• STEP 1

    Pour the vinegar into a pan, add the sugar, sea salt, the spices and bay leaf, and bring to a simmer. After 1 min, check that the sugar and salt have dissolved. Remove from the heat.

  • STEP 2

    Boil the kettle. Put the onion slices in a sieve or colander. Pour over the hot water from the kettle and drain well. When cool enough to handle, pack the onion rings into a 500g sterilised jar (see tip below). Pour over the warm vinegar and seal. Cool, then chill and leave to pickle for 2 hrs. Will keep for 6 months unopened, or 2 weeks in the fridge once opened.

What are pickled onions?

Pickled whole onions are a classic accompaniment to a ploughman’s lunch or cheese sandwich. In this recipe, we use sliced red onions and cider vinegar to create a milder, sweeter, more colourful version of traditional pickled onions, which are usually pickled in malt vinegar. These can be used straightaway or stored as you would a pickle or chutney. You can use them in place of pickled whole onions, but they’re also a good side or garnish for many Mexican- and South American-inspired dishes.

How to sterilise jars

Wash jars and lids in hot, soapy water. Rinse, then place on a baking tray and put in a low oven for 10 mins, or until completely dry. If you want to use rubber seals, remove the seals before putting the jars in the oven and cover these in just-boiled water from the kettle. Make sure you sterilise any funnels, ladles or spoons before you use them, too.

For more info watch our video about how to sterilise jars

Do I have to use cider vinegar?

You could use wine vinegar. While malt vinegar would also work, it will result in a stronger, harsher flavour and dominate the sweetness of the onions.

How long do pickled onions last?

These pickled onions willdevelop flavour over time, during which the acidity will also mellow. You can make and store them for a few weeks, or up to six months before opening. Once opened, they need to be chilled and used within two weeks.

Can I freeze pickled onions?

We wouldn’t recommend freezing these, as the texture will deteriorate on defrosting.

Edible gifts

These pickled onions make an ideal edible gift to make ahead and pop in a homemade hamper. We recommend writing out a label stating the ingredients and storage instructions.

What to serve with pickled onions

Serve as part of a ploughman’s lunch spread or on a simple cheese sandwich – they’re especially good with mature cheddar. You can put them in any other sandwich you like, as well as burgers, burritos, tacos and fajitas. Sprinkle them over salads for crunch or serve with chutneys, cheese and cold meats, plus crackers.

More pickled recipes

Shallots are preserved in malt vinegar in our recipe for classic pickled onions, and given a twist in our pink pepper pickled shallots.

For another old favourite, try our recipe for pickled eggs or pickled beetroot.

For an instant, fresh pickle, try our quick pickled cucumbers.

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