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Quick Pickled Red Onions

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Learn how to make quick pickled red onions in just 30 minutes with 5 easy ingredients!

Quick Pickled Red Onions Recipe

Ever made homemade pickled red onions before?

It’s so easy! Also, super speedy.

All you need are 5 basic ingredients, about 5 minutes of prep time, plus another 30 minutes to let the marinade work it’s quick-pickling magic. Then a delicious batch of pickled red onions can be yours to enjoy immediately! (No long brining times or canning required!)

We’re big fans here in our house of serving pickled red onions with all sorts of Mexican dishes, from tacos to burritos, enchiladas, soups, salads, nachos, chilaquiles and more. But pickled red onions can also liven up everything from burgers to curries, pizza to falafel, eggs to potato salad and beyond. Basically anytime you need an extra pop of tangy, colorful, zippy flavor to balance out your dish, these quick pickled red onions are here for you.

Let’s make a quick batch! ♡

Quick Pickled Red Onions

Quick Pickled Red Onions Ingredients:

Before we get to the full recipe below, here are a few notes about the ingredients you will need to make this quick pickled onions recipe…

  • Red onion: One large red onion or two small red onions, which I recommend slicing vertically as thinly as possible. (If you happen to own a mandoline, this would be a great time to put it to use! Otherwise, you can just thinly slice the onions with a chef’s knife.)
  • Vinegar: I prefer the sweeter taste of apple cider vinegar when pickling onions. But you could alternately use rice vinegar, white vinegar or red wine vinegar (or a combination of vinegars) instead.
  • Sweetener: White (granulated) sugar is traditionally used to make pickled red onions in Mexican cooking, but feel free to use maple syrup, honey, or agave as a more natural sweetener instead.
  • Salt: We’ll add in just a touch to help bring out all of those delicious flavors.
  • Water: We will also add just a bit of water to the brine. And if you would like your onions to have a milder flavor, you are welcome to par-blanch the onions with some hot water before brining as well. (More on that option below.)
  • (Optional) Extra seasonings: See note below for optional extra seasonings that you are welcome to add to your brine too.

How To Make Pickled Onions

How To Pickle Red Onions:

Detailed instructions are included in the full recipe below, but here’s a brief overview of the process for pickling onions:

  1. Simmer the pickling mixture. First, combine the vinegar, water, salt, sweetener, and any additional seasonings that you would like to add and bring the mixture to a simmer — either on the stovetop or in the microwave.
  2. Thinly slice the onion. While the vinegar mixture is heating, slice your onion as thinly as possible either using a chef’s knife or a mandoline.
  3. Pickle. Combine the sliced onion and the hot vinegar mixture in a mason jar, cover and shake to combine. Then let the mixture rest for about 30 minutes, being sure that the onion is completely submerged.
  4. Serve. Then…your pickled red onions will be ready to serve and enjoy!

30-Minute Quick Pickled Onions

Possible Variations:

There are so many ways to customize your own quick pickled red onion recipe. For example, you can…

  • Par-blanch the onions. If you would like to mellow out the flavor of the onions, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Then place the raw onions in a fine-mesh strainer over the sink, pour the hot water slowly and evenly over the onions, then let the onions drain before combining them with the vinegar brine.
  • Use thicker onions. If you prefer the crunch of thicker onions, just note that you will need to let them sit in the pickling marinade for at least twice the amount of time.
  • Make it spicy. Sliced fresh habañero peppers are often added to pickled red onions in Mexico to kick them up a (very) spicy notch. But for a more mild dose of heat, feel free to add in a slice or two of jalapeño peppers, or even just a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Make it garlicky. Add in a clove or two of thinly-sliced garlic.
  • Make it peppery. Add in a few whole peppercorns or a few twists of freshly-cracked black pepper.
  • Make it herby. Add a few sprigs or fresh herbs or a pinch of any dry herbs/seasonings that you love best. (I almost always add a few bay leaves to my pickled onions, plus whatever seasonings go with my accompanying recipe.)
  • Use a citrus base (instead of vinegar). In the Yucatan, it’s traditional to use Seville (sour) orange juice in place of vinegar. So if your local market happens to carry Seville oranges, just add 3/4 cup freshly-squeezed Seville orange juice in place of the vinegar. Or if your market does not carry Seville oranges, you can substitute 1/2 cup freshly-squeezed naval (regular) orange juice + 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice.
  • Use a different color of onions. Feel free to use white or yellow onions instead of red onions for a different twist.

