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!

Pickled Red Onions

rate this recipe:
5 from 155 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. They will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

 

222 comments

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Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Duane
    11.30.2022

    I make them often. Only thing I do different is I use apple cider vinegar and toss in a jalappeno.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      12.02.2022

      So glad you like the recipe! What a great variation.

  2. Lisa
    11.26.2022

    What’s the max time these can be stored in the fridge (though 2 weeks is suggested)?

    This recipe produces a lot of brine (more than 2 x 16oz jars worth). I was able to perfectly use up this recipe with 2 x 16oz jars & a 32 oz jar of red onions.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      11.27.2022

      Hi Lisa, I’m not sure of the max time for food spoilage (they’d last quite a while), but after the 2 week mark the flavor starts to change. The onion flavor becomes more sharp and less desirable, in my opinion.

  3. PJ
    11.24.2022

    Can I use regular sugar?

    • Justin
      11.25.2022

      Most all regular sugar is cane sugar. So yes you sure can!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      11.28.2022

      yep, you can.

  4. ROSE SANDOVAL
    11.23.2022

    5 stars
    Hi, do I leave the pickles in the juice to store or drain? Thank you ❤️

  5. Andrea Ritchie
    11.07.2022

    Can these pickled onions be processed to be shelf-stable? If so, what’s the processing time?
    Thanks!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      11.11.2022

      Hi Andrea, we haven’t tried this, so I can’t make a recommendation about processing them. Sorry about that!

  6. Lisa
    11.03.2022

    5 stars
    This recipe is great! I throw in a few cardamom pods and a few star anise instead of garlic and peppercorns and it makes my favorite salad topper. Also, I don’t heat or boil anything- just mix it all together and let the brine work its magic!

    • Phoebe Moore
      11.04.2022

      I love the idea of the cardamom and anise! So glad you love the recipe.

  7. Lauren
    10.31.2022

    I always have a ton of liquid left over. Can I save it for later?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      11.01.2022

      Hi Lauren, you can either stuff more onions, if they’ll fit, or I sometimes use the brine a 2nd time. After that, it looses some of it’s flavor.

  8. Tiffany
    10.26.2022

    5 stars
    Is the brine supposed to come to a boil? I’m making my second batch for my neighbor. The flavor is fantastic.

    • Phoebe Moore
      10.28.2022

      Nope, just stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. So glad you love the recipe!

  9. Hagit
    10.18.2022

    Can you use this recipe to pickle cabbage?

  10. Alisa
    10.05.2022

    5 stars
    Do you need to store the onions in the liquid?

  11. Nick Moore
    09.17.2022

    5 stars
    I like to add lime zest for an extra punch

  12. Fed
    09.15.2022

    I have just found a drug. Amazing stuff!
    I would personally use a touch less salt in the next batch.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.21.2022

      I’m so glad you enjoyed them.

  13. Katherine
    09.11.2022

    5 stars
    To make them redder, or make white onions look like red onions if you don’t have any, add some beet liquid to the brine.

    • Aj
      11.21.2022

      Or you can use red wine vinegar!

  14. Ewa
    09.10.2022

    Can I use pear vinegar?

  15. Meghan
    09.07.2022

    Hey! Can this be water bath canned to preserve the onions for later use?

    • Evan
      09.21.2022

      I’d like to know this as well

    • Chelsey
      10.25.2022

      I would also love to know this

  16. Leea
    09.03.2022

    5 stars
    I keep a large jar of these pickled red onions in the fridge at all times

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.06.2022

      I love hearing that!

  17. Sue Hillard
    09.03.2022

    5 stars
    Excellent recipe!! I’ve tried others but this was the best. Thank you!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.06.2022

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

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.