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pickle me pink

Recipe: pickled red onions

Just under two weeks until official summer. There is Summer the Season, and then there is Summer the Mindset. And even though it may not appear to look like summer around here, we are most definitely in the mindset.

supervising yard work in the evening

hiking snow

hiking wet rocks

hey what are you trying to get a picture of there?

It’s not the temperature so much as the light. So much wonderful light and for so long into the evening. I’ll gladly bike, hike, run, ski if it means I can be outside, feeling my heart beat, seeing the transition as the snowpack gives way to streams, mud, and flowers. I don’t mind stepping into the mud and walking through deep puddles. It means I’m alive.

forest canopy reflected in a muddy shallow pond

a moose spied us before we spied her

sunset: fire on ice

Admittedly, I am spending a lot of my spare time outside. It’s good for my head, good for my body. My oncologist agrees. It also means I’m spending considerably less time in the kitchen making things that require long stretches of attention or babysitting. Anything that is going to make me hot and swear a lot is on hold until autumn.

onions make me cry

I’ve tolerated onions all my life. I was never a picky eater. In fact, when my sister and I were growing up, she’d pick all of the Chinese mushrooms, green onions, and other ingredients she didn’t like and put them on my plate. I wasn’t in love with onions, but I’d eat them if they were there. In the past decade I’ve gone from tolerating onions to liking onions. I don’t really attribute that to my tastes so much as my exposure to amazing ways to enjoy onions – and much of that exposure in the years since I began food blogging and dining with my food savvy friends.

ginger slices, star anise, cinnamon, bay leaf, red pepper, cloves

slice the onions

Can I tell you a secret? Half of the reason I love pickled red onions is because they are pink. I know. I know. I am not a huge fan of pink. I’ve learned to accept pink over time. It’s still not my color of choice, but naturally pink food is so cool and so pretty! Add to that the fact that pickled red onions are pickled and I’m kinda all over them.

add the spices to sugar and vinegar

blanch the red onions in boiling water

So I was at Whole Foods picking up some groceries and I thought, “Hey, it’d be great to have some pickled red onions.” I scoured the store. No pickled red onions. Sheesh, how hard could it be? Well, Jen… How hard could it be?! I whipped out the iPhone, searched for pickled red onions, clicked on Elise‘s recipe link (Elise is like Patagonia, like Apple, like Subaru, like Nikon – trusted, proven, loved), and said aloud, “Pffffft! Who needs Whole Foods? I’ll make my own damn pickled red onions!” I grabbed two red onions and we were off to the races.

drain the onions

simmer in the vinegar mixture

These are insanely simple and quick to make. I chuckled to myself at how easily it all came together – even while I was shooting the process! You get crunchy (I have a crunchy obsession – there, I said it), sweet, tart, and zingy all in these pretty pink slivers. Serve with grilled meats, on the side with some pâté, in sandwiches… Go! Go make these now! I’ll show you what I did with them in the next post. Hint: sandwich whore.

pretty (damn good) in pink

Pickled Red Onions
[print recipe]
from Simply Recipes

1 lb. red onions
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
dash of red pepper flakes
2 slices of fresh ginger

Trim, peel, and cut the onions into thin slices. Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the onions for 2 minutes, then drain. While you wait for the water to boil for the blanching, you can place the vinegar, sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves, bay leaf, star anise, red pepper flakes, and ginger in a pan and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 5 minutes, then add the drained onions and simmer for a minute. Remove from heat and pour into a glass jar. The pickles will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator.

36 nibbles at “pickle me pink”

  1. Mrs Ergül says:

    We buy red onions in 5kg bags which means I should go home and make these just about now! Thanks for sharing! I’m sure hubby will love this. He is an onion and pickle fan!

  2. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga says:

    I have pickled and fermented quite a few things from coconut milk kefir to my own homemade komboucha to making pickles but never have I tried onions.

    The color of the liquid inside the jar is just….beautiful!

  3. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Those are just begging for a sandwich!

