Pickled Red Onion

(1-2-3 go!)

Let’s say that you’ve never pickled before. Or maybe you have? Either way, you’ve probably had pickled red onion. On some burger or taco or whatever. And maybe you thought (if so, very reasonable): “man… this red onion thing… why is it so FRICKIN’ good?!”.

Let me tell it to you straight. It’s sugar. It’s insane amounts of sugar.

There are different ways of pickling though and not all of them are distilled vinegar/sugar based, but this particular pickling is done by letting something rest in a solution of distilled vinegar (also called spirit vinegar or white vinegar), sugar and water, to which you add flavoring agents, for example bay leaves, pepper corns or chili. The distilled vinegar comes in different concentrations. Make sure you get the 12% one (alternatively dilute a stronger one with water).

The most commonly used mixture for pickling in Sweden is called “1-2-3-solution” which is a handy name, as it’s both… a name, AND a description. 1-2-3 ┬ádenotes the proportions of distilled vinegar, sugar and water (in deciliters). Thus, if you want to make say about four deciliters of 1-2-3-solution, you’ll need one deciliter of┬ádistilled vinegar (100 grams), two… yes TWO deciliters, which is around 160 grams, of sugar. And three deciliters (300 grams) of water. Every time I make this I think: “wait what? Two deciliters of sugar, I must have the one and two confused…. two?!”. So there you have it. It was sugar all along. Which makes sense, because sugar is great! I mean… not always and it’s for sure not good to eat too much of it. But these people who’re like “sugar doesn’t belong in food, it’s got no nutrients! Blah, blah…” and whatever? Loosen up. Sometimes, sugar is just what your dish needs. It’s a spice and in my humble opinion it doesn’t have to contribute anything but enjoyment.

You CAN use less sugar of course. Then it’s… less sweet. And more vinegary.

Pickled red onions. Real easy to make. Keeps for weeks (it doesn’t really go bad, but it’s best the first couple of days). And it’s so pretty!

Do it.

Created with Sketch. 20-30 minutes to make, 2+ hours to let the pickling process have its way with the onion Created with Sketch. 6


  • 2 red onions
  • 100 grdistilled vinegar (12%)
  • 160 grsugar
  • 300 grwater
  • 3 bay leaves


  1. Put the distilled vinegar, the sugar and 1/3 of the water in a pot and heat it on the stove. When the sugar is completely dissolved, take it off the stove and leave it to cool down in the fridge.
  2. Slice the red onion. If you’re short on time and want the pickling to go quicker, make the slices thin.
  3. Put the sliced onions and the bay leaves in a jar.
  4. Mix the remaining 2/3 of the water into the vinegar/sugar/water- solution. When the resulting mix is room temperature or cooler – pour it into the jar until the liquid covers the onion.
  5. Leave the jar in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. Preferably over night. When the onion is a popping pink, it’s done.
  6. Enjoy!

This recipe is one of the building blocks of an upcoming one: bean tacos, which is frankly just the best. In the meantime, put it on your tacos why don’t you? Or burgers! Or serve it to mashed potatoes and meatballs. You get the idea, put it to good use.