Lacto-fermented Red Onions



My life over the past couple of years has been full of bursts of “lacto-fermenting“! I ferment everything in sight for awhile and then forget about it, only to get back on the band wagon again a month or so later when I get a craving for sauerkraut (yeah that is right, I actually get cravings for that stuff, crazy I know).

Anyway, my fermenting victim this time was some beautiful sweet red onions. I realized they were one thing I hadn’t tried fermenting while I was watching Dad making traditional pickled onions with his homemade cider vinegar. Yum.

Lacto-fermented onions are similar to a vinegar pickled onion in flavour, but I would say a little more subtle. They have a mildly sour flavour, but not that real vinegary punch of pickles. The bonus of them is that the  lactobacillus bacteria, naturally occurring in dairy products and on the surface of fruits and vegetables, have eaten up the sugars and produced lactic acid along with other beneficial enzymes and vitamins…

“The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.” Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions

Lacto-fermented Red Onions
Makes 2 medium sized jars

• 4 red onions
• 3 tsp salt (I like Himalayan pink salt)
• 3 cups of cold water (It can be a good idea to use cooled boiled water)

Slice the red onions as thickly or thinly as you like and pack into clean jars. Mix the salt into the water poor over the onions. Make sure the onions are completely covered by the brine as lacto-fermentation is an anaerobic (requiring an absence of oxygen) process. Put a lid on the jars and leave to sit at room temperature for 4-10 days. Open the jars once a day to release any gases that have built up. Store them in the fridge and they will be good for months.


The amount of time you ferment your onions for will depend on the air temperature. I left mine on the bench for 10 days and they are delicious! So the best bet is to just taste them from time to time and move them to the fridge or cold dark place once they reach a taste that you enjoy.


So far we have eaten these for breakfast with eggs and mushrooms on toast, for brunch on a Saturday in a bacon butty, added into a fresh coriander and tomato salsa to go with chicken for tea and just on good ol’ crackers with cheese. They are great and you can literally add them in where ever you would use onion.

The fun thing about wild ferments like this is that you never know exactly what you are going to get. Interestingly enough, I made two jars of onions, one turned out great and one started really bubbling and getting a rather alcoholic smell to it. On the tenth day I tried both and one was delicious but the bubbly one really did taste a bit odd. At some point in the process some stray organism must have made it’s way into this jar and taken it down a whole other fermentation route. I didn’t like the taste or smell so unfortunately this jar went in the compost. Ya win some and lose some right? 🙂


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