  4. Michelle says:

    I love pickled onions in a sandwich. These look simple enough to spend a some precious summertime in the kitchen.

  5. Jen says:

    The red/pink color is absolutely gorgeous. I just pickled some garlic, now I need to find some purple onions in Ho Chi Minh City!

  6. ursula says:

    i’m making these. this weekend. they look and sound awesome.

  7. marla says:

    As much as I crave & need winter…..I must adapt to the warmer months ahead. For some reason my folks passed down a personality & skin type that thrives on the cooler months. I am with you girl, each day I can enjoy this life I am eternally grateful. Hot or cold.
    Lovely onions :)

  8. Carolyn Jung says:

    I can see how this beautiful hue would draw you to making pickled onions. Plus, what a handy condiment to have on hand for sandwiches, burgers, salads and all manner of other dishes.

  9. Cooking with Michele says:

    I too, being from Colorado, am itching to be outdoors, ready for summer. Frustrating that today, when I have my first real summer party and would love to serve my sangria outdoors, it’s actually overcast and a bit too cool. Come on, Colorado – catch up with the summer that I just experienced while in New York!

  10. Judy says:

    These sound fantastic! I am diabetic. Do you think they can be made with Splenda instead of sugar?

  11. Allie says:

    Never have I had a pickled onion. Maybe I am missing out! And by the way, this post just made me want an iPhone 10x more than I already wanted one. Using them to look up recipes while in-store would be SO. USEFUL.

  12. Jenn says:

    beautiful photos and beautiful blog.

    pickled red onion sounds so good. i’ve had some in restaurants and they’re yummy. I’ll try this.

    PS: I agree that Elise is like starbucks – only better.

  13. Allie says:

    Also, maybe I’ve missed it – but I’m wondering if you’ve ever written about the ways you package foods to send or give to friends? I feel pretty deficient in that subject… if it were me, the only things I’d have on hand would be tupperware or Ziploc baggies. And I know I’ve seen some lovely packaged stuff on here before.

  14. nichole says:

    these look great! a friend of mine, who hails from mexico city, serves something similar to these pickled onion on her shredded chicken tacos. it’s a killer combination! her recipe is really similar to the one that you’ve shared; i think only swapping mexican oregano for the star anise.

  15. Christine says:

    Goodness, here in Philly we have some searing heat, I actually had jealousy pangs when I saw Kaweah on the snow. She has the best face. It’s just a fact. I can say that because I don’t have a dog right now. :)

    Those pickles look and sound amazing! A girlfriend of mine was just asking for sandwich suggestions…so I’ll just be sitting here waiting. Maybe I’ll make some pickles to have at the ready.

  16. Clay says:

    I love how they look like pasta in the jar!

  17. Lisa says:

    We had dinner at the Draft Wood in Aruba a few years ago, they served pickled red onions and I tried to duplicate it and never had success. Now I will try this b/c it looks so pretty and very inviting.

  18. Cooking Courses says:

    The pictures look stunning, particularly the sunset and the finished product!

  19. Nan says:

    Yum! These look so good. I’ve always been an onion lover — much to my daughters chagrin. She does not share my sentiments. She’ll eat them ground up in sauce — says it’s a texture thing. Maybe she’ll like these? She loves sweet pickles…

  20. Margie says:

    Oh yeah, this is soooooo happening, and soon! (I’m still smitten with the pickled mango.)

    Miss K., is looking especially pretty. I hope she’s enjoying her summer, too.

  21. aldentekim1 says:

    A friend of mine gave me a ten pound bag of red onions last week and I’ve been searching for a good pickling recipe, this looks and sounds scrumptious! Can’t wait to make! Thanks, Kimberly

  22. Joy says:

    I never had pickled onions. I can’t wait to try this one.

  23. Jill says:

    command P!
    Printed this recipe….I know TPH will love these! Will be great on our 4th of July table!
    thanks, jill

  24. Kristine says:

    These were fabulous! Had them as a topper for homemade coleslaw and pulled pork sandwiches on homemade sourdough rolls. Made a batch and a half, ate almost the whole jar and we’re ready to make them again! Thank you so much!

