how to pickle onions for barbecue

Pickled onions are a delicious and tangy addition to any barbecue spread. Whether you’re grilling burgers, sausages, or steak, pickled onions can elevate your dish with their zesty flavor and crisp texture. Not only do they provide a refreshing contrast to the smoky and savory flavors of barbecue, but they also offer a range of health benefits. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of pickling onions for barbecue, provide tips and tricks for perfecting your pickles, and answer some frequently asked questions to ensure your pickled onions turn out just right.

Benefits of Pickled Onions

Pickled onions not only add delectable flavor to your barbecue, but they also offer several health benefits. Onions are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and the pickling process further enhances their nutritional value. Some potential benefits of consuming pickled onions include improved digestion, boosted immune system, reduced inflammation, and potential cancer-fighting properties. Additionally, pickled onions can add a burst of flavor to any dish, making them a versatile condiment for your barbecues and beyond.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Pickle Onions for Barbecue

Before diving into the process, let’s gather the ingredients and equipment needed for pickling onions.

– Onions (red onions work well, but you can use any variety)
– White vinegar
– White sugar
– Salt
– Peppercorns (optional for added flavor)
– Chili flakes (optional for spice lovers)

– Jars with airtight lids
– Cutting board
– Knife
– Mixing bowl
– Measuring cups and spoons
– Saucepan
– Tongs or a slotted spoon

Now that we have everything ready, let’s get started with the pickling process.


1. Peel and thinly slice the onions: Begin by peeling off the outer skin of the onions. Slice them thinly to ensure quick and even pickling.

2. Prepare the pickling liquid: In a saucepan, combine equal parts of white vinegar and water. For every cup of liquid, add a tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt. If desired, add peppercorns and chili flakes for extra flavor and spice. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved.

3. Sterilize the jars: While the pickling liquid is heating, prepare your jars by sterilizing them. This step ensures the longevity of your pickles. Wash the jars and lids with warm, soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and place them in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. Remove them from the water and let them air dry.

4. Pack the jars with onions: Once the pickling liquid is ready, use tongs or a slotted spoon to carefully transfer the sliced onions into the sterilized jars. Pack the onions tightly, leaving a little space at the top.

5. Pour the pickling liquid into the jars: Slowly pour the hot pickling liquid into each jar, ensuring that the liquid covers the onions completely. Leave a small gap at the top to allow for expansion during the pickling process.

6. Seal the jars: Wipe the jar rims clean and place the lids on top. Ensure they are tightly sealed to prevent any air or contaminants from entering.

7. Let the onions pickle: Allow the jars to cool at room temperature for an hour or two. Once cooled, place them in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours to allow the flavors to meld and the onions to fully pickle. They will become more flavorful the longer they sit.

8. Enjoy your pickled onions: After the pickling period, your onions are ready to be enjoyed. Serve them as a condiment alongside your barbecue dishes or use them to add a lively kick to salads, tacos, sandwiches, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

. Why pickle onions for barbecue?
Pickled onions provide a tangy and crispy addition to your barbecue dishes, balancing out the smoky and savory flavors. They add an extra layer of flavor and texture that complements various grilled meats and veggies.

. How long does it take to pickle onions?
To achieve the best flavor and texture, it is recommended to pickle onions for at least 24 hours in the refrigerator. However, you may taste them after a few hours of pickling to check if they have reached your desired level of tanginess.

. What type of onions should I use?
While red onions are commonly used for pickling due to their vibrant color, you can use any type of onion. Yellow or white onions also work well, providing a slightly different flavor profile.

. Can I use pickled onions for other dishes?
Absolutely! Pickled onions are a versatile condiment that can enhance the flavor of various dishes. They can be used in salads, sandwiches, tacos, burgers, wraps, and more.

. Are pickled onions healthier than raw onions?
Pickled onions retain many of the health benefits of raw onions, such as being rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. However, the pickling process may reduce their vitamin C content to some extent. Nevertheless, pickled onions still offer numerous health benefits.

. How should pickled onions be stored?
Store your pickled onions in the refrigerator to maintain their freshness and crispness. Properly sealed and refrigerated, pickled onions can last for several months.

. Can I reuse the pickling liquid?
The pickling liquid can be reused for subsequent batches of pickled onions. However, it is important to strain the used liquid to remove any impurities and bring it to a boil before pouring over the new batch of onions.

. Can I adjust the level of spiciness in pickled onions?
Yes, you can adjust the spiciness according to your preferences. Increase or decrease the amount of chili flakes added to the pickling liquid to achieve the desired level of heat.

. Can I add other vegetables or spices to the pickling liquid?
Certainly! Feel free to experiment with other vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, or radishes, or add spices such as bay leaves, mustard seeds, or dill for added flavor and variety.

. Can I sterilize the jars before pickling?
Yes, it is highly recommended to sterilize the jars before pickling to prolong the shelf life of your pickles. Boil the jars and lids for a few minutes or run them through a hot dishwasher cycle.

. Are pickled onions safe for pregnant women?
Pickled onions are generally safe for pregnant women to consume. However, it is always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure the safety of specific dietary choices during pregnancy.

. How long can I keep the pickled onions?
When stored in the refrigerator, properly sealed pickled onions can last for several months. However, for optimal taste and texture, consume them within 6-8 weeks.

. Can I use any kind of vinegar for pickling?
The most commonly used vinegar for pickling onions is white vinegar due to its neutral flavor. However, you can experiment with other vinegars such as apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar to alter the taste profile of your pickles.

. How do I know if the pickled onions have gone bad?
If your pickled onions develop an unusual odor, slimy texture, or mold, it is best to discard them as they might have spoiled. Trust your senses and avoid consuming any pickles that appear off or have undergone significant color changes.

. Can I use sweet onions instead of regular onions?
Sweet onions, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla varieties, can be used in place of regular onions. They will impart a slightly sweeter flavor to the pickled onions.

. How do I make pickled onions less acidic?
To reduce the acidity of pickled onions, you can increase the sugar content in the pickling liquid or opt for a milder vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar.

. Are pickled onions suitable for people with dietary restrictions?
Pickled onions can be a suitable condiment for individuals with dietary restrictions, as they are typically low in fat and cholesterol-free. However, those with specific dietary requirements or allergies should always read labels and verify ingredients.

. Can I pickle onions without using sugar?
While sugar adds balance and flavor to pickled onions, you can reduce or omit it if you prefer a less sweet pickle. However, keep in mind that sweetness helps counterbalance the acidity of the vinegar.

. Do pickled onions lose their crunch over time?
Over time, pickled onions may gradually lose some of their crunchiness, but they will still retain their tangy flavor. To preserve their crispness, ensure proper sealing and storage in the refrigerator.

. Can I pickle onions without refrigeration?
While refrigeration is recommended for long-term storage, you can make quick pickled onions that do not require refrigeration. However, these quick pickles are best consumed within a few days.


Pickled onions are a fantastic addition to your barbecue and can enhance the flavors of various dishes. With this comprehensive guide, you now have all the necessary information on how to pickle onions for barbecue. By following the step-by-step instructions, you can create delicious and tangy pickled onions that will take your barbecues to a whole new level. Experiment with different variations and enjoy the versatile flavors and health benefits that pickled onions offer. So fire up the grill, grab your jar of homemade pickled onions, and get ready for a memorable barbecue experience!

Leave a Comment