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.

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!

Pickled Red Onions

rate this recipe:
4.95 from 37 votes
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 10 mins
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 3 weeks.

Ingredients

  • 2 small red onions
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt

optional

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon mixed peppercorns

Instructions

  • Thinly slice the onions (it's helpful to use a mandoline), and divide the onions between 2 (16-ounce) jars or equivalent. 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.

 

59 comments

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  1. Fay
    09.24.2019

    Can you make this with Stevia or honey? Can’t use sugar

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.24.2019

      Hi Fay, you can skip the sugar, but they will just be much tangier. I haven’t tried pickling with Stevia. I think honey might give it a honey taste – if you try honey, I’d use much much less. Hope that helps!

  2. Jen
    09.24.2019

    I make a batch of pickled onions at least once a week and put them on pretty much everything — eggs, sandwiches, tacos, salads, cheese plates, etc. My favorite combo is adding whole clove & bay leaves. Adds a really lovely flavor!
    I have also made it successfully subbing maple syrup for the cane sugar, for those that don’t do sugar.

    • Natalie
      09.25.2019

      Thanks for sharing that about maple syrup, Jen. Great info, and the other additions sound good too

    • Judy Best
      10.18.2019

      So, Jen, do you ADD the clove and bay to the garlic and peppercorn version or just to the standard onion recipe? Gonna have to try this too!

      • Jen
        10.24.2019

        I don’t add clove and bay to the garlic and peppercorn, preferring just the bay & clove as the seasoning. It’s a wonderful taste – warming and spicy but goes with nearly anything.

    • Jean
      04.27.2020

      Jen, would you share your recipe? How many cloves to how much water/sugar/salt?
      Thanks,
      Jean

  3. Cynthia Whipkey
    09.24.2019

    How long are they good for in the refrigerator?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.24.2019

      I keep them for about 2-3 weeks.

    • Tom
      08.16.2020

      5 stars
      Don’t know. We eat them up!

  4. Patricia
    09.24.2019

    Hi

    How long do they last in the fridge?

    • Patricia
      09.24.2019

      Don’t worry – I just spotted it – thanks

  5. Sandra
    09.25.2019

    5 stars
    Absolutely addictive 😋

  6. Kathy
    09.25.2019

    Is it distilled white vinegar?

    • Holly
      02.01.2020

      I am wondering this too! or White Wine Vinegar?

      • Jeanine Donofrio
        02.01.2020

        Just regular white vinegar! (either would work, white vinegar is just the cheapest option and it’s great here).

  7. Judy Best
    10.18.2019

    5 stars
    I don’t think you can over-use the word “Pop” – LOL. Enjoy these many ways. Can you re-use the brine for the next batch of onions?

  8. Sandra
    10.30.2019

    Have you ever used Apple Cider Vinegar ? … I would rather not use white vinegar .. thanks !!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.30.2019

      yep – apple cider vinegar works!

  9. Cindy
    12.13.2019

    5 stars
    Love this recipe! So simple to make and it complemented many dishes in the following week. Next time I’m going to double the recipe and make a couple of jars with a little spicy kick to it!

  10. Meghan
    02.26.2020

    Hi, I just made the recipe and halved it….I have half of the vinegar/water mixture remaining after pouring into the 16 oz jar. Is this normal? I’m not able to add in the remaining liquid. Thanks in advance, I love your recipes and book!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      02.26.2020

      Hi Meghan, as long as the onions are submerged, it’ll be fine!

      • Meghan
        02.27.2020

        Thanks so much, they turned out great!!

    • Apollonia
      03.31.2020

      5 stars
      The amount of liquid the recipe calls for fits perfectly in a 32oz jar so having half of the liquid left after using a 16oz jar is normal. Hope this helps!

  11. Cheryl Robinson
    04.13.2020

    Can I process these in the traditional way to make them last longer?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      04.14.2020

      You can!

  12. jod j
    04.13.2020

    Can you use coconut sugar?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      04.14.2020

      You can, it’ll become a little darker in color, but will still taste great.

  13. Chrissie
    05.05.2020

    Can I use regular white sugar instead of cane sugar?

  14. Linda
    05.11.2020

    All I have in the house is white distilled vinegar and raw turbinado sugar. Will these work? I can hardly wait to try this. It looks soooooo good!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.11.2020

      Hi Linda, yes, white distilled vinegar is what I use. Turbinado should work in a pinch – it’ll likely turn the brine a little bit brown.

  15. Stephanie Mendez
    05.26.2020

    Thank you for sharing! Can you link the jars you used?

  16. Lynne
    06.12.2020

    How long do you let the vinegar mixture cool before pouring it over the onions?
    Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.12.2020

      Just a minute or so, so that it’s not steaming hot. The most important part is letting it cool after you pour it over the onions, before you close the lids.

  17. Dave
    07.07.2020

    5 stars
    Can you place in hot water bath for long term storage in pantry?

  18. Donna
    07.08.2020

    5 stars
    I use them on shrimp tacos. Make the shrimp a bit spicy (saute in butter and cajun spice), add avocado cream (avo + sour cream + cilantro blended together) and pickled red onion on corn tortillas. Delish!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.10.2020

      Yum, that sounds so delicious!

  19. Julie
    07.23.2020

    I regularly make pickled red onions. I do the same vinegar combination with garlic, sea salt, sugar and peppercorns. I like to add lime juice, fennel seeds, and fresh dill. FLAVOR!

  20. Leah
    08.02.2020

    5 stars
    Hi! Love these onions!! Wanted to ask if I could use the pickling liquid to make pickled red cabbage? Would it still work?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      08.02.2020

      Hi Leah, yep! it works great for pickled cabbage.

  21. Laura Magana
    08.08.2020

    Hello, does it have to be sea salt? Could we use Himalayan pink salt or kosher salt instead? Sorry, never made anything like this. It’s all I have in the house and really want to make this today. Thank you in advance 🙂

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      08.09.2020

      Hi Laura, yep, you could use either of those salts!

  22. Sharon
    08.11.2020

    5 stars
    I love, love, love my pro’s on top of cottage cheese which may or may not be on multi grain toast. So delicious.
    I also omit the water, just vinegar for me and distilled white only.

  23. Leisa
    08.18.2020

    Can I use this same brine for over cucumbers to make quick pickles?

  24. Bobby
    09.04.2020

    5 stars
    Excited to try this, but was wondering do you store them in the liquid or drain them before storing? Thanks!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.04.2020

      Hi Bobby, store them in the liquid and use a fork to scoop some out as you’re ready to use them. I hope you enjoy!

  25. Holly Armstrong
    09.29.2020

    This recipe has double the salt that it needs. Way to salty, had to throw out the batch.

  26. James
    09.30.2020

    Could you can these?

    Thanks

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.30.2020

      Hi James, you probably could, but I don’t have experience with it. These are meant to be refrigerator pickles.

  27. julie
    10.05.2020

    5 stars
    how long in the fridge? i have guest coming in just a few days will it be ready by then?

  28. julie
    10.05.2020

    5 stars
    how long in the fridge? i have guest coming in just a few days will it be ready by then?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.06.2020

      Hi Julie, yep, they’ll be ready in 1 day.

  29. Sherri Rose
    10.13.2020

    3 stars
    I tried this recipe and found it very sharp tasting. I added more sugar. It helped but this was not the flavor I was hoping for.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.13.2020

      Hi Sherry, I would let them sit in the fridge a day longer and then try them as a topping on some of the suggestions in the blog post. They’re supposed to be a punchy topping and the sharpness should balance among other ingredients.

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.