  25. jenyu says:

    Mrs Ergül – I’m with him! Pickles are the best :)

    Averie – the pretty color is worth making a batch.

    TheKitchenWitch – read my mind, girl.

    marla – summer in the mountains is as much summer as I can bear – good thing it’s so awesome ;)

    Carolyn – I think I want to put them on everything!

    Judy – I don’t really know anything about substitute sugars :\ Maybe try making a small batch and see? I hope it works!

    Allie – if I could have a shunt installed in my brain to have me wired to the internets, I’d do it.

    Jenn – shhhh! Don’t say that around my house. Jeremy abhors Starbucks… I live with a total coffee snob!

    Allie – Well, there are two aspects to shipping goodies to friends: 1) pretty and 2) durability. The post office is not kind to care packages. Typically, I purchase some nice candy bags from Michael’s or some other craft store, wrap a few in the bags, then pack the bags in tissue paper. You can tie them off with ribbon, purchase some pretty card stock to make labels (cut with exacto knife and punch a hole in the end with hole puncher). It’s an exercise in collecting various components ;)

    nichole – shredded chicken tacos… mmmmmmmm :)

    Nan – they don’t even taste oniony at all (maybe that’s why I like them so much?!)

    Margie – thanks, Miss K is having a GREAT summer. She’s totally living in the moment.

    aldentekim1 – wow, I never get 10 pound bags of onions from my friends! ;)

    Jill – had I known, I would have brought him a jar!

    Kristine – yay!! That sounds like a great combo too.

  26. Kristine says:

    I have a suggestion for Judy. I just made these again and used 1/2 the sugar called for since I am not big on sweet. They were still fabulous. Splenda can leave a horrible aftertaste in many foods. I would possibly try a low glycemic sweetener like agave or stevia instead. Also, remember it is just a condiment. The recipe makes nearly a quart jar, so if you are using just a few for flavor, you are not ingesting that much sugar even at full strength.

  27. Laura Frisch says:

    Wonder if these could be canned?

  28. Georgia says:


  29. jenyu says:

    Laura – I’m the wrong person to ask as I am canning-stupid, although I hope to learn more about it this summer (you should check with my friend Marisa at

  30. Deb in Indiana says:

    Laura and Jen,

    This link is to directions for pickled onions, from a Department of Agriculture supported center for canning information. This is one of the cases where our tax dollars actually come back to us! The USDA supports many useful programs through the county extension services, and they are a great source for canning info. Depending on your location, check your own state service. Pressure canning times and pressures, for example, vary with elevation.

    In general, pickled items are pretty safe for canning, due to high acidity, and this recipe looks close enough to the pickled red onion proportions that I would have no reservations in using the processing times recommended for this recipe. The only thing I would worry about is whether the color would bleach out during processing — it might, you know.

  31. jenyu says:

    Deb – thanks for posting that link!

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  33. Helen Gynell says:

    The sweet tangy crunch gives the tomato/basil/buffalo mozzarella trio a little punch that goes deliciously well with the notes of olive oil and aged balsamic.

  34. Anne Lemieux says:

    Just made these wonderful pickled onions. Had a taste of a hot one…could not wait for it to cool down. I make my own cassava tortillas and this will be a often topping for my pulled pork and beef bbq tacos with sliced red and green cabbage. Thank you for such a wonderful recipe. I am going fishing for two weeks this coming Tuesday and these will go well with our fish tacos. Blessings, Anne

  35. Teri says:

    These sound wonderful. But I am a diabetic and don’t use sugar. Do you think this will work with stevia or monk fruit? Or do I need a small amount of sugar?? Thanks

  36. jenyu says:

    Teri – I think you could use stevia or monk fruit as long as you aren’t planning to can the pickled onions (I don’t know how safe a substitution is for canning purposes). For amounts, I don’t know how much you’d use to substitute, but there are recipes you can search for that use stevia with tested quantities. Hope you can enjoy some pickled red onions! :)

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