Pickled Pearl Onions For Some Serious Bloody Marys

  • By: Linda Simpson
  • Date: May 9, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

It’s really hot outside and I sprained my ankle. That’s the summary of life right now.  Or maybe I have tendonitis or something.  Either way, I can’t do anything except hobble around like an old lady.  I’m going to make cocktails tonight since not being able to work makes me angry. Here’s the more exciting part that makes me happy, instead of angry:

Pickled Pearl Onions With Horseradish Root and Thai Chilis

Pickled pearl onions that are sweet and sour and spicy all at once, with a wonderful extra kick from whole, unprepared horseradish root are going to make for some serious beverages.

Onions and other aliums are in season right now and when I saw bunches of pearl onions at the farmers market, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Is that bad?

That pearl onions instantly take my brain to cocktails? Nah…We have a lot of pearl onions in the garden that should be ready in a few weeks, and while I had grand ideas about serving them with braised meats or roasting them in balsamic vinegar, I have a feeling that they’re not going to make it into any dinners.

This recipe is a loose adaptation from a recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, which is an absolute must-have for anyone interested in canning.

Pickled Pearl Onions

makes: 4  1/2 pint jars

cook time: 12 hours soaking in brine plus 45 minutes active cooking time


  • 4 c. pearl onions, peeled, tops removed (don’t throw them away, make kimchi!)
  • 1/4 c. kosher salt
  • water
  • 2 1/2 c. white vinegar
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tbs. mustard seeds
  • 4 pieces of very thinly sliced horseradish root*
  • 4 small dried thai chili peppers (or whatever you have on hand)
  • 2 bay leaves, split into pieces
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1. In a large glass bowl, combine onions and salt and add water to cover.  Cover the bowl and set aside for 12 hours.

2. Sterilize jars and lids. Bring boiling water canner to a boil.

3. The next day, drain the onions in a colander. Rinse thoroughly with cold water.  In a medium sized, nonreactive pot bring the vinegar, sugar, horseradish and spices to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes to infuse the vinegar.

4. Pack the onions into hot jars and cover with the hot vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Divide the spices and horseradish equally among each of the jars. Remove air bubbles with a wooden chopstick or skewer and adjust the headspace if necessary. Wipe rims and screw on lids. Process for 10 minutes.

*The natural food store in my town had whole horseradish root in their produce section, and I’m willing to be that stores like Whole Foods would have it too. If you can’t find it, substitute 3 tsp. prepared horseradish when you’re simmering all the spices in the vinegar.

P.S. So, if I could walk and hadn’t spent four hours this morning doing an hour’s worth of work, I would have a picture and a tested recipe for the internet universe.  It didn’t happen. It’s too good to leave this out though…

J’s Fantastic Dirty Bloody Marys

This is an approximation of an amazing cocktail that my boyfriend makes. I don’t even know everything that goes in there, but we can try, right? Caution: I’ve made this many times, but never written it down, so some of these amounts are definitely approximations.

serves: 1

makes: 1 cocktail

special equipment: a glass for your cocktail


  • a shot or two of vodka
  • cold tomato juice (or bloody mary mix) to fill the glass about 3/4 full
  • 1/2 tsp. minced fresh parsley
  • a few grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. prepared horseradish
  • 1 tbs. green olive juice
  • 3 green olives
  • juice from 1 lemon wedge
  • a dash of your favorite hot sauce (tabasco, tapatio, etc.)
  • garnish: 1 stick celery, 2 pickled onions
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Mix all that together in your glass. Drink. Repeat as needed. 

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10 thoughts on “Pickled Pearl Onions For Some Serious Bloody Marys”

  1. ElisaYummmmm. How long do these have to sit in the jar before they are pickle-ized? I want some, accompanied by bloody mary fixins, asap, or on Friday when I see you.Reply
    1. Carolinelis- I haven’t posted the elderflower cordial that I made yet… it’s steeping as we speak. St. Germain, pshh, that’s nothing compared to this. you have to smell it! We’ll have to have elderflower cocktails and then dirty marys the next morning. i’m going to see if i can’t recreate a cocktail i had in new orleans with elderflower, gin, grapefruit juice, seltzer, fresh basil, a splash of cranberry and a wedge of cucumber. I bet i can, and that it won’t cost $14 a glass when I make it!Reply
      1. Elisaoh my god. that sounds like everything i love in a cocktail, all swirled into one! seriously, bring it on.
      2. amycarolwilcoxI would love the recipe for your elderflower cordial. I just finished canning the onions. How long do you let them sit before opening? Thank you.
      3. Carolinehi amy! The onions are tasty immediately after canning, but will only get better if you let them wait a month or two. (I couldn’t wait, I opened a jar immediately). The elderflower cordial is here: https://growitcookitcanit.com/tag/elderflower-cordial/ I hope everything turns out delicious!
  2. carlaAmazing. Can’t wait to make my own!Reply
  3. autumnmakesso i have a potentially stupid question, but i am going to risk stupidity because i’d really like to make these. are “pearl onions” just small, spring onions?Reply
    1. Carolineautumn, that’s not a stupid question at all. Pearl onions aren’t actually the same as small spring onions, though small spring onions will work just fine. Pearl onions are only meant to grow to the size of a .. marble? a grape? They aren’t very common, but they do usually have them in the grocery store. They taste like regular onions, but the shape and size are lovely and tiny, so you can cook them and eat them whole.Reply
  4. GermaineBack in the Dark Ages, before fresh pearl onions were commonly found in the super market and farmers’ markets had yet to come into existence, I used to make these using frozen pearl onions. They were much in demand for friends’ drinks.Reply
    1. Carolineyou know, that’s a really fanastic idea for people who may not have access to pearl onions. i’m sure they’d still turn out delicious.
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