Pickled Red Onions

Want to jazz up your next salad or bowl? Add pickled red onions! Tangy & sweet, they're the best way to give almost any dish a bright pop of flavor!

Pickled red onions

Pickled red onions have been an indispensable ingredient in my kitchen for years. Not only are they a gorgeous, vibrant pink, but they’re tangy, sweet, and a little crunchy. I like to say that they give sandwiches, salads, bowls, and more a “bright pop of flavor,” and though Jack makes fun of me for how often I use that phrase, I can’t think of a better way to describe them.

Try making a batch of quick pickled red onions, and you’ll see what I mean. Top a few onto an otherwise good sandwich or salad, and it’ll become great. Their vinegary, zippy taste adds an irresistible extra dimension of flavor, brightening and sharpening the other elements of the dish. You only need a few minutes and 5 ingredients to make this pickled onion recipe, so give them a try – you’ll add them to everything!

Pickled onion recipe ingredients

How to Make Pickled Onions

To make pickled red onions, you’ll need 5 basic ingredients: red onions, white vinegar, water, cane sugar, and sea salt. 

First, thinly slice the onions (I recommend using a mandoline for quick, uniform slicing!) and divide them between two jars. Then, heat the vinegar, water, cane sugar, and salt over medium heat, and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. This will only take a minute or so!

Let the brine cool slightly, and pour it over the sliced onions. Allow the jars to cool to room temperature before covering them and transferring them to the fridge. Your onions will be ready to eat when they are bright pink and tender. This could take anywhere from 1 hour to overnight, depending on the thickness of your onions. They will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Pickled onion recipe

Sometimes, I’ll add a few peppercorns or garlic cloves to the jar along with the onions to make their flavor a little more complex. I like to change up the vinegar too! I particularly like a mix of white wine and rice vinegar, and apple cider vinegar and white vinegar are a fun tangy combination. These variations are great, but they’re totally optional; your quick pickled onions will be delicious even if you stick to the basic recipe!

Pickled Red Onions

What to Do with Pickled Red Onions

As I said above, pickled onions are my favorite way to add a bright pop of flavor to almost any dish. Most simply, they’re excellent on avocado toast, but your options don’t end there. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use them:

Do you have a favorite way to use pickled onions? Let me know in the comments!

Pickled onions

If you love these quick pickled red onions…

Try my roasted red peppers, roasted tomatoes, pickled jalapeños, or pickled chard stems next!

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Pickled Red Onions

rate this recipe:
4.96 from 365 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves 12
Pickled red onions add a sweet & tangy pop of flavor to salads, sandwiches, burgers, and more! Once you make them, they'll keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Equipment

Ingredients

optional

Instructions

  • Thinly slice the onions (it's helpful to use a mandoline), and divide the onions between 2 (16-ounce) jars or 3 (10-ounce) jars. Place the garlic and peppercorns in each jar, if using
  • Heat the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve, about 1 minute. Let cool and pour over the onions. Set aside to cool to room temperature, then store the onions in the fridge.
  • Your pickled onions will be ready to eat once they're bright pink and tender - about 1 hour for very thinly sliced onions, or overnight for thicker sliced onions. They will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

 

346 comments

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Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Katherine
    02.21.2024

    Made this pickled onions to got along with tacos and it was a huge success for family night. Thank you!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      02.23.2024

      Hi Katherine, I’m so glad they were a hit!

  2. Kari
    02.21.2024

    I’m new to pickling; should I boil my jar before using?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      02.23.2024

      Hi Kari, you can if you’d like! For these refrigerator pickles, we typically just use clean jars and don’t take the extra step of boiling.

  3. dave
    02.20.2024

    2 stars
    I’m sorry but I tried this recipe for my first time making pickled onions and it was WAY too salty…..and I’m a salt-a-holic.. Maybe 2 teaspoons?

  4. Robb
    02.07.2024

    5 stars
    I love this recipe. The onions are nice and crunchy. I have had them on tacos, rolled up salami, breakfast sandwiches and sandwiches. I ha r even just stood there with a fork eating them. I have made it 4 times since mid January. I did 1/2 Apple cider vinegar and 1/2 white vinegar with pepper corns, garlic cloves and 2 jalapeños sliced into rings with the seeds still attached.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      02.09.2024

      Hi Robb, amazing! I’m so glad you love the pickled onions.

  5. Nana
    01.25.2024

    5 stars
    I made this recipe with one large red onion. Delicious addition to brisket tacos. Will definitely make again!

  6. Vicki
    01.23.2024

    5 stars
    These are delicious! I do think it’s too much brine, as I had a lot left after filling my quart (32 ounce) jar of two med-large sliced onions. I ended up adding some to carrots and jalapeño to another pint jar to use the rest. I’m curious as to the reason the jar needs to set without lid until it comes to room temp before putting in the refrigerator? Thanks!

    • Tony
      02.04.2024

      As to not continue to cook the onions, it keeps them crisper, and helps expedite the cooling process.

  7. julie s.
    01.11.2024

    5 stars
    This is my go-to pickled onion recipe! I also throw in some peppercorns, mustard seed, a tiny dried pepper, and a couple cloves…becuase I can never leave a recipe alone 😀

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      01.12.2024

      Hi Julie, those additions sound great! So glad you love the recipe.

