Swedish pickled red onion (picklad rödlök)

Pickled red onion, known in Swedish as picklad rödlök is a very popular addition to many dishes in Sweden, especially when shrimps are involved. Pickled red onion is the perfect finishing touch for toast skagen, an open-faced sandwich loaded with shrimps. A slice of lemon, a dill sprig and some deep pink onion circles topping the shrimps are a very pretty finishing touch for this traditional Swedish sandwich. The deep pink onion circles are pickled red onion and this is my pickled red onion recipe.

pickled red onion

Red onion slices are pickled in a solution of sugar, water and vinegar overnight. This rids the onion of its pungent quality while giving it a sweet and sour flavour. The deep pink tone is just the red onion’s natural colour that transfers to the vinegar bath where the onion slices are soaking. To achieve the best pickled red onion I recommend making this recipe ahead, at least 24 hours in advance. The longer it sits, the more uniform the colour of the slices will be. Stored in an airtight container pickled red onion can last up to three weeks, thanks to the sugar and vinegar that act as preservative.

pickled red onion

I named shrimp sandwiches because this is how I got to know pickled red onion myself, but this is not the only use for it. Pickled red onion is a lovely addition to burgers, too. In fact, its sweet and sour crunch prefectly completes a rich cheeseburger. Still, it is on fish and seafood dishes that it just works amazingly. I love having pickled red onion in my shrimp tacos, for example. Apart from giving the dish a lovely crunch and extra flavour, its deep pink colour is such an aesthetically pleasing addition.

See some pictures of pickled red onions on shrimp tacos.

pickled red onion

Have red onions? Check out this onion cottage cheese tart!

pickled red onion pickled red onion

More red onion inspiration: caramelized onion relish for burgers.

My pickled red onion recipe is for a small batch of the delicious stuff. I like to use the smallest onions I find and just make everything in a jar. At work I usually make larger batches with larger onions in much larger containers, but to only feed myself, my husband and occasional guests I find that a small batch is just good enough, and a former jam jar doesn’t take too much space in the fridge. (Sometimes space in the fridge can be an issue! Plus, I seem to have a hard time disposing of jars as I always keep tons of them because you never know.)

For best results I recommend using a mandoline for slicing the onion, in order to get the same thickness on all slices. Remember to always use a guard (the finger protection tool that comes with it) and use extra care whenever cutting veggies on a mandoline. Although it may seem tempting to chop off the root part of the onion and just slide the onion on the mandoline holding it by the leaf part, this can cause accidents. I speak from experience, as last year I injured myself cutting red onions on the mandoline because I was feeling too smart to use the guard. If you chop off the leaf part from the onion and start slicing on that side, it will be much easier to fit the guard on the flatter root end of the onion. Just my two cents, please save your hands!


Pickled red onion, known in Swedish as picklad rödlök is a very popular addition to many Swedish dishes, perfect on shrimp sandwiches and hamburgers.

Pickled red onion

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Swedish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Resting time 1 day


  • 2 small red onions
  • 120 g granulated sugar
  • 120 ml white wine vinegar
  • 60 ml cold water


  • Slice the onions on a mandoline and add the slices to a jar. Pour the sugar, vinegar and water over the onions. Close the lid and shake to evenly distribute the sugar. Place in the fridge.
  • After about one hour, shake the content of the jar again to help dissolve the sugar that has set on the bottom of the jar. Leave overnight or preferably even 24 hours before use.


Store in the same vinegar bath in the fridge for up to three weeks.
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