GA Anderson is a freelance writer for private and commercial publishing platforms.
Discover the health benefits of pickled onions. See why they are both good and bad for you. Compare the nutritional benefits vs. unhealthy ingredients. See why Red onions are the best pickled onion choice, and the ways to add them to your diet.
Do the drawbacks of the pickling process outweigh the nutritional value?
Understanding Healthy Onion Benefits - Before Pickling
Onions, whether raw or cooked, (raw has more nutrition), are a healthy food with healthy benefits. They are packed with nutrition. Especially Red Onions, which are considered the best choice, health-wise, of all onion varieties.
""Onions are super-healthy," ..."They are excellent sources of vitamin C, sulphuric compounds, flavonoids and phytochemicals."
"... onions encourage a healthy heart in many ways, including "lowering blood pressure and lowering heart attack risk."
Onions Dietary Facts:
|Serving size: 1 medium onion (5.3 oz / 148 g)|
Pickled Onions - Healthy, But Not Your Best Friend
The question; "Are pickled onions good or bad for you?" has a simple answer; yes.
Yes, they can be a beneficial part of a healthy diet, and yes they can be bad for you because of the salt, vinegar, and preservatives used in the pickling process, (plus the high sugar content of the onions themselves).
The qualifier for both answers is one word; moderation.
An onion's nutritional benefits have long been known, and in many cultures, they are a dietary staple eaten daily. But pickled onions are very different, and it is the pickling process that changes the health aspect of an onion from, "eat all you want," to "eat in moderation," because too much pickled onion can be bad for you.
Then there is the question of different kinds of pickled onions; is one better or worse for you than the other?
Pickled Onions Dietary Facts:
- Typical serving size: approx. 3.5 oz (100 g)
- Calories.................: approx. 23 calories
- Type of calories.....: 87.5% carbohydrates, 12.5% protien
- Nutrition provided..: 7 g of fiber, .8 g of protein, 4.9 g carbohydrates, and .1 g of fat
The Pickled Onion's Health and Benefits Short Answers
The short answer for the good vs bad question is that for most normally-healthy people, eating pickled onions--in moderation--is fine. The onions still retain their nutritional values, and the pickling ingredients are not unhealthy in moderate amounts.
As mentioned, the pickling process does use large amounts of salt and sugar, (plus the onion's own sugar), and these are two dietary intakes that you should always be conscious of. Especially people with health issues like high blood pressure or diabetes.
Also, because of the acidic content of vinegar, people who eat a lot of pickled foods have a higher rate of Gastric (stomach) cancers.
Typical Pickling Ingredients
- Vinegar: Apple Cider, Malt, Balsamic, White
- Pickling Seasonings
- Salt: Table, Kosher, Pickling
- Flavor seasonings: Mustard seed, Coriander Seed, All Spice, Garlic.
It is the Pickling Ingredients That Are Not Your Friend
Onions, before pickling, have good nutritional values. They are very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese, and also vitamin C. Unlikely as it seems, they are also high in sugar content. A medium yellow onion can contain as much as 7 grams of sugar.
But, when pickled...
It is the large amount of vinegar and salt contained in a pickled onion that may outweigh the original nutritional benefits of an onion. Either one, in moderate amounts, is not harmful. Salt is a necessary part of any diet, but in small amounts. Vinegar has long been believed to have health benefits also, but the acidity of vinegar is nobody's friend. A pickled onion retains large amounts of both these ingredients, making them fine as an occasional part of a diet, but not as a routine component. Pickled onions are similar to eggs--good once in a while, but not good as an everyday food.
Does it Matter What Kind of Pickled Onion it is?
Another easy answer; yes and no.
The "no" part of that answer addresses the fact that even using different pickling methods and recipes, the basic ingredients are still; salt, sugar, and vinegar, so the same health concerns apply.
The "yes" part of the answer applies to the pickling recipe and the way the onions are served.
As noted, Red onions are the healthiest choice of all onions and it is also pickled red onions that are most likely to be eaten as a condiment portion rather than a side dish portion; meaning you are eating smaller amounts of the unhealthy pickling ingredients. The pickling method for condiment servings of Red onions is also the least harmful; it is a much shorter "soaking" process that leads to less saturation of the pickling ingredients.
Red Onions Are the Most Healthy Choice
Raw, cooked, or pickled, Red onions are the most nutritious and healthy of the lot.
In addition to other vitamins and minerals, they are rich in vitamin B9 and folate AKA which can improve heart health. And for your digestive system, they are also packed with good probiotics and digestive enzymes.
A win-win; healthy for your heart and good for your gut.
Types Of Pickled Onion Recipes
Regarding the recipes; some call for a quick pickling process that imparts the flavor, but doesn't really include the ingredients soaking to the core of the onion, so there will be less of the potentially concerning ingredients ingested.
How to Cook Pickled Onions; American Style
British Pickled Onions
Pickling recipes, like traditional British pickled onions, call for soaking whole onions in the pickling brine for a day or more, allowing the ingredients to completely permeate to the core of the onion, meaning much more of the salt and vinegar are consumed.
How to Make Pickled Onions; Traditional English Style
Pickled Onions as an Accompaniment
Pickled onions have a long and multicultural history as a side dish or accompaniment to other foods. It is not typically a food eaten by itself.
Sliced pickled onions are often used as a condiment topping for sandwiches and other entree'-type foods. (As shown in the photo below:)
Sliced Pickled Onions
Quick and Easy Pickled Red Onion Recipe
1 lg. Red onion
sliced thin, 1/4 inch or less
1 1/2 tablespoon Salt
Kosher or Sea Salt
1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 cup water
*1 tablespoon sugar
Combine all ingredients except onion. Mix well until salt, (and sugar if used), is dissolved.
