Uncle Rick’s Pickled Onions Recipe

Delicious Pickled OnionsIf you like the tangy, pungent taste and crisp texture of British style pickled onions, but don’t like the high cost of imported ones in US supermarkets, this recipe is for you.  It’s really easy, and although not designed for long term storage, you’ll eat them before that becomes an issue, as you can see I did from the photo!

You’ll need enough Mason jars and lids to contain the number of onions you plan to pickle.


  • Small white onions, about 1″/2.5cm in diameter
  • Vinegar, malt preferably, but white is OK
  • Pickling Spices, such as McCormick’s


  • Peel the onions to remove the dried outer layers, don’t strip too much off the layer underneath though, it’s a waste of good onion!
  • Wash the onions in cold water
  • Wash the jars and lids on hot soapy water, then rinse
  • Sterilizer the jars by filling briefly with boiling water (make sure they’re the type that can take this!)
  • Dunk the lids in boiling water for a minute or so
  • Allow both to fully cool somewhere where they’ll stay clean


  • Place the onions in the cold empty jars, filling to the top and packing reasonably tightly
  • Shake the jar to settle them down (they shouldn’t be too unruly as this point though!), and add more onions as needed
  • Fill the jars to the brim with vinegar (see note below about re-using vinegar)
  • Tip out all the vinegar (but not the onions!) into a saucepan and add one more cup of vinegar
  • Stir in the pickling spices, 1tbl/15cc per 2 cups/500ml of vinegar (not critical, just estimate volume)
  • Bring to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes (vinegar boils at a lower temperature than water, so be prepared)
  • Put the vinegar & spices mixture into a clean (sterilized with boiling water if it’s Pyrex), covered glass container and refrigerate over-night
  • Put the onions still in the jars, with the lid on, in the fridge over-night also
  • In the morning open the jars and pour in the cold vinegar
  • Make sure each jar gets some of the spices
  • Tightly apply the tops and return the jars to the fridge
  • Wait 2 weeks, inverting jars every couple of days


  • Some people prime the jars with a little sugar and/or salt before adding the vinegar and spices mixture, and you can do that if you want, but I don’t think it is necessary for delicious low-salt, low-calorie pickled onions.
  • Malt vinegar is expensive so I suspect some re-use would be OK.  I’ve not tried this yet, but I would strain the used vinegar to remove the old spices and any onion bits, and then use it (soon) for the next pickled onions batch, making up the volume with fresh as detailed in the procedure.  I might half the spices too, as the vinegar is already spiced, but that would be your choice.
  • Keep the onions in the fridge after opening, and discard after 3 months, or when they get mushy.  They should always be crisp.
  • If your onions aren’t crisp when you open them either the onions were old, or the vinegar wasn’t fully cold when you added it, and it partially cooked them.

Colin Stearman

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