Pickled Red Onions

How To Use Pickled Onions:

There are so many delicious ways to use pickled red onions! Some of my favorites include…

  • Mexican classics: tacos, tostadas, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, fajitas, chimichangas, flautas, nachos, sopes and more
  • Breakfast foods: scrambled or fried eggs, chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, breakfast sandwiches, breakfast casseroles and more
  • Sandwiches: any kinds of burgers, paninis, wraps, or other types of sandwiches
  • Meat and seafood: chicken, pork, steak, fish, shrimp or shellfish (esp any kind of bbq!)
  • Side dishes: refried beans, rice, elote, potato salads, roasted veggies and more
  • Other faves: soups, salads, curries, falafel, pizza and beyond…the sky is the limit!
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Quick Pickled Red Onions

Quick Pickled Red Onions

  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 35 mins
  • Yield: 2 cups 1x

Description

This quick pickled red onions recipe is easy to make in just 30 minutes with just 5 ingredients. See notes above for extra seasonings that you are welcome to add in too.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and very thinly sliced*
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 12 tablespoons sweetener (such as maple syrup, honey, sugar, etc.)

Instructions

  1. Heat the vinegar mixture. In a small saucepan, stir together the vinegar, water, salt and your desired amount of sweetener. Cook over medium-high heat until the mixture reaches a simmer. (Or alternately, you can heat the mixture in the microwave.)
  2. Combine in a jar. Place the thinly-sliced onions in a mason jar. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the onions, screw on the lid, and shake the onions briefly until they are evenly coated with the vinegar mixture.
  3. Marinate. Let the onions marinate for 30 minutes. (You may need to press the onions down with a spoon so that they are all submerged under the vinegar mixture.)
  4. Serve. Serve immediately, or refrigerate the onions in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.


Notes

Slicing the onions: If you happen to own a mandoline, it is a great way to slice the onions very thinly. Otherwise, you can just use a chef’s knife. The thinner that you slice the onions, the faster they will pickle.

Microwave option: Alternately, you can heat the vinegar mixture in the microwave until it reaches a simmer and then add it to the onions, as directed.

Recipe edit: Per reader feedback, an extra 1/4 cup of water was added to this recipe in 2021, as well as an option for par-blanching the onions to mellow out their flavor if desired. Thank you for your reviews and suggestions that help make our recipes better!

Pickled Onions

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82 comments on “Quick Pickled Red Onions”

  1. These look so yummy! We have lots of red onions on hand to try this with!

    Paige
    https://thehappyflammily.com

  2. Would you change anything about this recipe to sub cucumber for onion?

  3. Do you drain them or leave them in the pickling liquid to store them?

    • Leave them in the pickling liquid to store. :)

    • I used yellow onions from my pantry,
      & since I was making pickled beets & eggs for Easter, I used the liquid from the canned beets and added your ingredients plus some peppercorns and made enough for both dishes.

  4. Hubby loves pickled onions.
    I just ‘pinched’ your recipe.

  5. These were delicious! Used them for several meals throughout the week from shrimp tacos to bbq chicken pizza even in my morning omlete. Always wanted to pickle onions finally got around to it. Thank you for the easy recipe and tasty onions lol!

  6. I’ll have to give this a try! My mom recently got me onto soaking my red onions in my salad dressing before you throw it all together as well which is delicious and I guess a similar idea if your dressing has vinegar and sweetener.

  7. Thank you, Ali
    this is such a great way to have onions on-hand since I’m the only fresh “onion fan” in our house. I would normally forgo having fresh onions on my burger, salads, etc. because I couldn’t consume an entire onion by myself and that would be wasteful. This recipe solves this dilemma for me and probably many others. I used a large red onion and sliced it on my mandolin to nicely fill two jars – but had to double+ the vinegar to cover the onions. I also added a few peppercorns and one small bay leaf to each jar after simmering with the vinegar, salt and sugar. So easy and tasty!

  8. You’re blog is great. I found you through the CopyMeThat app and I am so glad i did. I will be following you now.

  9. These are exactly what I was looking for. Saving this recipe! (I used monk fruit sweetener instead of regular sugar and it worked perfectly!)

