English Pickled Onions are a true British treasure! Pearl onions pickled in malt vinegar, sugar and spices. Often eaten straight out of the jar, sliced in sandwiches or accompanying a tasty Ploughman’s lunch. 

A jar of English pickled onions with one onion on a fork

English recipe week continues… and this pickled onion recipe is the 2nd of another component to the Ploughman’s lunch recipe.

The Ploughman’s lunch (see the picture below) is a great British pub lunch dish consisting of cheeses, ham, bread, pickled onions, pickle relish and various raw vegetables of choice.

English pickled onions served with a Ploughman's lunch

How do you make English Pickled Onions?

English Pickled Onions are so incredibly easy to make and are a great snack to have on hand as they can also be used with so many other dishes. The hardest (well, most tedious) part to this recipe is peeling the pearl onions, but I do have a “Ginger Tip” for that in the recipe.

How long do you leave pickled onions before eating them?

The onions must pickle for a few weeks so you must be patient (I know, it’s hard!). I’ve been asked a few times about using the traditional canning method of adding them to a water bath to seal. This I find this can make the onions lose their crunch and the crunch is the one of the best things about these onions.

A white bowl full of English pickled onions

Sealing the jars

The jars will need to be sealed well. Here is a simple guide to the different ‘canning’ methods for storing the pickled onions, click here >  Canning 101

The results are a delicious, vinegary, slightly sweet onion with the perfect amount of crunch. They are ever so delectable as a burger topping with melted cheese or chopped up and added to salads. Enjoy!

 The results are a delicious, vinegary,slightly sweet onion with the perfect amount of crunch. They are ever so delectable as a  burger topping with melted cheese or chopped up and added to salads. Enjoy!

To sterilize the jars:

  1. Place empty jars in a large pot.
  2. Completely cover the jars with water.
  3. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  4. Once the water reaches a full rolling boil, begin timing. Boil the jars for 15 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat. If you are not quite ready to fill the sterilized jars and proceed with canning your recipe, you can leave them in the hot water for up to an hour. If you wait longer than an hour, you’ll need to sterilize them again.

The recipe fills 2-12 ounce (340 gram) jars.

If you want to make this shelf stable for long-term use. I recommend proper canning method. This is a great beginners guide if you need it: How to Can.

If you’ve made these English Pickled Onions, please leave a comment below and let me know how the recipe turned out for you.

Yield: 10 servings

English Pickled Onions

A pickled onion on a fork resting on a jar of English pickled onions

English pickled onions are a true British treasure! We often eat them straight out of the jar, sliced in sandwiches or accompanying a tasty Ploughman's lunch.

Prep Time 12 hours
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 12 hours 5 minutes


  • 2 pounds (907 grams) pearl onions, peeled * see note
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 cups (473 ml) malt vinegar
  • 3/4 cup (177 grams) granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons pickling spice *** see note
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 each, 12 ounce (340 grams) glass jars with lids


  1. Put the onions in a bowl and sprinkle the salt, mix to coat well. No water should be added. Leave overnight. ** see note
  2. Rinse the onions well and dry. Add the onions to sterilized jars.
  3. To a saucepan add the vinegar, sugar, pickling spices and bay leaves.
  4. Heat over medium heat, until the sugar is dissolved. You can tell it is dissolved if you don't not feel the crystals as you stir. Heat only long enough to dissolve the sugar about 8-10 minutes, DO NOT BOIL or breathe in the vinegar fumes. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. If you add very hot liquid, this will cook the onions and they wont be crisp.
  5. Pour the vinegar over the onions (until they are completely submerged) put on the lids and seal tight.
  6. Store in a cool dry place for 3 to 4 weeks before eating. If the weather is warm, store in refrigerator.
  7. Refrigerate after opening.


* To easily peel the onions, put them in a heat-proof bowl. Pour over hot water and leave until cooled. They should peel easily by rubbing the skins in the water.

** Do not leave the onions longer than overnight or they won't be crisp

*** Premixed pickling spice can be found in the spice section of the grocery store.

The recipe fills 2-12 ounce (340 gram) jars.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size

3 ounces

Amount Per Serving Calories 310Total Fat 0gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 0mgSodium 1295mgCarbohydrates 72gFiber 1gSugar 67gProtein 5g

English Pickle Relish

English pickle