  8. Dawn
    01.10.2024

    Can I omit the sugar? If not, can it be replaced with honey? if so how much honey?

    Also, in your notes you said you like to mix white and apple cider vinegar. Do you just use equal parts?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      01.12.2024

      Hi Dawn, yep! You can just use equal parts of the two vinegars. As for the sugar, you can omit it, but the onions will have a sharper flavor. You could use 2 or 3 tablespoons honey as an alternative.

  9. Pamella
    01.01.2024

    5 stars
    I made these (used golden cane sugar as it’s all I had) but they turned out delicious!! Thank you for such a great, quick, and easy recipe! In fact, I’ve tried many of your recipes and they always come out amazing!

  10. betsy glick
    12.20.2023

    What is the maximum amount of time I should leave the onions soaking in the brine?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      12.21.2023

      Hi Betsy, about 2 weeks. They won’t go bad but the flavor will start to change.

  11. steve
    12.19.2023

    5 stars
    Made these and added the peppercorns, garlic, mix of white & rice vinegar (ran out of white), and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Was the perfect condiment for lox & bagels (w/ dill cream cheese, capers, smoked salmon). Absolutely delicious.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      12.21.2023

      I’m so glad you loved them!

  12. Karen Manasco
    12.17.2023

    5 stars
    I made three jars of these wonderful quickled (quick pickled, LOL) onions, and just added them to my dinner of a nourish bowl. They added a unique burst of flavor, and a lovely crunch.

    At first, I thought they would be too peppery, as I only had/used black peppercorns, but they are fantastic.

    Thank you so much! I’ll be making these on a regular basis.

  13. Sue
    12.03.2023

    I don’t understand why there are four cups of liquid for only 2 small onions.

    • Karen Manasco
      12.10.2023

      Sue, I can’t really answer for the website, but in our area, red onions are hard to find in a ‘small’ size. They are always ginormous. I used one large onion, and it was plenty, when I loosely packed the onions into three jars.

      • Tricia
        12.16.2023

        I forgot to heat up the liquid I blame pregnancy brain.
        Will they be ok?

        • Jeanine Donofrio
          12.19.2023

          the sugar will be less dissolved, but if you give it a good shake (with a tight fitting lid), they’ll be fine!

    • Vicki
      01.23.2024

      5 stars
      I agree. I made these using two medium-large onions in a quart jar rather than two pint jars and I had lots of brine left. I ended up adding some baby carrots and a sliced jalapeño to another pint jar and poured the extra brine over that, since my husband likes the pickled veggies at Mexican restaurants. There was still a little brine left.

  14. Jennifer
    11.25.2023

    I make a variation of your recipe instead with rice vinegar, honey and a fresh squeezed lemon juice . Have also made it with maple syrup. Both are so so delicious. Great compliment to so many dishes. Tangy and sweet.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      11.28.2023

      Hi Jennifer, Those variations sound delicious! I’m so glad you love the onions.

  15. Debbie
    11.15.2023

    3 stars
    I made this recipe for my husband who loves pickled onions. He was underwhelmed and said they did not have much flavor. Maybe I will up the vinegar and lessen the water/sugar for next time.

  16. Julia
    11.02.2023

    Very tasty – even after 24 hours.

    And I used a couple spoonsful of pink brine to make salad dressing which was also very nice!

    Did you really mean 2 small red onions for 2 x 16 oz jars though. Those 2 onions will be feeling very lonely. That amount of brine and volume was enough for around 1kg (2 lb) on red onions.

    Maybe it was a tiny typo and you really meant 2lb of small red onions?

  17. Danielle
    10.31.2023

    5 stars
    HI, I love this recipe, but I am wondering if it can be used as a canning recipe as well? I’d love to put them on the shelf so they don’t take up room in the fridge.

    Thanks!
    Danielle

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.31.2023

      Hi Danielle, I don’t have experience canning so I’m not sure this recipe is safe to be shelf stable.

    • Cindi
      02.03.2024

      5 stars
      Please do NOT put this recipe on the shelf for canned pickled onions. Look up a specific recipe for canning. The water in this recipe will off set the required acid for safe canning. Just Google a canning red onion pickles recipe and it will give you a safe version. This is totally fine for what it is: refrigerated pickled onions. 🙂

  18. Alicia Meyer
    10.28.2023

    5 stars
    I’ve made these too many times to count. Always a treat and so easy to make.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.31.2023

      I’m so glad you’ve loved them!

  19. Mary
    10.22.2023

    5 stars
    Turned out perfect.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.23.2023

      I’m so happy to hear!

  20. Danni
    10.18.2023

    5 stars
    Hi, I’ve made these before and loved them, about to make my second lot, just wondering if these will keep in a jar unopened for longer than two weeks?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.18.2023

      Hi Danni, they won’t go bad, they just start to lose their flavor after a few weeks.

    • Sharon
      11.30.2023

      5 stars
      I have made per the recipe and kept in the fridge for over a month and the are fine. Delicious. Just making another batch now 😋

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.