Pickled Shallots

I’ve been fascinated with pickles, like these pickled shallots, since I lived and cooked in Japan. There, pickles are an exciting and crucial element of so many meals. Pickling is a traditional and natural method of preservation that captures the season and lengthens the life of ingredients that are available for only a short time. But the way we use pickles at Gramercy Tavern is hardly old-fashioned. They work their way into the composition of numerous dishes, where we use them to add important and unexpected hits of acidity.

Pickling allows us to be thrifty, to use parts of plants that are often discarded. Take Swiss chard stems. How many of those have you thrown away? But pickled (see variation below), they add wonderful color, crunch, and acidity to a dish.

Here’s our basic method for quick refrigerator pickles. This pickled shallot recipe illustrates how easy it is. Sure, each ingredient benefits from its own personalized seasonings (carrots take well to ginger and fennel seeds, turnips to saffron and coriander, Swiss chard stems to beets for color). But learning this ratio is a good place to start: 3 parts rice vinegar, 1 part water, 1 part sugar, and a pinch salt. The technique is always the same: Boil the brine and pour it over the ingredient to be pickled. When this process becomes familiar to you, it’s easy to combine many different spices and herbs to develop different flavors. Most of these pickles are ready in 6 hours or less. Packed into a jar and kept in the refrigerator, they’ll stay bright and crunchy for up to a month.–Michael Anthony

LC Instant Gratification Note

As far as pickles are concerned, these pickled shallots are pretty instant in terms of gratification, seeing as they take just 6 hours or so of pickling time as opposed to several weeks. But if you just can’t wait for your fix, we’ve got an even simpler pickle recipe, one that takes mere minutes. You’re welcome.

Pickled Shallots Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • 6 H
  • Makes about 1 pint

Ingredients

  • 5 shallots
  • 3/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Directions

  • 1. Halve each shallot lengthwise and pull apart the layers to form petals. You should have about 2 cups. Place the shallots in a medium bowl.
  • 2. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour the pickling liquid over the shallots and cover them with a plate to keep them submerged. [Editor's Note: The shallots may not be completely submerged, but that's okay.] Let cool to room temperature.
  • 3. Cover the bowl (as well as the plate) with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight. Transfer the pickles and liquid to a container, cover, and refrigerate for up to several weeks.

Variations

  • Pickled Rhubarb
  • Follow the Pickled Shallots recipe above, substituting 2 cups chopped rhubarb (think 2-inch pieces) for the shallots and adding 1/2 tablespoon peeled, minced ginger to the bowl with the rhubarb. Makes about 1 pint.
  • Pickled Swiss Chard Stems
  • Follow the Pickled Shallots recipe above, substituting the stems from 3 bunches Swiss chard cut into thin pieces (about 1 1/2 cups) for the shallots and adding 1 small red beet, peeled and quartered, to the bowl with the stems. Remove the beet (which gives a lovely color to the stems) before transferring the pickles to a container.
  • Pickled Ramps
  • Follow the Pickled Shallots recipe above, substituting 5 cups ramp bulbs—that is to say, the curved end along with the white stems (lop off the green leafy part and reserve it for another use)—for the shallots and using 1 1/2 cups unseasoned rice vinegar, 1/2 cup cold water, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns. Makes 1 quart (which may seem like a lot when you read this, but it won’t seem like a lot when you’re struck by a ramp craving long after the season has ended).
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

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Testers Choice
Anne D.

Apr 22, 2014

I made this pickled shallots recipe a week ago and am already dangerously close to finishing them off. These are as easy and delicious as can be with 10 minutes of actual work involved. The use of unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar is key here. It has a smoothness and lack of acidic bite that brings out the flavor of the shallots perfectly, making for a sweet and subtle pickle that can be tossed into any dish. We've been using them on everything. I've tossed them into green salads, grain salads with crunchy vegetables and feta cheese, omelets, melted cheese on toast, I even diced them into a bowl of warm miso soup. They've added just the right bit of punch to everything they've met. These pickles are a keeper for sure!

