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:
4.97 from 86 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.


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


  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon mixed peppercorns


  • 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.



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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Brittany

    Anyone know how long it will keep?

  2. Cindi

    I just put a jar up.
    My favorite pizzeria puts them in every salad, so I’m inspired to try. I put the onions in the jar measured how much water to cover them, and used 50/50 water and vinegar for that volume and adjusted other ingredients to that.
    Wish me luck.

  3. Anu

    5 stars
    These are THE BEST! I made a batch for the week and put them in basically everything I ate. This will be a kitchen staple from now on. Thank you so much!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you love them so much!

  4. Bgl Mom

    Can I reuse the pickle brine for additional batches of red onion pickles?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      You can – I’d do it once or twice. After that, it’ll get diluted and I’d start over.

  5. Mikko

    Hi! Can you use this recipe to pickle a sliced tomato?

  6. Beth

    Pickled red onions are great on crispy brussel sprouts!

  7. Courtney

    5 stars
    I add a couple dried chili peppers, and a handful of fresh cilantro. Amazing on tacos!

  8. Brian

    5 stars
    These are a staple in the fridge! You get hooked and can’t live without them. It is best to put the pepper balls in the bottom of the jar or omit otherwise, they are always popping up in your sandwich.

  9. Anne Collar

    5 stars
    These are fab and look so pretty. Can I reuse the brine for another batch of onions ?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Anne, yep, you can – if you add new onions to the cold brine, just let them sit longer (overnight or so). Over time the brine will lose its flavor, I generally keep it for a 2-3 weeks or so.

  10. Hafsa

    Can you use white onions when pickling? Those are the only ones I have on hand.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      you can!

  11. Sherri Rose

    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

      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.

  12. julie

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

    • Jeanine Donofrio

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

  13. julie

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

  14. James

    Could you can these?


    • Jeanine Donofrio

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

  15. Holly Armstrong

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

  16. Bobby

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

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      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!

  17. Leisa

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

  18. Sharon

    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.

  19. Laura Magana

    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

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

  20. Leah

    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

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

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.