A little bit sweet, a little bit sour – this quick pickled red onions recipe makes for the perfect side dish. Plus, it’s so easy to make pickled onions at home, you’ll be wondering why you never did it before.
I love things can be made quickly. I might spend a lot of time in the kitchen. But even I can’t resist something delicious that doesn’t take forever to cook. So, I’ve taken delicious marinated red onions and transformed them into this pickled red onion recipe.
This recipe is versatile, delicious, and a great way to use up leftover onions. You don’t have to be an expert for this quick pickle – a homemade pickled onion only uses five ingredients!
Are Pickled Red Onions Good for You
Sliced red onions on their own have been linked to a number of significant health benefits. These include high antioxidant levels, highly antibacterial, natural anti-inflammatory properties, and supporting healthy bones. They’re also high in Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, and Manganese.
And because pickling is a preservation technique, pickled red onion retains its health benefits.
Ingredients for Pickled Red Onions
There are only 5 ingredients that you need and you might already have them in your kitchen.
- Red Onions: You can use large or small onions. I would avoid alternatives like shallots or spring onions.
- Water: Be sure to use filtered water.
- Vinegar: I use distilled white vinegar. I think it gives pickled onion a better taste. You can experiment with other kinds of vinegar to change the flavor of the pickled purple onions.
- Sugar: I use white sugar, though brown sugar and red onion give a delicious caramel-y flavor to the quick pickle.
- Salt – Use sea salt or salt with no “additives”. You can also buy a specific “pickling salt” for this pickled onion recipe as it won’t become cloudy within the brine.
Can You Pickle White Onions Instead of Red
This quick pickled onions recipe will also work with white or yellow onions. You can also use mini onions grown especially for pickling. Those pickeled onions can be preserved whole. Pickled white onions will have a different taste from red pickles, but they are still delicious!
What Kind of Vinegar for Pickled Onions
The “acid” you use for the best pickled red onions can vary. For this recipe, I used distilled white vinegar.
For this pickled red onion recipe, you can also use apple cider vinegar. Or use any clear, colorless kind of vinegar like rice wine, white balsamic, or champagne vinegar. You could even use a combination of vinegar, including colored options like red wine vinegar.
How to Make Pickled Onions
Start by washing the jars and lids in hot soapy water and rinsing them well. Place the jars – without any rubber or plastic parts – into a preheated oven for 10 minutes at 325ºF/160ºC to dry completely. Alternatively, you can place them in hot boiling water for 10 minutes in order to sterilize them.
How to Cut Red Onions for Pickling
For the best pickled onions recipe, you want to slice your onions into even thin slices. I recommend using a sharp knife or mandolin for even cuts. You want a thickness between ¼-⅛ inch. Thinner is traditional but I think thicker is the best way how to pickle red onions with real crunch.
You can also slice your pickling onions into full rounds or half-moon shapes.
How to Pickle Onions
Add the salt, sugar, water, and vinegar to a small saucepan and heat over medium to simmer. Allow the sugar and salt to dissolve. This should take a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Fill your mason jar with the sliced onions. Pour the pickling liquid over the onions. Allow them to cool to room temperature before transferring the jar to the fridge.
The quick refrigerator pickled onion will be ready to eat as soon as 30 minutes after being left to marinate. But, for the best pickled red onions, let it marinate for 24 hours or more – the flavors develop further over time.
How to Store Pickled Red Onions
Your quick pickled red onions should be stored in an airtight jar in the refrigerator alongside the vinegar mixture.
How Long Do Pickled Onions Last
These pickles can last up to two weeks in the fridge.
How to Use Pickled Onions
There are dozens of ways how to make pickled red onions a staple part of any meal:
- Serve them with a varied charcuterie or cheese board at your next get-together.
- They are amazing with beef and pulled pork.
- Use pickled red onion for flavor in your favorite Tex-Mex dishes. I love it in classic chicken tacos or mushroom tacos. You can also use them in fajitas, burritos, quesadillas, etc.
- These are great in Asian dishes too, like in this donburi bowl, bibimbap, or even curry dishes like Katsu.
- These quick pickles also work well when piled onto burgers.
- Or, for the simplest way for incorporating pickled onion into your meals, pop it in a sandwich. I recommend it with Philly Cheesesteak, a French Dip, Reuben, or even a classic grilled cheese.
More Pickled Vegetable Recipes
If you try this easy pickled red onions recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
Quick Pickled Red Onions
- 10 oz red onion 2 medium
- 1 cup white vinegar or vinegar of your choice (apple cider, rice wine, white balsamic, etc)
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon salt with no additives or use pickling salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar I use white; use cane sugar, brown sugar, or your preferred if wanted
- Mandoline optional
- 1 Large jar
- Wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water, rinsing well. Then place the jars (no rubber or plastic parts) in a preheated oven for ten minutes at 160ºC/325ºF to completely dry them.Alternatively, you can place them in hot boiling water for 10 minutes in order to sterilize them
- Slice the onions, either with a sharp knife or a mandoline (for thin, even slices). Slice them somewhere between 1/4-1/8-inch in thickness (thinner is more traditional, whereas thicker will provide more crunch). You can slice the onion into full rounds or half-moon shapes.
- Add the salt, sugar, water, and vinegar to a pot. Heat over medium to simmer, and allow the sugar and salt to dissolve. This should take just a couple of minutes. Then remove it from the heat, allowing it to cool for a few minutes.
- Fill your jar with the sliced onions. Pour the pickling liquid over the onions. Allow them to cool to room temperature before transferring the jar to the fridge.
- The quick refrigerator pickled onion will be ready to serve as soon as 30 minutes after being left to marinate. But, for the best pickled red onions, let it marinate for 24 hours or more – the flavors develop further over time.
How To Store
- The pickled onions will last for up to 2 weeks in the airtight jar in the refrigerator with the pickling liquid.
- It’s best to use pickling salt if you want to completely avoid a cloudy brine.
- Feel free to adjust the amount of sugar, based o how sweet you want the brine and pink onions to be.
- Make sure to use a non-reactive glass container for the quick pickled onions.
- If you first want to remove some of the bitterness from the raw onions you can soak them in ice water for 10 minutes or boil them (blanch them) for two minutes before draining and adding them to the pickling liquid.
- Mexican pickled onions: Use a combination of apple cider vinegar and lime juice (about 2 limes). This mixture will yield a more complex flavor than vinegar alone. Optionally, add some cilantro too, or even sliced jalapeño.
- Thai pickled onions: Use a combination of vinegar and lemon/lime juice and add a dried kaffir lime leaf and a little ginger.
- Mediterranean pickled onions: Add a combination of your favorite Mediterranean spices like oregano and cumin (1/4-1/2tsp each)
- Sugar-free pickled onions: You can omit the sugar if preferred. Though, sugar really balances the bitterness/tang of the onions and vinegar. You may be able to experiment with sugar alternatives, but I haven’t tried, so I can’t guarantee results.
I make these all the time. However, I do add 1TBS of pickle spice to a quart jar. You can also go with a much bigger jar and add beets (with the juice) and hard boiled eggs, this yields a beautiful purple pickled egg with added goodies.
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Thanks for your tips, Crystal.
My husband and I made a quart & a pint of the pickled onions. We used white rather than red onions. They are delicious and really easy to make. This recipe is a keeper! ,Thank you very much!
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Thank you so much for your comment, Judy. Glad you both enjoyed the pickles!