How to Pickle Shallots

Learn how to pickle shallots, a quick and easy way to add bright flavor and fresh crunch to so many recipes. Just 3 ingredients!

I make a big jar to keep in the fridge and sprinkle them on whatever I think of. Leftover Chicken Milanese sandwiches? Yes please! A hamburger, loaded with everything? Yup, that, too. Pasta salads, green salads, grain salads, and before you know it, you’re out of pickled shallots and you need to make some more.

An overhead picture of a bowl with pickled shallots.

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These powerful little shallots provide an amazing, zing to salads and sandwiches; making them only takes a minute or two. This recipe for pickled shallots uses a red wine vinegar, but feel free to switch it up with another kind–just promise me you’ll try them.

This recipe for pickled shallots easy to make, with a slightly sweet vinegar brine that perfectly tempers the pungent heat of the onion. A quick boil and a few minutes to cool down and you’ve got an invaluable secret ingredient that everyone will love, saying: wow, that’s fabulous! 

Making pickled shallots for the party? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.

What are shallots?

Shallots are a member of the allium family, just like onions and garlic. They grow underground in clusters, and are usually sold in the grocery store; usually they’re stocked very close to the garlic. They have reddish orange skin, with white flesh and a gorgeous, pale magenta laced throughout the layers.

Because they are a little milder than a standard onion, they’re great for gentle sautés where their flavor can be appreciated–think a quick pan sauce for salmon or trout, with lemon juice and butter. They’re also smaller than a standard onion, so if your goal is a big pan of caramelized onions, stick with the big guys.

Shallots being sliced on a mandoline.

What is Pickling?

Pickling is an ancient way of using a brine, in this case a combination of vinegar, salt, and sugar, to preserve food and make it last longer. Before refrigeration, people had to figure out a way to preserve their harvest to feed them throughout the year. Pickling (and canning) is a wonderful way to do this.

This technique is more of a quick pickle, where you can start consuming the shallots right away instead of allowing them to ferment.

What kind of vinegar can you use to pickle shallots?

I love making pickled shallots with red wine vinegar, but you can certainly use another type of vinegar: Balsamic, cider, sherry vinegar, or even plain white vinegar for this recipe. If you’re planning to pickle shallots with balsamic vinegar, you may want to cut back on the sugar a bit to make up for the natural sweetness of the balsamic.

An overhead picture of 3 ingredient bowls for pickled shallots.

You can even add spices to the brine:

Throw in a bay leaf or a few coriander seeds, peppercorns, or a couple cloves of garlic into the brine to boil. Things can only get better with a little spice.

How to pickle shallots:

Making pickled shallots couldn’t be simpler.

  1. First, find a good glass jar with a tight-fitting lid to store the shallots in their brine. Glass is best, because it’s non-reactive with the vinegar.
  2. Then heat up the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Give things a stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and turn off the heat.
  3. Next, stir in the shallots. Cover and allow to cool completely before pouring the shallots and vinegar into the jar. Store in refrigerator.

    This recipe for Israeli Couscous Salad welcomes any changes you feel like making to it, but I make mine with toasted walnuts, feta, mint, peppery arugula, and quick pickled shallots; every forkful is fresh and fantastic. It's really tempting to eat the whole bowl in one sitting.

How do you make pickled onions?

Any sort of onion stands up to the acid of vinegar really well, so feel free to experiment with this recipe by using an ordinary onion instead of shallots. Thinly sliced red onions in white wine vinegar turn bright pink in the brine and taste amazing on fish tacos, grain salads, and avocado toast.

How long do pickled shallots keep?

Properly stored in the pickling liquid in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid, pickled shallots should keep a couple weeks or longer in the refrigerator.

How to Pickle Shallots

Learn how to make pickle shallots, a quick and easy way to add bright flavor and fresh crunch to so many recipes. Just 3 ingredients!
Course Pantry
Cuisine American
Keyword shallots
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Cooling Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 63kcal
  • 4 shallots skin peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 pinch Salt optional
  • In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring vinegar, sugar, and a healthy pinch of salt to simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir in shallots.
  • Cover and cool completely, about 30 minutes. Drain well and discard marinade. 

Recipe Notes

Do ahead: Shallots can be pickled 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.

Nutrition

Calories: 63kcal

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