Smoked Pickled Onions


I’ve been meaning to try pickling some onions at Christmas for a few years now, but kept forgetting to do it early enough. Last year, I apparently decided to send future me a present in the form of a reminder to get my act together. This happened to pop up in October around the same time as I was experimenting with my cold-smoker, and so the idea for Smoked Pickled Onions was born.

I combined a couple of recipes to get a consensus over pickling method, as I wanted something straightforward and traditional - the twist to this is the smoking of the onions, rather than any pickling cleverness.


  • 1kg small onions
  • 1l White wine vinegar
  • 400g sugar
  • Sea salt (flakes, preferably)
  • any combination of mixed peppercorns, cloves, chili flakes, star anise or mustard seeds
  • a red chili


  • A cold-smoke generator
  • Oak dust
  • cardboard box, barbecue with lid, or other chamber for smoking
  • pickle jars

Remove the loose, dry skin from around the onions. Place in a bowl or large pan and cover with boiling water. Once the water is cooled, peel the onions under the water. Cover the peeled onions in salt flakes, wrap in a tea towel, and leave overnight.

The next day, rinse the salt from the onions and dry them thoroughly on kitchen paper. Arrange on a wire rack in your preferred smoking chamber and cold-smoke for 4-6 hours.

While the onions smoke, sterilise your jars by boiling them in a large pan and drying them in a low oven. Let them cool.

Shortly before the onions are done, dissolve the sugar in the vinegar over a low heat, and add your peppercorns and whatnot. Pack the smoked onions nice and tight into the jars along with a red chili pepper (sliced lengthways) and pour over the warm vinegar.

Store the jars in a dark, cool place for eight weeks or so. (This batch I just did was down for nine weeks and the onions retained a good crunch).