Pickled Onions (Vinegar Onion)

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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.

overhead shot of red pickled onions in a glass jar

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.

Sirke Wale Pyaaz or Vinegar Onion is best enjoyed with Tandoori snacks or rich Indian curries like Paneer Butter Masala, Kadai Paneer, Dal Makhani and more.

These also taste yum with Dal Tadka or Dal Fry served with Jeera Rice or Saffron Rice. You can use these Vinegar Onions as a tangy, zingy filling for burgers, sandwiches, tacos and pita breads too.

Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Pickled Onions

Prep 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.

peeled small red onions in a glass bowl to make pickled onions recipe

2. Rinse the peeled onions in water and drain them very well.

rinsing peeled small red onions in water in a strainer

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.

placing rinsed small red onions in a glass jar

Make Vinegar Solution

4. In a bowl, add 1 teaspoon white vinegar or apple cider vinegar and ¼ cup 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.

adding vinegar and water in a bowl

5. Then, add ¾ teaspoon salt or according to taste.

adding salt to vinegar-water mixture in bowl

6. Mix very well.

mixing vinegar-water mixture in the bowl with a wired whisk to make pickled onions recipe

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.

pouring vinegar-water mixture in the glass jar containing small onions

8. Shake the bottle or jar. Let the onion sit in the vinegar solution for 2 to 3 days at room temperature.

onions in a closed glass jar

9. Shake the bottle or jar 2 to 3 times a day.

shaking the jar with onions inside it

10. After 2 to 3 days, once the onions are pickled, keep the jar in the refrigerator. 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.

pickled onions served in a bowl with rice and curry in a plate and jar of pickled onions on the side

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.

Expert Tips

  1. 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.
  2. Before using the onions for this recipe, make sure to rinse and drain the peeled onions well.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Shake the bottle 2 to 3 times a day so that the vinegar solution gets mingled well.
  6. You can store Pickled Red Onions in the refrigerator for about a week. 
  7. You can also add chilies, ginger and some spices to enhance the flavor of this Vinegar Onion.
  8. If one batch of Vinegar Onions get over, you can add more onions to the same vinegar solution till it is used up completely.  

FAQs

What is the effect of vinegar on onions?

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.

What type of onions are used to make this pickled onion recipe?

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.

How do I get a red color in my Vinegar Onion?

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.

How soon can I consume these Pickled Onions?

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.

What is the shelf-life of this pickled onions recipe?

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.

Can I add other ingredients along with the onions in the vinegar solution?

Yes, you can add ginger, chilies and some spices other than the onions or along with them.

More Accompaniments To Try!

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overhead shot of pickled onions in a glass jar

Pickled Onions (Vinegar Onion)

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 rich Indian food.
4.82 from 16 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Cuisine North Indian
Course Condiment, Side Dish
Diet Gluten Free, Vegan
Difficulty Level Easy
Servings 8
Units

Ingredients

  • 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
  • ¾ teaspoon salt or add as required

Instructions
 

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Serve the Pickled Onions with any rich Indian dish.

Notes

  • 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)

Nutrition Facts
Pickled Onions (Vinegar Onion)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 23 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Sodium 221mg10%
Potassium 82mg2%
Carbohydrates 5g2%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 1IU0%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 1mg5%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin C 4mg5%
Vitamin E 1mg7%
Vitamin K 1µg1%
Calcium 13mg1%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 11µg3%
Iron 1mg6%
Magnesium 6mg2%
Phosphorus 16mg2%
Zinc 1mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This Pickled Onions post from the blog archives first published in June 2013 has been republished and updated on 15 April 2022.

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Meet Dassana

Welcome to Dassana's Veg Recipes. I share vegetarian recipes from India & around the World. Having been cooking for decades and with a professional background in cooking & baking, I help you to make your cooking journey easier with my tried and tested recipes showcased with step by step photos & plenty of tips & suggestions.

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44 Comments

    1. they have crunch till they are over. they do not soften like cooked onions.

  1. Hi
    I love your recipes and have been using them for my even everyday cooking. Can I put pieces of beetroot too for color and for eating?4 stars

    1. yes of course you can add small pieces of beetroot. they taste good too.