Transform your humble red onions (white will also do) into thin slices of crunchy, sweet and sour pickled onions and elevate your salads, tacos, sandwiches and burgers to new heights.
Pickling onions is a simple and easy procedure but reading all the tips in this article will help you make them perfect every time.
If we divide onions into two big categories, then those would be the red and the white onions. Red onions have a milder taste so they’re more often used in salads and in recipes where they’re needed raw. White onions have a stronger taste and are more pungent, so they are usually cooked because cooking mellows their flavor and makes them sweet. But this is just a general rule and it doesn’t mean you can’t use the one type instead of the other in most recipes.
Pickled red onions except their mellow taste, have a gorgeous pink color which makes them particularly interesting. They’re a little bit tangy, a little bit sweet and a little bit crunchy at the same time. In a few words, they’re everything you seek when you want to add that something extra to many of your dishes.
Ingredients for Pickled Onions
You only need a few minutes and 5 basic ingredients to make this pickled onion recipe so you may as well start right now!
The basic ingredients are:
- red onions
- white vinegar
How to Make Pickled Onions
- Peel the onions, cut them in half lengthwise, and trim off the root end.
- Thinly slice the onions and transfer them in a jar. You can use a sharp knife or a mandoline. This how to slice an onion video is very helpful.
- Transfer the water, the vinegar, the sugar and the salt to a small pot and heat over medium heat until hot and almost bubbly and until the sugar is dissolved. You can also do this in the microwaves, as long as you use a microwave safe container.
- Pour the pickling liquid over the sliced onions and let them cool before covering them and transferring them to the fridge.
- After 2-3 hours your onions should be ready to eat. If the onions are thickly sliced it can take a bit longer. In any case, they’ll be ready by the next day.
How to slice the onions to make them crunchier
I almost never pay attention on how to cut the onions, because it makes a small difference. However if you desire to achieve the maximum crunchiness, you should slice the onions following the direction from the root to the stem just like you see in the photo below. Slicing the onions this way leaves more onion cells intact something that results in extra crunchiness.
How to mellow the taste of onions even more
For even milder taste, you can blanch the sliced onions for 1 minute before pickling them. Blanching is nothing more than adding them for 1 minute to a pot filled with hot, almost boiling water and then immediately drain and rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking further.
What kind of vinegar to use for pickled onions
White wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar will do. You can also make a combination of the above and see which you like better. I haven’t tried this recipe with rice vinegar so I can’t tell for sure how it will turn out.
What more to add to the pickling liquid
There are a lot of things you can add to the pickling liquid to add depth, flavor and aroma. Some of these are:
- Coriander seeds or cumin
- Garlic cloves. Garlic may turn blue-ish after a while, but this is normal.
- Chilies for some spiciness!
- Herbs like tarragon, oregano, thyme, parsley, bay leaves
- Beet juice. A little bit of beet juice will intensify their color even more.
- Combu just for 12 hours, then discard it for umami. I haven’t tried this but Ethan Chlebowski does this in this pickled cucumber video.
How to store pickled red onions properly
To make sure that the onions won’t go bad before you finish them, they should be kept in the fridge. Additionally, all of them should be submerged in the pickling liquid. A little trick I’ve found that helps, is to put on top of them a pebble, as a weight. The pebble keeps them all submerged and happy.
The pebble should be washed thoroughly and preferably wrapped with cling film. I don’t use foil or any other metal objects because I’m afraid of the possibility that they’re react with the vinegar. If you have a small glass object, that will also do.
How long do pickled onions last
Quick pickled red onions will last in the fridge for about 2-3 weeks without any problems, if they’re stored properly.
Can you reuse the liquid?
I’ve heard a lot of people saying you can reuse the liquid at least one time. However, because everyone’s fridge is different and everyone treats his food in a different way, before reusing the liquid you should inspect for any kind irregularities. Smell it, watch it and check the consistency. If you notice anything out of the ordinary then you should discard it.
What to Do with Pickled Red Onions
As I said above, pickled onions are my favorite way to add a bright pop of flavor to almost any dish. Most simply, they’re excellent on avocado toast, or any other toast. A few ways I like to use them are:
- In salads
- Stuff them in a sandwich
- Pile them on a burger
- Top them onto any Mexican dish
- Chop them and add them to dips, like this beetroot tzatziki
- Serve them with homemade pita bread and falafel
- 1/2 cup white vinegar (wine or apple cider)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar or honey or maple syrup
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt
- 10 oz (285 grams) red onions (about 2 medium onions)
Prep the onions: Peel the onions, cut them in half lengthwise, and trim off the root end. Thinly slice them and transfer them to the jar.
Make the pickling liquid: Transfer the vinegar, the water, the sugar and the salt to a small pot and heat over medium heat until hot and almost bubbly. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
Pickle: Pour the pickling liquid over the sliced onions and let them cool.
Store: Cover them and transfer them to the fridge. After 2-3 hours they should be ready to eat, but they'll be even better the next day.
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