Several years ago I had a lovely summer salad at a restaurant that had added a little pile of pickled red onions on the side. I have had pickled onions before, but for some reason this time their cold, tart crispiness left it’s mark, and I had to make them myself. So I went on the usual Google quest searching for the best recipe. The one that sounded the best was repeated on several blogs and I realized that they were all adapted from from a recipe in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers. So I found the book at the library and came up with my own adaptation. I really like the process she uses in her recipe, so I’m sticking with that, but I have adjusted the spices and added a bit more sugar for my sweet-tooth sweetie. They are sweet, spicy and tangy with the right amount of crunch. So if you are in the mood for what I think is the best pickled onion ever, or if you grew some red onions of your own, or found an end-of-summer source for some nice red onions, this recipe is worth trying. They surpass the ones I had with the lovely salad a the restaurant!
If you try these, I would love to hear in the comments how you serve them. I like to serve them with salads, veggie platters, and on sandwiches and burgers, but my favorite thing is just a little bowl of icy cold onions and a fork!
This recipe makes about a quart of onions, which isn’t a lot but you can give them a try…..before becoming addicted.
The process requires blanching then chilling the onions (this is really important to get the onions relaxed, but to stay crisp at the same time), which sounds lengthy but it’s easy….you’ll see. And it’s so worth it! If you have an electric dutch oven with a basket you could make things easier. But I like to show that you can make them without any special equipment, so I will be doing it on the stove with a saucepan. There are several spices in the recipe, and I have listed my favorites, but feel free to add or subtract according to your taste. Your onions will still be good. You can get super good quality herbs and spices and teas at Starwest Botanicals . This is an affiliate link which means I earn a commission from products ordered through my site at no extra cost to you, so I thank you for ordering through my links!
Recipe: Pickled Red Onions
- 1-1/2 lbs red onions (about 2 large)
- 4 cups distilled white vinegar
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 whole cloves
- 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
- 1 bay leaf
- 25 black peppercorns
- 1 pinch cardamom seeds
- 1 star anise
- 1 tsp dried orange peel
You will need:
- medium saucepan – stainless steel or enamel only! Aluminum reacts to the vinegar
- sharp knife
- tongs, slotted spoon or other non aluminum utensil or basket for lifting onions out of hot brine.
- two rimmed plates, and room in the fridge for them
- quart jar with lid
In saucepan combine the vinegar, sugar and all of the spices. Bring it to a boil over high heat.
While the brine is heating, peel the onions, trim the ends and remove outer layers that may be tough. Slice them into rings (about 3/8″). Separate the slices into individual rings.
Add 1/2 of the rings to the boiling brine. As soon as the brine starts to simmer (20 seconds or so), stir the onions under and remove the pot from the heat. Remove the onions with tongs or slotted spoon onto a plate. This is where a basket comes in real handy.
The onions need to be cooled down now, and I speed it up a little by putting the plate in the refrigerator. While they are cooling you can blanch the other half of the onions the same way and cool. When each plate is cool do the same process again twice for each plate. Yes….twice more. It goes pretty quick if you have one plate cooling while the other is cooking. It helps to have good music playing so you can rock out for a minute while things cool, or Snap Chat so you can make a few faces….or do jumping jacks….I know you’ll think of something.
After the final bath it’s time to cool both the onions and the brine separately. When everything has cooled off, put the onions in the quart jar and pour the brine over them. I leave all the spices in with it. Make sure the onions are submerged in the brine and store in the refrigerator. If you have onions that don’t fit into the jar or are not covered with brine, I guess you’ll just have to eat them.