Preserves in Action: Pickled Red Onions

February 6, 2012(updated on October 3, 2018)

open face sandwich with pickled onions

This may come as something of a shock, but sometimes, I struggle to make good use of the things I’ve canned. I’m sure that most of you assume that I’m a paragon of pantry management, I’m actually very far from it. I fall into ruts, go weeks without eating a pickle and sometimes let a jar of jam go moldy in the fridge.

I write these “Preserves in Action” posts to serve as reminders to myself to use what I’ve made as well as to provide moments of hopeful inspiration for a few of you out there.

open face sandwich with pickled onions

Today, with more than 30 items on the to-do list, lunch needed to be quick. I toasted a slice of homemade sourdough (inspired by Tea’s January Challenge) and topped it with a couple slices of turkey, some crumbly cheddar, several forkfuls of pickled red onion (same recipe, different batch) and cucumber coins.

As I took bites between typing, I was reminded at how having a pantry stocked with homemade things makes it possible to elevate simple meals and make them more.

How have you made your meals more lately?

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29 thoughts on "Preserves in Action: Pickled Red Onions"

  • Lovely Marisa,

    You know as we all know, canning isn’t really about preserving the end product for later scoffing… it is about the process of preserving; of canning; of doing the do. I’ve made so much marmalade this spring, I’ve resorted to hosting morning “marmalade parties” just to pass on the stuff of my joyful preserving.

    I love it. Preserving, making, doing the do. We all know people who just don’t have the time or the wherewithall in their lives right now to make their own preserves, and what your blog does is enable us to bridge that gap in people’s lives, to pass on our own preserves and keep people remembering and familiar with the taste of the homemade. Keep it going, Marisa.


  • I find that my pickled peppers and beets, combined with some feta and homemade balsamic and dijon vinaigrette, make the otherwise unremarkable winter salad greens taste pretty awesome.

  • This looks lovely. It’s simple and yet interesting. You’ve got me thinking about how I might add these little jewels to brown bag lunches. And salads. And even slaws. Thanks for the reminder to pickle some onions.

  • Yes! The same is true of stuff in my freezer. I feel so good having things tucked away, but then need to remember that the point is to eat it! You inspired me in several ways this year and in jars I’ve got some pickles (both cucumber and zucchini), some sauerkraut, some spiced red cabbage, and some chutney that needs eating! Oh, and some zucchini relish! And plum jam…. I mainly set to preserve stuff I grew so so lots of plums, zucchini, red cabbage and cucumbers. I froze the tomato sauces and dried tomatoes and whole tomatoes plus played with some freezer pickles. I have been using the tomato sauces. Need to get to work on the rest!

  • HA! I think we all struggle. I made pickled red onions this weekend for some tacos and they were wonderful. Next time, I’m making this beautiful open faced sandwich

  • I love pickled red onions on fish tacos! I make them with polenta crusted whatever fish is in season, cabbage, and cilantro-lime-yogurt mix. So tastey.

    I just started really delving into my jars lately after hording them for so long and I am having the same trouble as you. How do i make 15 jars of green tomato salsa into 15 different somethings…? I have been mixing jams in oatmeal, making lots of morning pick me ups (bloody marys) with the pickled things and tomato jars, and making lots of stews and soups with the chutneys and salsas.

    I really enjoy all your posts and recipes, thanks for keeping it fun and interesting!

  • Your confession makes me feel better. I hit those inspiration walls too. I had a really great silky corn pudding with a little sprinkle of pickled corn on top at Gramercy Tavern; the dueling corn flavors/textures were really unforgettable. In that spirit, I wonder if a little of the pickled onion would be good to add a bit of piquancy to French Onion Soup?

  • I learned how to make Venezuelan arepas and like to pile them high with pickled red onions, chicken, avocado and cheese. And I fell in love with them when I first ate a yummy green bean salad from smittenkitchen. I haven’t ever properly preserved them, but rather make a sort of refrigerator pickle out of them. Sooooo good!

  • Ever since I found this recipe for the pickled red onions on your site, we’ve put them on practically EVERYTHING! Fish tacos, frozen pizzas, pulled pork sandwiches, pulled beef sandwiches, you name it. The best part is, we have yet to find something that they don’t taste good on. ๐Ÿ™‚

    And as far as other things, I’ve never had anyone refuse preserves, so if I ever find I have things “left over” or not getting used, I just take them in to work and find good homes.

  • I had to smile when I read your post because I run into the same issue. i love to make jam and jellies but there is only so much you can eat. I started giving away some of my jam before it goes bad. It will not stop me from making more….I am kind of stupid that way LOL

  • Zuke relish is my absolute favorite side to fried eggs. I would have never thought to put them together but one day was desperate for veggies…really good!

