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:
4.98 from 174 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.

 

171 comments

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Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Mizz P
    07.18.2022

    5 stars
    Aside from this being REALLY tasty and easy, the best thing is that you can easily cut the brine recipe in half if you’re the only one in the house that likes it or you’re cooking for one. I bought two red onions the size of ping pong balls at the farmer’s market yesterday, sliced them into an old Ball jar and used half the brine. FABULOUS and ALL MINE!!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.19.2022

      I’m so glad you’ve been loving them!

  2. Amy
    07.13.2022

    Can I use regular sugar, or is cane required? Also, I have kosher salt or pink Himalayan salt. Either of these ok instead of sea salt?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.16.2022

      You can use regular sugar and either of those salts would work fine too.

  3. Mariah
    07.11.2022

    Is two tablespoons of salt correct? That’s seems like a lot.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.12.2022

      Hi Mariah, yes, it’s a decent sized batch. The brine will be salty but you won’t be consuming it all when you pull out just the pickled onions.

  4. Kiri
    06.27.2022

    Hi, can I use glass Tupperware with plastic lids? Or do I have to use a jar?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.29.2022

      You could use the glass Tupperware!

  5. Ole
    06.17.2022

    You might wanna edit it a big, as just before the recipe starts it says “3 Weeks”, but at the end of the recipe it says “2 Weeks” 😉

  6. Dr T
    06.14.2022

    I tried your recipe exactly mixed rice vinegar and white vinegar. Added two garlic cloves and some peppercorns. Came out delicious. Cant go by the fridge without grabbing a forkful. Im totally addicted. Thanks so much!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.18.2022

      I’m so glad you loved them!

      • Jen
        07.06.2022

        I finished my jar of pickled red onions and decided to just put more onions into the leftover vinegar mixture.. now in second guessing myself. Will this be a problem, do you think?

        • Jeanine Donofrio
          07.07.2022

          Hi Jen, if your brine wasn’t that old, they should be fine. They are safe to eat, the brine just starts to taste less flavorful over time.

  7. Emme J
    06.09.2022

    Hi! Can this recipe be canned for longer shelf life?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.11.2022

      Hi Emme, I’m not sure if it’s safe for canning, I don’t have experience with it.

  8. Nicole
    04.26.2022

    So yes delicious. You mentioned ACV red wine vinegar etc. What are the portions.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      04.27.2022

      Hi Nicole, the recipe measurements are at the bottom of the post.

      • Jessi
        05.09.2022

        4 stars
        Yes, but what ratio you use of white to ACV, etc. is not listed. Is it just by preference?

        • Jeanine Donofrio
          05.11.2022

          Hi Jessi, I would use the same ratio.

  9. Kelly
    04.24.2022

    5 stars
    How long do these stay good in the refrigerator?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      04.27.2022

      Hi Kelly, I keep them for about 2 weeks.

  10. Peggy
    04.16.2022

    I’ve made freezer pickles with same ingredients.
    Can you freeze onions in freezer jars to last longer? Once thawed in frig, freezer pickles are good for 2-3 wks.
    Have you ever frozen?

  11. Michelle
    04.16.2022

    I have had that same experience too many times where my salads are flat, and I keep trying to use dressing to make the salad exciting. Pickled red onions sound wonderful. However, I cannot have sugar or sweeteners. Could the sugar be left out or do you have any suggestions?

    Thanks

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      04.16.2022

      Hi Michelle, you could leave it out, they will just have a sharper/stronger flavor. If you’re putting them in a salad with other things, it should be fine. Or you could use apple cider vinegar which is naturally more sweet.

    • Sarah
      04.29.2022

      5 stars
      The sugar cannot be left out, it is a natural preservative.
      I would suggest you try lacto-fermentating the onions, it only requires water and salt to preserve your vegetables.

    • John
      07.06.2022

      5 stars
      I’ve used sugar substitutes and it works fine. In this case the sweetener is really just there to tame the bite of the vinegar. So play with the amount until you like the balance.

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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.