Pickled Red Onions

A jar of pickled red onions is the ultimate flavor-boosting tool. They’re tangy, slightly sweet, and extra punchy. Perfect for layering onto salads, bowls, tacos, sandwiches – anything really!

Picking up pickled red onions from a jar with a fork.

Just imagine taking a bite of a savory pulled pork taco, with a refreshing, tart, and crisp flavor. That sharp contrast is seriously irresistible, and why I love pickled foods – especially pickled red onions. They add a vibrant pop of red with a sweet-tart punch to your meals. And bonus, a jar of pickled onions is ridiculously easy to make.

I’ll go over more of that below, but if you haven’t ventured into pickled vegetables yet – this is your sign to do so. Plus, making pickled onions is a great place to start given how versatile onions are in a variety of dishes!

Ingredients for pickled red onions on a table

Ingredients for Quick Pickled Red Onions

Like most pickled foods, all you really need is your core vegetable along with water, vinegar, a sweetener, and a pinch of salt. This is a basic formula to follow. But if you want to spice it up a bit, I’ve noted down a few ways you can add different flavors to this recipe.

  • Red Onion: I’m using red onions for this recipe because I’m a sucker for their color and subtle sweet flavor. But you can also use yellow onions or even shallots!
  • Water: You’ll just need a half cup to mix with the vinegar.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: There’s a few ways you can go about using vinegar in this recipe. Apple cider vinegar is my default. But you can also use white vinegar, rice vinegar, or a combo of any two types. Just keep in mind if you mix them, it will add a different flavor.
  • Sweetener: Since the vinegar is quite pungent, adding honey or maple syrup will help to balance out the flavors. Plus, it will help bring out the onion’s natural sweetness!
  • Salt: Just a little bit is needed to round out the other flavors.

Find the printable recipe with measurements below

How To Pickle Red Onions

Unlike other fermented foods (that could take days), these onions are pickled in in just one hour! That’s why they’re quick pickled red onions! I like to pickle them in a 16-ounce mason jar, but any medium-sized container will work.

Sliced red onions on a board for pickled red onions

Slice the onions. You can use either a knife or a mandoline, just make sure to slice into thin pieces. This will make it easier for the onions to absorb the vinegar. Then place them into the mason jar.

A cup with brine for pickled red onions

Make the brine. In a small saucepan over medium-heat, warm up the water, vinegar, honey, and salt. Stir it all together, let it simmer for about 1 minute, then turn off the heat.

Pouring brine into a mason jar of pickled red onions

Let the fermenting begin! Carefully pour the brine into the jar and let it stand at room temperature until slightly cooled. Then cover and refrigerate. They’ll be ready to eat after about an hour in the fridge (though I like to wait overnight), or will keep for 2 to 3 weeks!

Spices on a plate for pickled red onions

Give Your Pickled Onions A Flavor Boost!

These pickled red onions taste amazing as is. But if you want to switch things up a bit – here’s a few ways to add some fun flavors and give them a little boost!

  • Stir in whole spices (see photo above). From black peppercorns, to coriander seeds, and star anise to fennel seeds, whole spices are a great way to subtly add your favorite seasonings.
  • Add a punch of garlic. Stir sliced garlic pieces into the mix – this is my absolute favorite!
  • Heat it up. Add a dash of cayenne or red pepper flakes for a hint of spice.
  • Add your favorite herbs. I love to add sprigs of dill, or fresh basil and mint leaves. But you can honestly add whichever herbs you like, depending on how you want it to taste.
A jar of pickled red onions next to a red onion

Ways To Use Pickled Onions

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to using pickled onions. Honestly, just use them whenever you want to add a bit of tangy sweet to your meals! But here’s a few ways you can never go wrong with.

More Onion-y Topping Ideas

Aside from pickling onions, there’s so many ways to give plain onions some oomph. Saute thinly sliced shallots for a crispy topping, or caramelize them until golden and sweet.

Once you make these pickled red onions, I guarantee you’ll be making a batch every month. And when you do, I’d love to hear how the recipe turned out in a comment below!

A mason jar of pickled red onions next to a lid

Pickled Red Onions

5 from 5 votes
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr
Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan
Pickled red onions (and more specifically, quick pickled red onions) are the ultimate flavor-boosting tool. They're tangy, slightly sweet, and punchy – perfect for tacos, bowls, and more!

Ingredients

  • 1 medium red onion
  • ½ cup hot water, from faucet (it does not need to be boiling hot from the stove)
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • Optional flavor boosters (see above)

Instructions 

  • Thinly slice the onion with a knife or mandoline, then place in a 16-ounce jar. Add any optional flavor boosters.
    Slicing red onions with a mandoline for pickled red onions
  • In a measuring cup, stir together the water, vinegar, honey, and salt.
    A measuring cup with brine for pickled red onions
  • Carefully pour the brine into the jar over the onions. Cover with a lid and refrigerate. They'll be ready to eat after about an hour in the fridge (they'll be vibrant pink), and will keep for 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge.
    A mason jar of pickled red onions

Nutrition

Calories: 17kcal, Carbohydrates: 4g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 438mg, Potassium: 32mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 1IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 5mg, Iron: 1mg
Course: Seasoning
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Pickled Red Onion
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13 comments on “Pickled Red Onions”

  1. Hi Lisa! I have used this recipe to make pickled onions and they are awesome! Could I use the same technique and use shredded carrots instead of onions?
    Thank you!!

  2. This was excellent. I made it yesterday afternoon for fish taco dinner with a yellow onion I had in the fridge and some dill – it was the best addition to the tacos out of the whole buffet. I’m definitely making this again with a red onion! XD5 stars

  3. Thanks so much! I watch from Germany and love your food and style. I re-discovered the german Weck Jars :-) Thanks to you! 5 stars

  4. Is the liquid supposed to cover the onions entirely? Mine is only halfway up the jar. Thanks!

    • It will depend on the size of your onion, but the onions should be immersed in the liquid. If not, you can add a bit more liquid!

  5. This works so fast and it’s delicious! Made this with the last few spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar I had and then the rest was white vinegar. Came out great, thanks Lisa!5 stars

  6. I used honey and followed the rest of the recipe…except I added a few thinly sliced radishes. Delicious! Downshiftology.com is one of my top go-to sites. I must add that you hit the ball out of the park with the taco options!!5 stars

  7. Thank you! My grandmother used to make pickled onions for pulled beef sandwiches and never wrote down the recipe. It was a summer favorite. If there were any left in the jar after the sandwiches then she’d drain & chop to add to potato salad or spice up coleslaw…. there was never any left at the end of the day.5 stars

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