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Easy and delicious spicy pickled onions recipe


Photo: Pickled onions

Photo: Pickled onions

Unless you already make pickled onions, let me share a secret. Pickled onions are ridiculously easy to make! They are great Christmas or anytime presents, especially if you use a decent quality vinegar. Poor old Danny’s acid tum can’t take malt vinegar so I always make a couple of jars for him every year using white wine vinegar or cider vinegar. I didn’t realise that I hadn’t posted my recipe until someone emailed me asking for one.

This chutney is based on Oded Schwartz’s method from his superb book Preserving. I’ve added my own Cottage Smallholder twist by changing the spices and leaving them in the jars – as they look pretty and continue to infuse over time. The great thing about Oded’s recipe is that it only takes a few weeks to mature so this can be made well into November and be still good to accompany all those Christmas goodies.

This year we were able to make ours with home grown shallots, bay leaves and chillies from our garden.  If you don’t like heat in your pickled onions just leave the chillies out. The only essential ingredients are the onions and the vinegar and the saline solution which will make the onions crisp.

This recipe makes enough to fill one 300g and one 400g jar. But the ingredients can be multiplied if you want to make a large batch.

Easy and delicious spicy pickled onions recipe

600g of shallots
650ml of white wine vinegar
2 cardamom pods – crushed (one for each jar)
2 allspice berries (one for each jar)
2 teaspoons of coriander seeds
2 teaspoons of mixed peppercorns
2 birds eye chillies split lengthwise – including seeds
2 bay leaves

Saline solution:
500ml of water
35g of salt

Peel the shallots and put them in the saline solution for 12-24 hours depending on size. Place a small plate over the onions to make sure that they are submerged in the solution and store in the fridge.

The next day. Rinse the onions well. Put the jars into the oven to sterilise them (I turn the heat to 160c/140c fan and when the temperature is reached I turn off the oven. The jars keep hot for quite a time).
Add the spices to a dry non reactive saucepan and gently fry to increase the aroma of the spices (don’t let them burn!). After a few minutes add the vinegar and boil for 5 minutes. Best to open the window during this process and keep well away from the saucepan as it reeks. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
Pack the shallots into the jars, adding the bay leaves, chillies and a little of the spices from the hot vinegar between the layers. Finally pour the vinegar into the jars, pushing the onions down so that they don’t float on the surface of the vinegar. I reserve a few big ones for the final layer. Seal immediately and store in a dry dark place for at least four weeks before opening.

  Leave a reply


  1. you need to add sugar (approx 350g per litre of vinegar) otherwise I find them much too sour!

  2. My aunty just gave me your website and i’m glad she did! I’m going to make some picled onions for Christmas dinner yum yum :-)

  3. Jan Lowe

    Never done pickled onions before,done 1 jar last weekend and didn’t use spices will they be o.k
    Love your recipes will try them

  4. Hi I have just made my sweet pickled onions with malt vinegar and done everything right but I added just half a teaspoon of sugar to my jars at the end is this okay as there seems be sugar floating at the bottom . Looks fluffy lol

  5. chris bardy

    My shallots are always too strong when i make them any answers
    many thanx

  6. billyjo.stretton

    hi, have you got a recipe for pickled silver skin onions in balsamic vinager, I have grown my own from seed this year on our allotment. I can pull them at the end of june begining of july depending on the size i want. have bought some from farmers market but seller was not willing to tell me the recipe. many thanks billy.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi BillyJo

      I’m really sorry but I don’t have a recipe for silver skinned onions specifically. However, I’d follow this recipe and use balsamic vinegar instead of wine or cider vinegar if it was me.

  7. bonbonz69

    I decided this year to have a “Homemade Christmas” normally we buy everything but “The Cottage Smallholder” has given me such confidence and insperation this year its homemade all the way, I have made the pickled onions as per recipe but of course dont know how they taste yet but wanted to ask what is probably a silly question to everyone,I brought shallots from a farm shop, which I spent for age peeling!!! which of course gave me a large pickled onion which onions to I get to make what the shop call “silver skin onions”??? I hope I dont too stupid!!!!

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Bonbonz69

      I have no idea where you can get silverskin onions. I’d love to know as they are a favourite with me!

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