How To Pickle Shallots: A Simple Guide

Pickled shallots are a fantastic, and very easy thing to make. These small onions are sweeter than their standard cousins, and their size makes them ideal to fit into a jar with vinegar. They are delicious, nutritious, and very moreish – what could you love more about a pickled onion! So you want to find out how to pickle shallots? Then you’ve come to the right place.

Why pickle shallots?

why pickle shallots

Shallots contain a great deal of healthy substances – they are high in Vitamin C and A, as well as B Vitamins. They also contain fibre and micronutrients such as Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and Zinc.

All onions are a rich source of antioxidants too, mainly due to a component called Allicin, which is great for general health and immunity. Cooking these onions to oblivion can destroy some of these fantastic health benefits, so eating them raw is the bet bet.

But raw onion is not the nicest taste in the world, even when said onion is a mild tasting shallot! So what’s the best way to enjoy an onion’s health benefits? Pickling it, of course!

Pickling any vegetable is a great way to preserve not only the taste, but also the nutritional value of that vegetable.

Cooking anything can remove some of its vital health benefits, but as pickling is generally done “cold” (ie the vegetable is not cooked), then you are preserving all of the good stuff.

Plus (and this may be the most important reason, but it’s a reason nonetheless), pickled stuff tastes great!

Pickled shallots are a great addition to a cheese board, a lunch time sandwich – or just a yummy treat to grab from the jar as you’re passing.

How to pickle shallots

  1. Select your best, firmest and healthiest onions. You should discard any that are floppy or squishy as these are likely to mould and disintegrate in the jar.
  2. Top and tail the onions, and remove the skins.
  3. Place 450g of onions into a brine made up of 600ml of water with 50g of salt dissolved into it. Alternatively, you can omit the water and add the salt to the onions and let them sit overnight, stirring regularly.
  4. Tip the onions into a colander or sieve and rinse them well to remove the salt.
  5. Add 400ml malt vinegar, 1tsp pink peppercorns, 1tsp yellow mustard seeds and 1tbs of caster sugar to a pan.
  6. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved, then drain the mixture through a sieve to remove the spices. Cool to room temperature.
  7. Sterilise your jars by washing them in warm soapy water, the placing in a pre heated oven for 5 minutes.
  8. After cooling the jars for a minute or two, place the onions into the jars and pour over the vinegar mixture.
  9. Seal the jars and store for however long you can avoid eating the contents!

Here is a good video showing you how to pickle shallots:


Pickled shallot variations

1. Balsamic Pickles

I discovered balsamic pickled onions a few years ago, and it has been life changing! The balsamic vinegar adds a depth of flavour and a sweetness to the onions which is to die for, and for some reason the resulting pickles are softer and even more delicious than a standard pickle.

  • Top, tail and peel 1.5kg of shallots.
  • Place 1L of white wine vinegar, 600ml of water, 140g of brown sugar, 1tsp of salt, 1tsp of black peppercorns and 2 handfuls of Basil leaves into a saucepan.
  • Bring the mixture to the boil to dissolve the sugar, then simmer for 3 minutes.
  • Add the shallots to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes to soften them.
  • Scoop out the shallots with a slotted spoon, and place them into sterilised jars.
  • Boil the vinegar solution hard for 5 minutes, then stir in the balsamic vinegar and pour the whole lot over the onions, making sure each jar is filled to the brim and the onions covered.
  • Seal the jars, and leave for at least three days before eating – for best results leave them a few weeks.

This recipe is a good introduction for those who haven’t done Balsamic pickled onions before; if you love Balsamic and want to substitute all the vinegar for Balsamic then go for it – the results will be even better!

2. Quick Pickles

Pickles are usually made with large quantities, to be kept in storage for a long time. However, quick pickles are a perfect method for pickling just a small amount of veg, that is designed to be eaten quickly.

Also known as fridge pickles because they need to be refrigerated, these quick and easy pickles are ideal for wowing guests at a dinner party, or just for adding a bit of excitement to your own meals.

  • Slice 5-6 medium shallots finely, and place them into a sterilised jar.
  • Combine 230ml apple cider vinegar, 2tbsp sugar, 1tsp salt and 2tsp whole black peppercorns in a small pan.
  • Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar then simmer for a couple of minutes to allow the flavours to combine.
  • Pour the vinegar mixture over the shallots, making sure they are completely covered.
  • Allow to cool, then seal and refrigerate.
  • For a more Asian taste, swap the cider vinegar for rice vinegar.
  • You can add Coriander seeds or Chilli flakes, for an added burst of flavour (but be warned that the chillies will mature in the mixture, and the final result may be spicier than you imagined!)

Once you have got the hang of how to pickle shallots, you can experiment with adding other flavours and spices – whatever your favourite herb or spice will almost certainly work well in a pickle, so get pickling and enjoy the results!

Final words

Shallots are a fantastic little onion, and pickling them (in my humble opinion!) makes them even better. The retain their crunch and nutritional benefits, plus they taste amazing however they are pickled, whether in standard vinegar or a different type of solution.

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