Red onion pickles

This was a surprisingly fast and easy thing to make.  Whichever way you have it, whichever way you make it, I hope you’ll love it. I could just eat it right out of the jar !

Last updated Jan 14, 2021 at 7:35PM | Published on Apr 24, 2020

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Red onion pickle with chili and star anise

I found myself doing this when I had too many red onions about to go off and needed to use them up.

Everything for a reason ! 

 Essential Kitchen tools

Mandoline – we use this professional level stainless steel one, it´s one of the very best ! Paul likes to have the best commercial one that’s going to last us a lifetime. You don’t need to spend that much, so these are  also a great choice ! You need the slices to be ultra thin. The thinner the slices the better, which is why the mandoline is a better choice than a knife here. One of my onions had started shooting green stems, and I had to cut them out. So I did need to use a sharp knife for the leftover bits too.  I ended up with a mix of pretty, ultra thin circular shapes from the mandoline, and thin cut juliene style slices from the knife in my jar.

Sharp knife – I always prefer to use a BIG chef´s knife. The more control I want the slice, the bigger the knife I choose.

Board – We like to use these commercial style ones, and they’ve lasted us forever ! Using the right coloured board for the right food is a pet nag of mine !

Bowl – My sister bought us this set (bowls, sieve and cup measuring set) from Joseph Joseph. It’s such a useful all in one set that we kept it when we simplified our life ! I used to prefer to use a stainless steel set like this but now it would be heavier for travelling and a nice to have luxury that we just don’t have at the moment.

Fine sieve – Something I didn’t have when I made this. Our fine mesh sieve hasn’t made it out here to us. As a result my onion was quite spicy !  So the next day I used a muslin cloth over the jar and let the rest of the juice out.

Storage jars – I have a mix of saved sterile jam jars, and some pretty vacuum style kilner  / mason / ball style jars. These bought ones are better as you can freeze them too.

So simple, a chef couldn’t even complicate it !

I looked up several recipes of red onion pickle. Finally I chose two to work from, one from a cook’s site, one from a chefs. Jump down to the bottom of the page to see my inspiration. I thought I might mix them up, but when it came the crunch… and I was actually making the pickle, i realised there was a HUGE discrepancy in measurements.

So I opted for the chef recipe. Being a chef recipe, it had an interesting twist, so that tempted me. However, equally typical of chefs, the recipe wasn’t complete ! So I found myself cross referencing to the cook’s gorgeous detail to see how long I had to leave it to pickle. 

A lot of people can’t stand raw onion on their salad, but love pickled onions ! Paul doesn’t like raw onions, or, anything that smells or tastes of vinegar so getting salad dressings just right is key is our house. Let’s see how he goes with this then ! 

Red onion pickle with chili and star anise

Basic Ingredients

Basically… to add to your red onion, you need something sweet, something salty, something acidic, and water.

It’s so simple you can do it in a matter of minutes. Then stir, leave for an hour and it’s ready to bottle and eat or keep in the fridge and use it up over the next few weeks. 

How much of each ingredient ?

Well that’s where the two recipes differed. I used the chef’s recipe, which also had the extra chili and spice… which is what makes it so special. I’ll put the cooks quantity beside it incase you want to try that instead. Please do comment at the bottom of the page with your results, so we can all learn !



1 red onion

Red wine vinegar 300g chef… (note: 0.5 cup i.e. 115g says the cook)

water 300g chef… (note: 1 cup i.e. 237g  says the cook)

sugar 60g chef… (note: 1 tablespoon i.e. 12.6g says the cook)

salt 20g chef… (note: 1.5 teaspoons says the cook) 

chili flakes 2g ( note: know your chili – and put less if your chilli is very HOT!)

star anise or caraway seed  2g ( note: chef said caraway, I substituted with 2g / a few pieces of star anise)

Fast and easy method

5 steps in 5 minutes

1. Peel and slice the onion into very fine strips. If you have chef knife skills I guess you might be able to slice really finely with a very sharp knife, but a mandoline does the best, fine, even slicing job – and does it fast !Just be careful though and use the mandoline guard. 

2. Pop into a bowl and add the other ingredients.

3. Leave it to marinate for an hour.

4. Drain the liquid. (Use a fine mesh )

5. Transfer to a pickling jar.  

User tips

What have the user’s said online ?