  10. I did not see water listed in the ingredients for the red pickle onion recipe. Will it be okay if I left it out? Thanks.

    • I made a large batch with pickling spice and added vinegar with NO vinegar and had to add more sugar but came out great.

  11. Just made these pickled onions and they turned out great. Thanks for the great recipe.

  12. I used a white onion, white vinegar, garlic and black pepper. I used honey instead of sugar. It turned out perfect! They were the perfect tangy addition to my chicken salad lettuce wraps.

  13. After the red onions are marinated for 30 minutes, do you then store the red onions in the refrigerator in the apple cider vinegar solution, or do you drain the solution before you store them?

    • I made a large batch with pickling spice and added vinegar with NO water and had to add more sugar but came out great.

  14. This recipe was my first attempt to pickling onions – it came out great! I used a red onion with a few jalapeño slices and some garlic in the jar. Now I need to go to the store and get sandwich fixings to put it on ;-) Thanks for posting/sharing.

  15. How much water do you use? THANK YOU!

  16. These are fantastic and sure to go into our regular rotation. The only change I made was to increase everything by 1/4 to fully cover the onions in my pint size mason jar. Thinking of adding the peppercorns next time, but these are amazing as is! Thanks for a great recipe!

  17. I wound up having to use a Texas yellow onion, because my red was kind of slimy (bleh!)
    Also, I had to triple the liquid portion of the recipe, because apparently I misjudged what two small yellow onions might look like. I’m from Texas though, so maybe my measurement judgment is a little off, LOL

    Anywho thanks for posting this!

  18. First of all, you are officially my “go to” for ideas and recipes. I whipped these pickled onion last week and my husband LOVES them. he puts them on and in everything.
    Your energy bites are the est I ever had; you pad Thai – yum; the Vietnamese spring rolls, Pho, and Hot and Sour Soup – all amazing. I made homemade pappardelle with the cajun cream sauce on Saturday and also – delicious! Every single think we have made has been fantastic.

  19. Super quick and very yummy, I was out of apple cider vinegar so used balsamic instead. Fifth time making x

  20. This was my first time making pickled onions and they turned out great!! Thanks for this quick, easy, and delicious recipe!

  21. Tried this recipe and the onions taste delicious! I added some pepper to it, saw some of the reviews stating they added other ingredients. Will try doing that next time! Thanks for this simple fuss-free recipe.

  22. My son got me turned onto this wonderful recipe. A must to have in frig at all times. Great on tocos,hamburgers, hot dogs ,sandwiches & salad
    Takes 5 minutes to make and they say two weeks in frig . They have vinegar they last a lot longer.

  23. Great !!! Recipe

  24. Yumm. Perfect for my soft tacos. And so EASY

  25. Whenever I pinterest search a recipe – I look for yours! Like the rest, I love these. They’re good on absolutely everything, but my favorite (and what I made them for today) is to go with carnitas. I always go back to this recipe of yours so I thought it was time I thanked you! Sometimes I follow my heart and add some extras, and I really like bay leaves, garlic, and some crushed red pepper. Thanks for being awesome!

  26. Can you use the onions in the frig for longer than 2 weeks. Would like to use them over a longer period of time.

  27. I make a version of this using white vinegar and raspberry blush vinegar and no salt. Measure 2 Tbsps. blush vinegar into a 1 cup measure; then add white vinegar to 3/4 cup mark. Stir in sugar until it dissolves. Pour over 1/8 thin sliced red onions in storage container. Stir or shake to coat well. Leave at warm temperature 1 hour; then refrigerate. The acetic acid in the vinegar cooks the onion so no heat from stove needed. Will store in refrigerator for several months and just gets better the longer it marinates. Great on sandwiches, salads, omelets, etc.

  28. In general descriptions you mention water as an ingredient, yet in recipe itself, it is not in there. Is there to be water in this recipe? I see others either had to add or double recipe to have enough liquid to cover onion.

  29. Sounds fast and easy. I love onions so I’ll be trying this out. Thanks. Sue. sue.s73@yahoo.com

  30. I’m so frustrated. I bought everything I needed to make this recipe, sliced the onions and now there’s no water measurement. I need to find a different recipe because the onions are already sliced but can you please correct the recipe (or the description) for future reference? If water is supposed to be used, please let us know the amount.Thanks!

