Pickled Onions is a tangy accompaniment that is very common in all North Indian restaurants across India. Basically, these small, pink or red onions go great with Punjabi, Mughlai food or any rich dish as they tone down the robustness and make the food tastier. This is my recipe of the beautiful and flavorsome Vinegar Onion.
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More on Pickled Onions
Vinegar in Hindi is ‘sirka’ and onion is ‘pyaaz.’ Thus, the Vinegar Onion or Pickled Onions in India is commonly referred to as Sirke Wale Pyaaz. This recipe is a quick way of preparing a batch of restaurant style Vinegar Onion or Pickled Red Onions at home.
Pickled Onions, Onion Salad and Mint Chutney usually go hand in hand, and are served together at most of the Indian restaurants. People love this combination and often ask for it too. Like pickles, these vinegar onions are basically served complimentary with the main course dishes.
The onions are very sour if you use a lot of vinegar. I have learnt how to make these Pickled Red Onions from my MIL and she always advises not to use too much vinegar. Also, there’s no need to cover the onions completely with the vinegar-water solution. Shake the jar 2 to 3 times a day till it is ready.
Why This Recipe Works
This Pickled Onions recipe is not only delectable, but is beautiful too. Ideally made with small red onions, but shallots or pearl onions can also be used. In the absence of red onions, a small piece of beetroot is added to get the crimson red hue.
The onions are steeped in a vinegar solution and kept for 2 to 3 days. They soften while developing a lovely taste of vinegar in them, and lose their pungency too. Eventually, you have sour onions, but also with a light inherent sweet flavor.
This Pickled Red Onions recipe doesn’t take much time in its preparation. It is ready to be consumed after 2 to 3 days, post which you can refrigerate to make it last longer. However, the more you let the onions sit in the solution, the tastier they become.
How to make Pickled Onions
1. Peel 15 to 20 small red onions or shallots or pearl onions. You can also use regular red onions. But do slice them in rounds before soaking them in the vinegar.
2. Rinse the peeled onions in water and drain them very well.
3. Place all the onions in a glass jar, ceramic jar or any other non-reactive jar. Kindly do not use steel jar or plastic jar as the vinegar may react with these.
Make Vinegar Solution
4. In a bowl, add 1 teaspoon white vinegar or apple cider vinegar and ¼ cup of clean filtered water.
Note that if the small onions are larger in size, then increase the amount of vinegar and water. Or you can use half a portion of these kind of onions to use the vinegar and water proportions mentioned in the recipe.
5. Then, add ¾ teaspoon salt or according to taste.
6. Mix very well.
Make Vinegar Onion
7. Pour the vinegar mixture in the jar containing the onions. Alternatively, you can add vinegar, water and salt directly in the jar.
8. Shake the bottle or jar. Cover and seal the jar with its lid.
Let the onion sit in the vinegar solution for 2 to 3 days at room temperature.
9. Shake the bottle or jar 2 to 3 times a day.
10. After 2 to 3 days, once the onions are pickled, keep the jar in the refrigerator covered and sealed with its lid.
Serve the Pickled Onions or Vinegar Onion with any North Indian main course dish like matar paneer, aloo paneer, kadai mushroom, chole masala or dal makhani.
What is Pickling
Pickling is not just a phenomenon of the modern world, but one of the most oldest forms of preserving the shelf life of foods or soaking foods in solutions to prevent spoilage. These Pickled Onions are an Indian favorite.
From Indian fruit and vegetable pickles to the American pickles made in brine, the Japanese pickles made with miso and the healthy Korean kimchi and more; the science of pickling is truly gobal.
Pickles are majorly classified under 2 broad categories:
- First, where food items are preserved in strong acidic solutions like that of vinegar, which inhibit the survival of few bacteria.
- Second, where food items are preserved in brine (solution of water and salt), which aids in the growth of ‘good bacteria.’
Not just a food preservation technique, pickling also alters the aroma, taste, flavor and texture of the ingredients.
- Generally, small onions, pearl onions or shallots are used for this Pickled Onions recipe as these are not too strong and blend well with the vinegar.
- Before using the onions for this recipe, make sure to rinse and drain the peeled onions well.
- The longer you rest the onions in the vinegar, the better the liquid will seep in. Make sure to let the onions sit in the vinegar solution for about 2 to 3 days before consuming.
- Using a ceramic jar to store the Sirke Wale Pyaaz is always a better option. If you don’t have one, make sure to use a jar that’s non-reactive to the vinegar solution.
- Shake the bottle 2 to 3 times a day so that the vinegar solution gets mingled well.
- You can store Pickled Red Onions in the refrigerator for about a week.
- You can also add chilies, ginger and some spices to enhance the flavor of this Vinegar Onion.
- If one batch of Vinegar Onions get over, you can add more onions to the same vinegar solution till it is used up completely.
Soaking the onions in a solution of vinegar softens the onions and imparts a pleasantly tart flavor to them. This, when accompanied with robust gravies or dishes, cuts down on the richness and makes the food more palatable.
It is best to use small red onions to get a naturally red colour in this recipe. If you don’t have them, you can also use regular small onions, shallots or even pearl onions to prepare this Sirke Wale Pyaaz.
The red color is naturally due to the use of small red onions. However, if you don’t have them, add a small piece of beetroot to get the red color.
You must soak the onions in the vinegar solution for about 2 to 3 days before consuming. During that time, keep shaking the bottle 2 to 3 times a day so that the solution mingles well with the onions.
You can refrigerate the Sirke Wale Pyaaz to keep them good for a week. If the onions are over, keep adding more onions to the leftover liquid till all of the solution is used up.
Yes, you can add ginger, chilies and some spices other than the onions or along with them.
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Pickled Onions (Vinegar Onion)
- 15 to 20 small red onions or 8 to 10 shallots or pearl onions
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup water – filtered
- ¾ teaspoon salt or add as required
- Peel small red onions or shallots or pearl onions.
- Rinse the peeled red onions in water and drain them very well.
- Place all the onions in a glass jar, ceramic jar or any other non-reactive jar.
- Add the vinegar, water and salt to the onions. Alternatively, you can mix vinegar, water and salt in a bowl, then add this mixture to the onions.
- Shake the bottle. Seal the jar with its lid.
- Let the onions sit in the vinegar solution for 2 to 3 days.
- Shake the bottle 2 to 3 times a day.
- Refrigerate after the onions are pickled. Keep the jar in the refrigerator. Ensure that the jar is always sealed and closed with its lid when refrigerating.
- Serve the Pickled Onions with any rich Indian dish.
- If you use regular onions, then slice them in rounds before pickling.
- Use fresh onions to get the best flavor and taste.
- The recipe can be scaled to make a large batch.
Nutrition Info (Approximate Values)
This Pickled Onions post from the blog archives first published in June 2013 has been republished and updated on 15 April 2022.