  • ooo, i made a massive amount of pickled shallots last year (beginning to regret making so many now that my UNpickled shallots are running out, but whatever), and your post inspired me to try them on something/anything. i came up with mincing one up and putting it on my poached egg this morning. i had my doubts, but it was divine! i made 2 recipes; this one was slightly sweet. it was perfect with the egg and salty prosciutto that i also put on the english muffin… thanks for the inspiration!

  • I made Branston pickle and gave it to a lot of my friend’s as part of their Christmas gift.
    A lot of people weren’t familiar with it and asked me what it was used for. When I told them that it is typically served as part of a Ploughman’s lunch and is great with cheddar they all say ‘ah ok’. But recently I have been asking people what they thought of it and how they used it. The variety amazed me. I was told it was great in egg sandwiches, that they ate it with chicken pot pie, served is as an accompaniment to roast beef, added it to potato salad and simply slathered it on a cracker. There is no shortage of ways to use preserves, the only thing stopping us is our imagination ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I was just counting my jars of homemade jams, juices, nectars, pickles and such last night. The nice thing I’ve found is not all things grow well each year, so in 2011 when apricots were hard to find I was grateful to have my stash of jam, nectar and fruit. As for the 2010 jams I’m trying to use them up in crumbles, pies, and even heating them up with a little liquid to make syrup.

  • Too funny! I have 3 pints of pickled red onions that I didn’t know what to do with, until.. my friend made ropa vieja at work and garnished it with pickled red onions. I think it would work well for a regular pot roast, as well.

  • I think the same can happen with fresh food too, people often want something different or something they haven’t got. That said, I’d definitely like your onions ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • I’m sure this is the case with a lot of newbie preservers as it has been with me–you want to make everything: jam, marmalade, pickles, so on. You end up with some things you covet and would not give to anyone (MY pear preserves, all mine!), some things you give out as gifts (marmalade, okra pickles), and some things that make a meal (turnip pickles). Just like in gardening, where I constantly reevaluate what I plant, I am evaluating what I should preserve. I’ve had some failures, and there have been some things I’ve let sit too long and threw out to be safe (sorry, quince preserves, I hope the copious amount of jam enjoyed make up for this oversight). This post reminds me how great it is to learn a skill and share it with others. It also remind me I have lots of jam I need to open! Maybe a concord grape tart this weekend…

  • What lovely ideas! Our pickled onions are something I often look at in the root cellar and think to myself, “One day I’ll use them.” And they continue to sit there to this day… Thanks for the needed inspiration!

  • i was just thinking this morning about how i have all these pickles i need to eat… i gave away most of the sweets for Christmas, but i hoard my peach butter and canned tomatos/sauce.

    saturday i threw some cubed sprouted tofu, a pint of whole tomatoes, some pickled jalapenos, dehydrated zuchini & chives, balsamic vinegar, and new potatoes in a casserole dish in the oven (obv. some spices went in as well). it turned out delicious and i always feel like “five points!” when i use multiple items i put up in the same dish and create something edible on my first try ๐Ÿ˜€

  • I LOVE LOVE LOVE those pickled onions. I make them every couple of months and then they disappear onto sandwiches, scrambled eggs, chili, salads, tuna salad, and right out of the jar. Try mixing them with some Carrot Habanero Hot Sauce! Delicious!

  • Instead of pickled onions, I made carmelized red onion relish with red wine and balsamic vinegar from the Complete Guide to Small Batch Preserving. This is perfect for so many things, and would probably go well with the pickled ones also. Try it with bruschetta with cheese and slow roasted tomatoes, pizza, pรขtรฉ, cheese sandwiches, veggie burgers, the list goes on forever. Yum!

  • This looks like such a good way to use up pickled red onions. I usually do mine quick for taco night and then have extras and I never know what to do with them.

    On another note, I’m baking meringues using your recipe literally as I type this, with candied kumquats added in. Can’t wait for them to come out of the oven! Your recipe is the first time I’ve had success at home baking meringues. Thanks!

  • I have used pickled red onions on a goat cheese pizza. They sort of cut the creaminess of the pizza (which is still delicious on its own) and add a nice taste/texture/contrast. It is also good on a cream cheese sandwich. Just a thought.

  • So glad I found this website via Hank Shaw. I have a lot to learn about pickling and canning… Think I will start with pickled onions, yum!

  • Hi! I’ve been following your web site for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Lubbock Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the good work!

  • im kind of one of those old school gals. I spent summers with my grandmother who believed one needed to have two +- years of goods in the pantry. Some years the garden would be leaner than others or some veggies didn’t do well. And im sure everyone has been in that spot. But I love going into the pantry to go grocery shopping for dinner or what ever is up. But I really love all these ideas.