Place onion slices in a sealable container, (jar or plastic container), and pour liquid ingredient mix over onions. Seal and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Onions are ready after 30 minutes but can be placed in the refrigerator overnight for a stronger flavor. Either way, drain before using.
Small Pickled Onions
Small pickled onions used as an accompaniment to a gorgeous looking Dutch potato salad. Note the small potion size when used this way.
Pickled Pearl Onions
Small pickled Pearl onions as a side dish to a Danish sausage recipe.
*Composite image component source citations: Creative Commons images from:commons.wikimedia.org, flickr.com/creativecommons, search.creativecommons.org, http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2009/06/find-creative-commons-images-in-google.html, and personal art and graphic programs: GreenStreet Clipart, Print Shop, Art Explosion Pro Silver Edition Publishing program - *photo and image source credits: divider and separation images - http://gaanderson.hubpages.com
© 2012 ga anderson
Discover the Paradox of Pickled Onions Comments
Pepprsweet on January 12, 2020:
Thanks, this helped alot, my friend eats pickled onions daily and wondered why his sugar has been hight lately. Im wondering also if eating them effects Gout.
robert prevatt sr on July 10, 2019:
is there any other way of keeping onions fresh as if they were keep in a tight canning jar or frozen thanks bob
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on May 07, 2017:
To be honest, I didn't know pickled eggs were bad for you. I don't eat a great deal of them anyway. I do like them though, and like them with a salad sometimes.
Lena Durante from San Francisco Bay Area on April 28, 2017:
Well, you can pickle onions without the sugar, and that removes a large part of the problem. As you say, onions have plenty of natural sugars in them already.
Bernie on June 07, 2016:
I will be 84 this week have always liked pickled onions I'm sure if you do
As they say.( use moderation) they are OK for most people.
Mark on January 11, 2016:
"Pickled onions are similar to eggs - good once in a while, but bad as an everyday food". Surely no real nutritionist thinks that way about eggs now? Eggs are a superb everyday food.
Janis Leslie Evans from Washington, DC on December 16, 2014:
Very informative, GA Anderson. I just had a burger at a restaurant last weekend with pickled onions. It was a tasty change from fresh cut onions. I had know idea until I came across this hub of the amount a sugar already in onions. My favorite are Vidalias which is a sweet onion. I don't eat pickled onions often but now I know to eat them in moderation, as a garnish and not as a side vegetable. I do watch my salt intake. Voted up, useful, and interesting.
Donnie1000 on November 13, 2013:
Hmm, not sure what you mean by moderation as obviously everyone has different tastes. But an entire 440g jar of the pickled onions I eat drained (235g of onions) has the following:
Sugar - 8.5g
Salt - 0.25g
Considering the daily recommendation for sugar is 90g and salt 6g those are extremely low, and that's for an entire large jar.
As it happens I would always eat these in moderation because of the vinegar being quite acidic and simply because I can't imagine eating an entire jar (I love them but even half a jar is too much of a good thing to me).
Still I don't get the sugar/salt warning, unless there are some massively different pickling processes out their, because 8.5g of sugar and 0.25g of salt for 235g of food is really extremely low.
ga anderson (author) from Maryland on June 15, 2013:
@peachpurple - Thanks for taking the time to comment - and you are right, as with all things, moderation is the key.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on June 14, 2013:
i didn't know pickled onions have disadvantages. Salt and vinegar are indeed bad for health but if we do not consume often, I think it wouldn't hurt much. Thanks for sharing this hub.
Wesley Meacham from Wuhan, China on September 28, 2012:
An interesting read. I've lived in Louisiana for the vast majority of my life and though I may well at some point have seen a pickled onion, I'm drawing a blank. I don't think that I have seen this popular side dish of the deep south. However... Vidallia is a small town in which the main crop is onions and Vidallia onions are (pickled or not) are fairly well known.
None of that really detracts any from the hub. I could easily just have missed them. I have to agree with you that moderation is a key. Though I understand tutul's comment (surprising I know) I don't agree with him. I've found that there are many things I enjoy that moderation actually enhances. Some things simply taste better if you endulge once or twice a month rather than every day. At the same time there are a myriad other things we might be missing out on if all we endulge in is pickled onions.
Well written hub and informative. Voting up and sharing.
ga anderson (author) from Maryland on March 09, 2012:
@tultul - uumm... thanks for reading "Discover the Paradox of Pickled Onions," and the comment... I think.
Tultul Ganguly on March 08, 2012:
With full of my respect I want to ask you a question? If YOU think we people are immortal.Today or tomorrow we have to die, How can I will die I don't know, not even you may
know how can you die? I may die in a road accident or you
may die in an earthquake? If WE don't even know how can we
die, then to me what is the use of always be scared about our health? Yes of course we have to follow some health routine for our basic protection,try to not to be ill for a long period, causing problem of others. It's
fine,but to me I got a very precious life, to me I want to enjoy the every moment of it,without tension,without headache, but in real life it seems to be impossible. So if I or any one will try the test of pickled onion and enjoying it, though it may cause any illness, after knowing this, If we want to get rid of some problems for a hours by testing the tests of pickled onion,then what will be a big problem?
MY ENGLISH IS VERY POOR,FORGIVE ME FOR THAT,
ga anderson (author) from Maryland on March 08, 2012:
@Rain Defence - thanks for reading and commenting on "Discover the Paradox of Pickled Onions."
I love onions - yet have never tried a pickled one (I don't like pickles), but a pickled egg sounds err... interesting. That I may try
Thanks again for the comment
Rain Defence from UK on March 08, 2012:
Well I have always known that pickled onions are bad for you, but they're delicious with cheese, pickle and a pork & chicken pie. Have you ever tried the king of pickled items, pickled eggs? They're the best!