  31. I love a recipe that allows a certain amount of freedom with ingredients, and tips on how to make it different. I made the basic recipe with white vinegar tonight, with no other additions, and they are really good. Next time I will make them with apple cider vinegar, and spice it up in later batches. Thank you for the tips!

  32. I made this recipe with honey as my sweetner excellent.

  33. Love!
    I have done your recipe 3 times. I use honey.
    I served over cooled boiled green beans. Oh my, love the combination! Husband too! And visually, it makes a beautiful side dish too!
    I also use them over my salads.
    I love that I can keep them in a tight jar in my fridge and use anytime I want too!
    Thank you!

  34. This recipe is confusing. In one place you say there is water in the pickling mixture and then the recipe doesn’t have it. I can’t imagine how acidic and unpleasant it would be to have straight vinegar… so how much water? Is it a 1:1?

    • Hi Brenna, if you scroll down to the written recipe it states one quarter of a cup of water :)

  35. Can this recipe be processed in a Canner for longer storage.

  36. Very nice ,,, red onions can vary in bitter to sweet. the flat onion, red, From Italy as well as the torpedo onion. also red are best in Mexico a white onion is used verses our yellow , if ta want that red color just add a thin slice of beet canned works great a little of the canned beers juice also adds a slight sweetness ,,,,,I grow a red and white Chipoline. ,a small flat onion also Italian. Bobby Flay always quickness’s pickle onions in a lot of his dishes. Whatever onion ya use this is a great great guide recipe and all its notes for flavor are excellent thank you for this post. And as an old associate would say. ” Good Appetite ” and I say “Good Eating “

  37. I’ve made these pickled onions several times now and I keep finding new ways to use them. They are delicious and so beautiful to look at. Right now, I have a batch of your Birria in the crock pot and I’m planning on serving it using your Birria Taco recipe and these amazing and versatile pickled onions. I used white vinegar and added a tablespoon of pickling spice this time. The vinegar tames the bitterness of the onions leaving a crunchy topping that explodes with flavor. I served them on a chicken salad and arugula sandwich for my daughter in law and she loved them too. I’m thinking of you during “baby watch” and wish you the best.

  38. Love these! Been preparing them since your first post! Have passed your site info to many…you are wonderful.
    Happy baby event! (When it occurs)

  39. This is one of the best cooking bogs I’ve ever seen!

  40. How long will they keep

  41. Can you can these onions?

  42. Great recipe. How long can you keep them in the fridge?

  43. I have made this recipe 6-8 times. usually doing a smaller batch (half onion) since that is what I use within a week. Trying the new par blanch and adding water. I usually drain the excess after 30 min.

  44. I’m not sure if its weird but I’ve never heard of pickled onions. Looks very interesting though, i’m going to give it a try, in fact, im gonna try it with my daughter, she loves everything cooking even cooking games such as in papasgames.us website. Thanks for the recipe.

    • Hi Liam, over here in England pickled onions are a food staple! They go brilliantly with another famous english staple – fish and chips :) The difference is we use small, whole pickling onions or shallots rather than sliced onions

  45. I made this today because I’ve been craving it on tacos- but haven’t been able to find it in a store.super easy and delicious

  46. Very good and very very easy

  47. I love it as is

  48. Followed your recipe but added some black peppercorns and cloves of garlic to the mix…….outstanding!

  49. I haven’t made this yet but am hoping to try it out since I have never pickled sliced onions before. There are 2 points I would like to make with regard to some of the questions that have been asked.
    I’m from England where pickled onions are an absolute staple. We use whole, small pickling onions which are in season in September – mid-October. Once made, the pickled onions (in the pickling liquid) are stored in jars in a dark cupboard and left for 2-3 months before eating. They don’t need to be refrigerated.
    Incidentally, pickled onions go remarkably well with another great British staple – fish and chips!
    Many of you have mentioned that there is no water quantity given in the recipe. Over here, it is unheard of to add water to the pickling mixture since this dilutes the vinegar. Personally, for this recipe, if you are worried about how strong the flavour may be, I would suggest using apple cider vinegar as it’s milder than most.
    Finally, I have a question to ask: if I make this recipe, do the onions have to be stored in the refridgerator?

  50. Can I use this recipe and can and seal jars to have later like we do pepper sauce. I’d like to do more than just a couple jars?