How to Peel Onions for Pickling

Things You'll Need

  • Stock pot

  • Strainer

  • Kitchen knife

  • Cutting board

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Onions are a versatile vegetable which can be used in soups, stews and salads, and are delicious pickled. Pearl onions, small and sweet tasting, are often pickled whole. Larger onions may be sliced and used in pickled relishes, or can be pickled in wedges for use in recipes and on salads. Peeling onions often presents challenges to properly remove both the outer, papery layer and the layer of skin underneath. A few simple steps, however, can make peeling both small and large onions much easier.

Pearl Onions

Step 1

Fill a stock pot with water and place on the stove. Turn the heat to high and allow the water to boil. Turn the temperature down once the water begins boiling to maintain a slow, rolling boil.

Step 2

Fill a sink halfway with cold water.

Step 3

Place 10 to 12 pearl onions in a metal strainer. Dip the strainer into the stock pot with boiling water, just until the pearl onions are covered with water. Hold the strainer in the stock pot for 30 seconds and remove.

Step 4

Set the strainer into the cold water, ensuring the water completely covers the onions. Add more water to the sink if needed. Hold the strainer in the cold water for 30 seconds and remove.

Step 5

Pat onions dry with a towel, or turn out onto a clean, dry towel. Cut a small slice down the length of the onion from end to end, with a small, sharp kitchen knife. Lift the peel with the tip of the knife and peel away from the onion.

Standard )nions

Step 1

Cut each end off of the onion with a sharp kitchen knife. Place the onion under cold running water, using a strainer or your hand, for 30 seconds. Remove the loose, papery peel with your fingers and discard.

Step 2

Place the onion on a cutting board. Score the first layer of onion skin with the knife by slicing the onion from end to end with the tip of a kitchen knife.

Step 3

Peel back the scored layer of skin from the onion. Remove the skin from the onion and discard.


Some onions have papery peeling that will simply fall off if you rub the onion with your fingers.

Once the papery peeling has been removed, the first layer of onion skin can be removed, as it can be thick and discolored.