  • If you’re doing the cook’s method, you could even do the whole process in the jar.
  • Use warm water as it will help dissolve the sugar
  • Whisk the water, salt and sugar mix first
  • If you’re using granulated sugar, it would be better to warm the water first, then add the sugar to dissolve it.
  • Apparently one large red onion sliced on a mandolin is enough for a 32 oz canning jar.
  • Some say you can pickle at most one more time with the leftover juices because some juices from the onion will have transferred to the pickling liquid (osmosis). Meaning every time you do it you’ll get more concentration of sulfur content apparently!
  • Use the leftover solution in any other marinade or dressing that requires vinegar – it will be more tasty !
  • UPDATE: I’ve just used the leftover juice to pickle some grated carrots, and they were so yummy. Interesting, I had the carrots and the onions on a simple ‘ salad bag ‘ for lunch, It was incredibly tasty and low calorie and filling. The onions seem to have taken on the chili and the carrots the star anise. Now I know why Tom Kerridge uses the star anise on his Christmas carrots ( with loads of butter !) Carrots and Star anise are a match made in heaven.

So versatile !

This pickle can go with so many things… in a salad, on a salad, as a side, garnish, on burgers, in tacos, or with a cheese-board.

Next time I might try the cook’s recipe but actually I like having all the extra pickling sauce to use again. 

I’m writing this in front of the BBQ, while Paul cooks So today, I’m going to have it on a crunchy carrot and cabbage slaw salad with BBQ fish.

In fact, I grated too many carrots for lunch today so I popped them in a jar with pickling juice. I’ll try them tomorrow. I also made up some tasty salad dressing using some olive oil and mustard. Delicious !

fast, easy, red onion pickle recipe



Sweet could be sugar, honey, syrup… I’m going to try Stevia too next time.

Acidic ingredient could be any kind of cooking vinegar, red, white, apple cider. not a heavy one like sherry or balsamic. You can imagine that wouldn’t work.  Rachel cook says you could even try lemon juice. Paul hates even the smell of vinegar so I might even try that next time. He loved the dressing i made with it in a salad though.

Vegetables: Instead of red onions, try baby onions, carrots, cabbage, brussel sprouts, radishes, parsnip, turnip ! With courgette maybe use a lighter vinegar, with beetroot  or cucumber try champagne vinegar for a more delicate taste.

Fruit: try apples (and use it with white vinegar, or perhaps a light apple cider vinegar)

Herbs: try dill, tarragon, caraway seed, star anise


A few weeks later…

So I still have the pickling juice, and always have some leftover veggies to use up. So I thought I’d see how they pickle. It was so interesting to see how each vegetable took on, or I should say enhanced a particular ingredient.


easy pickling vegetables


Carrots – my favourite. It takes on the warmth of the star anise

Celery – takes on the aniseed taste from the star anise

beetroot – a sort of mix of all flavours – which, to be honest was a little disappointing. I’m feeling I haven’t found the perfect pickling herb or spice yet for beetroot. Any ideas, please comment below or email me at

Small white onion from the end of the big scallions we get here – became very very spicy & vinegary. So I’d say no need to use chili in an onion pickle !

p.s. oooh I just remembered I have cucumbers pickling somewhere in the fridge… watch this space




I googled what to do with red onions and found one recipe I liked on Rachel cooks website. She’s a cute American mom out there to help us all increase our confidence in cooking,  but she’s way way more chatty than me, and talks a lot about her life too.  Sorry ! I try to do that on Instagram more. I do talk a lot but weirdly, I don’t want to take up your time having to read it when all you might want is a recipe. We’re much happier promoting other people we like. Her pickled onions were lovely and pale and clear – I guess because she used a pale vinegar. Mine were more red with the red vinegar. She says they’re great with Mexican food, or with avocado on toast.  I must try that !

For the chef recipe, I have access to Chefsteps as they developed the Joule sous vide machine I bought. Breville took over Chefsteps but the chefstep guys don’t jut put out recipes for the sous vide method. Often though I find their recipes require some very cheffy ingredient I don’t have so I give it a miss. This time I thought – this is so simple and I have all the ingredients – till I got part way through and couldn’t find my caraway seeds on my jar shelf. So I figured Star Anise would be a good replacement, and I love the warm flavour that the star anise gives in addition to the aniseed / liquorice one. 


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