Fried Pickled Onion Rings. Why Not?

Thank the Lorde for inspiring this twist on a crispy appetizer.

Published June 2, 2021.

We should all hope to love anything as much as Lorde loves onion rings. 

In case you didn’t know, back in 2017 Lorde revealed that she had a secret Instagram account on which she reviewed the many onion rings she’d eaten. @onionringsworldwide isn’t the most frequently updated account—it was mostly silent from mid-2017 to late last year—but when she occasionally deigns to post her latest onion ring review, we would do well to sit up and pay attention.

That’s especially true for her first onion ring review of 2021, when in April she raved about her latest "ringsperience" at the Hotel Ponsonby in Ponsonby, New Zealand:

Pickled onion rings!

The idea had me intrigued. I love onion rings, and I love pickled onions, but the notion of combining the two into one briny, crispy concoction was too enticing to slip past me. 

So I decided to try it out for myself.

To conduct this experiment, I combined Cook’s Country’s Quick Pickled Onions recipe with its Ultimate Extra-Crunchy Onion Rings recipe.

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While our pickled onion recipe calls for red onions, I used yellow onions, since they’re more ideal for onion rings (between the pickling and the breading, we’re imparting so much extra flavor that the sharper taste of a red would get lost anyway). 

I sliced them into thick ½-inch rings and then went about the painstaking effort of removing the papery inner skin that separates the layers of the onion. I cannot emphasize to you how crucial this step is. Sure, it’s annoying now, but what's even more irritating is when you bite into an onion ring and the whole onion slides out of the breading along with it. Trust me, your patience will be rewarded.

Once the rings were prepared, I made the pickling liquor out of a combo of distilled white vinegar, sugar, and salt, heating it to a boil before pouring it over the ringed onions in a prep container and leaving them to pickle. While the recipe is for quick pickled onions, I left them to pickle in the fridge overnight to maximize that briny goodness.

The next day, I fished my now-pliable and delightfully sour pickled rings out of their brine and patted them dry on paper towels. They may be going straight into buttermilk, but you don’t want to bring too much excess vinegar to the party. Plus, you want to make sure that the dredge sticks to the ring instead of sliding off the vinegar.

Once they were fully dry, I set about battering and frying in the style of our Cook’s Country recipe: dipping the pickled onions in buttermilk; tossing them in a mixture of flour, cornstarch, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, baking powder, salt, and pepper; and repeating the process. Double-dipping like this ensures a thick batter that’ll stick to the onion; plus, it has the added benefit of building up craggier edges for maximum crunch.

Pickled Onion Rings photo

Twenty minutes of frying and drying (and whipping up the recipe’s zippy horseradish aioli) later, I was in onion ring heaven. Lorde was right to break her long-dormant Insta out of retirement for these: They are good. The idea of fried pickles is nothing new, of course, but it’s delightful to taste it in the twisty permutation of an onion ring. 

Often the onion itself can get lost in the aggressive seasoning and breading of the ring; not so here, since that punch of acidity makes the onion a more active participant rather than a mere structure for crunch. The cornstarch makes a crispier shell for the ring itself, and the Lawry’s brings enough warm saltiness to the party to even out the acidic sweetness of the pickled onion. 

So the next time you want to make onion rings at home, just add that extra step of pickling your rings before battering and frying. Lorde knows you won’t regret it.

Bottom photo: Clint Worthington

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