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Homemade Pickled Onions

Find out how to make homemade pickled onions. Crunchy and spicy, just as pickled onions should be.

Tried and tested year after year, this is how my mum makes the best, easy pickled onions ever, as did her mum years ago.

Homemade pickled onions in a jar

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This picture was taken as soon as I'd popped the lid on, the onions will go darker over the next few weeks.

From what I've seen on the net it looks to me that American's and Canadian's pickled onions are red onions and always seem to be sliced.

If this is true they do not know what they're missing. You want a nice crunchy English pickled onion if you ask me!

I once tried pickling shallots, oh my goodness they were horrid; far too sweet and just not the same at all.

How Long before Pickled Onions are Ready to Eat?

You really need to leave them at least a month, say 6 weeks and they'll be ready to eat. It's the beginning of October now but I won't open a jar until Christmas when they will be perfect.

Do you need to Brine Onions before Pickling?

In a word, no. Well at least my mum never has and nor does she boil the vinegar before adding to the jars (when cold) and the pickles always turn out just fine.

This is a simple easy way to make pickled onions that works year after year, and so I'm thinking if it works, why mess with it and make it all complicated?!

Did you Know?

Pickled onions contain many of the nutrients found in ordinary onions.

Studies have shown that eating an onion a day can help to raise the level of beneficial cholesterol high-density (good cholesterol) lipoprotein, in the blood. Plus it will lower blood pressure and prevent clots.

How Long do Homemade Pickled Onions Last?

Well, the one thing you must certainly do is make sure the jars you use are sterilised - see below. If you don't you risk your onions going soft and even mouldy. 

Why did my Pickled Onions go Soft?

Probably because you brined them first in salt and water as some recipes suggest. But apparently, it will result in a softer onion. Why would you want a soft pickled onion? I can't think of anything worse! 

You can also brine the peeled onions in just salt (no water) overnight but again I've never done this and neither has my mum or her mum and so I've decided it's completely unnecessary and my mum's pickled onions are the best.

Nice, crunchy, spicy pickled onions that last for months on end - seriously.

Of course, once you open a jar you might like to keep them in the fridge but otherwise, they should keep for ages.

What Jars should I use to Make Pickled Onions?

You don't have to be all fancy and buy Kilner jars - just as long as you use airtight jars and sterilise them first.

It's important that your jars are airtight. If you're using, for example, an empty coffee jar, sterilise it and once the onions are in and you've covered them completely with vinegar, take a piece of clingfilm and fold in it half to double it up.

Place the clingfilm on the top of the jar before putting the lid on. This gives it an extra seal making it airtight.

Homemade Pickled Onions

How to Sterilise Jars

Wash the jars in hot soapy water and be sure to rinse well. Pop them into a preheated oven at 150°C/Fan 130°C/Gas Mark 2 for 15 minutes.

Allow the jars to cool completely before adding the onions.

What Vinegar do you use to Make Pickled Onions?

Well, you can use Sherry Vinegar, which Delia likes, White Wine Vinegar, or Distilled Malt Vinegar (for a clearer finish). But I say Malt Vinegar is the only way to go and is the traditional choice. 

Sarson's do sell pickling vinegar but it's a lighter colour and is already spiced. Personally, I like to add my own spices (just as my mum does) then I know, for sure, they will taste amazing!

Where can I Buy Pickling Onions?

You can grow them yourself or pop to a farm shop which is where I got mine. They are fairly hard to find in supermarkets but I do know Waitrose and Morrisons stock them at this time of year - September and October.

What is Pickling Spice?

A mixture of whole spices; coriander seeds, yellow mustard seeds, dried red chilli flakes, allspice, ginger, black peppercorns, cloves and crushed bay leaves. You can buy pickling spice in any good supermarket. 

Because I like my pickled onions extra hot and spicy I add a whole red dried chilli or two to each jar.

How much Pickling Spice do I need for Each Jar?

I add about 1 and a half to 2 tablespoons to 500ml of malt vinegar plus I add a dried red chilli.

If you're reading this you might like to know how to make homemade Piccalilli.

Happy Pickling!


  1. Hi Jan! Real North American Pickled Onions are much the same as yours, using small pearl onions. Peeled, popped into jars, covered with a hot vinegar mix containing pickling spices, some sugar and often turmeric for colour. These will then be processed in a hot water bath for safety. The red ones you see on a lot of blogs these days are the exception not the rule! Your onions look lovely! I have to say British pickled onions are an acquired taste I have found! Very sharp, but crisp and lovely! Gorgeous photos!

    1. Marie - I didn't know about North American pickled onions.
      Thank you, I'm really trying to get better photos these days!


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