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:
4.98 from 108 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 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.

 

117 comments

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Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Debbie
    09.05.2021

    Do the jars need to be sterilized before making this recipe?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.06.2021

      Hi Debbie, since these are refrigerator pickles (not meant to be stored at room temp), you can just use clean jars.

      • Debbie
        09.06.2021

        Thanks for replying!

  2. Mia
    08.30.2021

    5 stars
    Hello. I just got a bunch of red onions from a local farmers market. My friend had made a jar of them before according to your recipe and they were DELICIOUS! I want to make more of them but preserve them for later. Can I and how do I?

  3. Gaetane
    08.23.2021

    Can we presser cook the jar to be able to leave on the self

  4. Xerix
    08.17.2021

    4 stars
    I made the recipe, but used ACV, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, fresh bay leaves, and monk fruit sweetener. Very, very good.

    • Doina
      09.05.2021

      How much monk sweetener did you use?

  5. Eve
    08.02.2021

    I have a bunch of sweet white onions in the pantry and regular sugar. Can those be substituted?

  6. Joyce
    07.10.2021

    5 stars
    I’m about to make these pickles, and I also smashed a couple garlic cloves. Glad I read about them turning blue. I boiled the garlic with the liquid mixture, and I think I’ll remove them when I’m ready to add to the jar(s) of onions.

    It looks like a lot of liquid for two small onions, so I halved the recipe, since this is my first try.

  7. Faye
    07.07.2021

    Thank you for your Delicious and easy recipe! It is now my go to. Next batch I am going to add some caraway seeds, give that a try. Yumm!! I also replied to one of the people in the comments about blue garlic and then realized I probably shouldn’t have done that as it is you that is supposed to. I apologize if I overstepped any bounds.

  8. Squishy Mama
    07.04.2021

    Once in the jars, do you think they would freeze well? Thanks for the recipe! Just made with home grown onions!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.05.2021

      I’ve never tried freezing them, I’m not sure.

  9. Kate
    07.01.2021

    Love this recipe. Thanks much.

  10. Bridget
    06.27.2021

    5 stars
    SUPER tasty! Super easy too 😁 I LOVE pickled red onions, I’ve tried a few different recipes and yours is the best by far! Do you have any good recipes for rice pudding?(doesn’t hurt to.ask, right?lol)

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.28.2021

      I’m glad you loved them! I don’t have a recipe for rice pudding, maybe one day 🙂

  11. Candace Hemphill
    06.21.2021

    I added a few smashed garlic cloves. After about two weeks they were turning blue/green. Any clue why and if it’s safe to keep eating?

    • Faye
      07.07.2021

      Amino Acids and Sulfur compounds naturally present in garlic mix together when in acid like vinegar. These blue pigments are called Anthocyanins. This occurs every time I make a fermented hot sauce with garlic. There are other factors that cause this to happen as well, too long to list here. If the blue/green tinge on garlic really bothers you then go to Mother Earth News and type in Blue garlic and they explain how you can reduce or avoid that blue color. It doesn’t look pretty but is natural and safe to eat.

    • Joyce
      07.10.2021

      I’m about to make these pickles, and I also smashed a couple garlic cloves. Glad I read about them turning blue. I boiled the garlic with the liquid mixture, and I think I’ll remove them when I’m ready to add to the jar(s) of onions.

      It looks like a lot of liquid for two small onions, so I halved the recipe, since this is my first try.

  12. Josephine Ferris
    06.15.2021

    This looks gorgeous.swill be making this.Thank you.
    Love all your yummy recipes.
    Regards Jo x

  13. Louise
    05.09.2021

    5 stars
    Loved it can I add new onions to the pickling sauce

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.09.2021

      Hi Louise, you can – if you add new onions to the cold brine (vs. the original hot one) just let them sit in the fridge a little longer. Eventually, the brine will lose flavor, so I generally toss it after a few weeks.

  14. Angela
    04.27.2021

    5 stars
    Super easy to make and give.
    I know these will be our new condiment of the summer!! I added Jalapeño balsamic in addition to the white vinegar. Threw in a fresh bay leaf and peppercorns.

  15. Mari
    04.25.2021

    5 stars
    I used part Bragg’s unfiltered apple cider vinegar and part Marukan unseasoned rice vinegar to make your pickled red onions. I added a pinch of whole pickling spices to the vinegar. Wow! They were fantastic. I’d never made them before. After a few hours I chopped the pickled onions roughly and added them to cooked quinoa with finely chopped parsley and mint, chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumber, and some shawarma spices. The pickled onions made a big snappy difference! Thank you, Jeanine!

  16. Sara
    04.03.2021

    Could you please list the amounts of each ingredient?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      04.03.2021

      Hi Sara, the measurements are in the recipe card at the bottom of the post (above the comments)

  17. Ned Wilmsen
    03.28.2021

    Use honey. Down here in Sonora where I live, plain ol’ white sugar is most often used, but many folk, especially out in the country, use honey instead. Que tenga buen apetito.

  18. Ned Wilmsen
    03.28.2021

    5 stars
    When I drove a taxicab in LA, I picked up a young lady in Silverlake and drove her to the nearby taco joint. I remarked that my ambition was to try every taco in LA county. She said that she hoped I believed in reincarnation. I laughed and retorted that one could always judge a taqueria by looking at the condiments bar: if they had pickled red onions, then that were a good place. Cabbys know at least two things, maybe three: best tacos in town, best burgers, and best 24 hour joints. Your recipe is yummy.

  19. Mandy
    03.03.2021

    How long will they last in the fridge? Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.03.2021

      about 2 weeks! They won’t go bad, but they start to lose their flavor after that.

  20. Az Breeze
    02.27.2021

    5 stars
    My friend asked if I wanted to try some pickleo onions it was the last thing I wanted to do but I was polite And tried it I was amazed it was so delicious I asked if I could take some home And I also asked for the recipe and she led me to this site I’ve put them on everything my grandson loves them I can’t wait to gift them

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.