Testers Choice
Pat Francis

Apr 22, 2014

Vinegar lovers will enjoy this quick pickled shallots recipe, which turn the shallots a lovely pink after preserving. They provided a tangy counterpoint to harissa-spiced turkey burgers and should be a great accompaniment to any kind of pulled pork sandwich or barbecue beef sandwich. The pickles are pretty heavy on the vinegar flavor, though, so people who are not vinegar fans will want to keep that in mind and maybe adjust the ratios in the recipe. Measuring 2 cups shallot petals was a little tricky. Unless they were re-nested inside each other in the measuring cup, there was a fair amount of open space in the cup due to their shape. I didn't pack them down, and three shallots gave me 2 generous cups petals. It may have been too many, as they rose a little above the top of the pickling liquid at first. Eventually, with a plate weighing them down as they softened, they were all submerged.

Testers Choice
Mackenzie Campbell

Apr 22, 2014

I've been making pickled shallots for years, but this recipe was a little different, so I gave it a go. The rice wine vinegar played very well with the slightly milder onion flavor of the shallot. The pickling liquid was well-balanced, and I was very pleased with the result. I was actually inspired to make a meal in which I could use the shallots. I tossed them on top of some enchiladas for dinner and on top of eggs for breakfast. It's amazing how many uses there are for these bad boys! I believe I ended up using about 5 shallots separated out into petals. Also, I ended up having to use a bit more liquid to fully submerge everything, even with a weight on it. I don't think the petal shape is the ideal shape for this quick pickle. The boiling solution simply isn't hot for long enough to par-cook the shallots so that they have a nice crisp-but-not-raw texture. In the past I've simply thinly sliced shallots crosswise, which not only made them absorb the flavor, but the size also proved better for serving as a garnish or condiment. I think the only reason the shallots should be pickled in the "petal" shape is if they were being served solely on a pickle, charcuterie, and cheese plate. That being said, these are so good and should be a staple in everybody's fridge. The thought just popped into my mind to mince some of them and mix them into various dips, chicken salad, etc. Just a thought...

Testers Choice
Jackie G.

Apr 22, 2014

These pickled shallots were easy to make with a quick turnaround for a flavorful finished product. I'm a big fan of rice vinegar, so that contributed to me being pleased with the outcome. I look forward to finding ways to enjoy the shallot petals.

Testers Choice
Anna Scott

Apr 22, 2014

I was excited to see this pickled shallots recipe. I'm a huge fan of anything soaked in a pickle-y brine--cucumbers, carrots, asparagus, radishes, the list goes on and on. Never before have I pickled shallots, though. I love using shallots in my everyday cooking and rarely is my refrigerator without a bag of these lovely gems. They're sweet but fragrant and give a nice onion-like flavor to a variety of dishes. These will be a wonderful tidbit to serve at dinner for a touch of pickled charm. This recipe made one jar of pickled shallots. My only comment would be to maybe add some black peppercorns to the pickling brine and to up the amounts of liquid in the brine. I suggest increasing the rice vinegar amount from 3/4 cup to 1 cup, and the water from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup. The amount of liquid didn't cover all the shallots when I put them in the jar. Other than that, I was delighted with the flavor of these easy pickled shallots! It's a great base recipe for a brine, too--one that I will certainly try with other vegetables.

Comments
Comments
  1. Carol Ann Hughes says:

    I know ramps are fairly common in the Eastern States but does anyone know if we are luck enough to have them growing in Washington State? When I mow in early spring i sometimes get a wonderful mild onion smell coming from something looking like a chive and wonder if that could be our ramp.

    • David Leite David Leite says:

      Carol Ann, let’s see if any of our readers can help. I think that scent your smelling is wild chives. Ramps have a much wider, flatter leaf than chives.

    • Sam Lee says:

      if your cutting the stuff that comes up all over my garden here in NJ in the spring, I’m pretty sure they are wild chives. Leaves are thin, hollow, tall – they look like store bought chives and taste stronger and tougher. Ramps have a broader, softer rather shorter leaf.

      Hope this helps.

  2. Ann says:

    I improvised some months back and put chopped up shallots in a jar and covered with plain white vinegar. I used part of them in a salad that afternoon and finished the rest off within the week. The vinegar tamed that rough raw taste of the shallot and added tang. when I finished the shallots I made salad dressing with the vinegar. I know this isn’t proper way to pickle, but it was quick and easy and added a flavor punch to savory dishes. Shallots in any way shape or form are wonderful!

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