapest vinegar (the stuff you buy in bulk for cleaning), just grab something mid range. You can also play around and try malt vinegar which is delicious or adding a bit of apple cider vinegar (although I wouldn't use only apple cider).
  • 1/2 cup of white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of pickling spice - you can buy this as a premade mix or create your own using crushed bay leaves, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, whole all-spice, ground ginger, a cinnamon stick, and crushed chilli flakes.
  • 3 or 4 glass jars 750ml capacity - just use what's on hand though if you have smaller or bigger jars this is fine! Just make sure that they aren't chipped, the lids aren't plastic, and the lids are dented.


  1. Combine salt and 4 cups of water in a large glass bowl. Stir until salt dissolves. Peel skin from onions, leaving onions whole. Add to salted water. Cover. Stand at room temperature overnight.

2. Drain onions. Rinse under cold water. Pack into sterilised jars, layer with chillies, bay leaves and peppercorns.

3. Place vinegar, sugar and pickling spice into a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 15 minutes or until sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil for a few minutes then remove from heat. Pour hot liquid into your jars making sure that all of the onions are covered but also ensuring there is about 1cm of extra space at the lid of the jar. You may need to reorganise your onions to achieve this. Seal the lid tightly.

4. This next step is a pro tip that is often forgotten. You need to heat-treat your jars so that they properly seal themselves - this will extend shelf life from about a month to around a year (with everything that you preserve, just give it a good smell and taste before you eat it. You never know if something has gone wrong in your processes!). So, grab the largest, tallest pot you have (a pasta pot is great for this) and line the bottom with a tea towel and place your jars on top. You need to ensure that they are not cluttered and they aren't touching the side of the pot. Cover the jars completely or to at least two-thirds with water that is a similar temperature (otherwise the glass will be shocked and break).

Gently boil for anywhere between 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of your jar. The tops should puff up a bit and become concave. Take them out of the hot water - custom made jar grabbers make this a lot easier - but if you're just starting out you can make do with tong, a tea towl, anything to keep from burning your hands!

5. Give them a wipe and then leave them on the counter (out of direct sunlight) overnight. In the morning, the seal should have sucked itself in. As you can see from the picture above, the two jars on the right have sealed and the other one didn't take. Don't worry - if one of your jars doesn't seal just pop it in the fridge and eat this one up first!

6. Leave them to pickle for a month, they'll taste better the longer you leave them. It's also good to write the date on them so that you know they'll be ready.

They taste great on their own, in salads, sandwiches, you name it!

Banner Image: Shutterstock

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