Sweet & Hot Pickled Onions

A ploughman’s lunch isn’t a ploughman’s lunch with out a pickled onion or two. These are hot, sharp and sweet all at the same time and I like to eat them on their own too. The longer you leave them the rounder and deeper the flavour becomes. Mix up the spices depending on your taste or replace the chilli flakes with a whole dried chilli. Try and find small onions/shallots. The easiest way to peel them is to top and tail them, cover them in boiling water for 2 or 3 minutes, drain, cool for a minute and then squeeze the skins off. This makes 6 x 500ml jars of onions.


  • 2kg pickling onions / round shallots
  • 2 tbs sea salt (or table but I prefer the less processed kind)
  • 1.25l distilled malt vinegar (the clear is fine, use the darker version if you want more colour although the golden granule and spices add some already)
  • 200g golden granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp mixed peppercorns
  • A bay leaf for each jar

How to make them 

  1. Put the onions in a bowl and sprinkle the salt over them making sure they are evenly coated. Leave for a minimum of 12 hours maximum 24 hours.
  2. Gently heat the rest of the ingredients making sure the sugar dissolves. Simmer VERY slowly for 5 minutes then allow to cool. You can do this the day before too.
  3. Rinse the onions and put them in sterilised jars covering them with the vinegar mixture.
  4. Seal and leave for a minimum of 2 weeks. Keep for up to a year. Refrigerate once open and each within 4 weeks.





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