Learn how to make quick pickled red onions in just 30 minutes with 5 easy ingredients!
Ever made homemade pickled red onions before?
It’s so easy! Also, superspeedy.
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 Onions | 1-Minute Video
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 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 Pickle Red Onions
Detailed instructions are included in the full recipe below, but here’s a brief overview of the process for pickling onions:
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.
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.
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.
Serve. Then…your pickled red onions will be ready to serve and enjoy!
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 onion recipe, 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.
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!
1–2 tablespoons sweetener (such as maple syrup, honey, sugar, etc.)
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.)
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.
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.)
Serve. Serve immediately, or refrigerate the onions in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.
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!
Love this recipe. Have made it a couple times. Minor pet peeve. It would be super helpful to put the list of ingredients with amounts at the very top. Having to scroll through interesting today bits when you just want to get going is a little annoying.
There’s a hyperlinked button at the top of pretty much every recipe on the world wide web called “Jump to Recipe”…..
Hey Dan guess what? There’s a link at the top that says “jump to recipe” so you can skip the blog portion….
Like Tom said, you apparently missed the button in the top middle saying JUMP TO RECIPE, that function is on 9 / 10 recipe sites.
Pickled onions are not my thing but if my 3 sons love them that means they must be really good.
Do you recommend reusing the brine?
No, the taste will become muddied, not as fresh. Best to start with fresh ingredients.
So I’m making this right now! I added peppercorns and it taste delish! Thank you SO much for this recipe!!! For future times do I have to let it cool completely before putting in fridge??
This is the 4th time I’ve made these. I used apple cider and red wine vinegar this time however I’ve made it with straight white vinegar and it is excellent. I eat them right out of the jar. I make a double batch and use the full amount of white sugar.
Do you seal the jars in a water bath?
This is a recipe for refrigerator pickles. Sealing in a boiling water bath is not necessary, as the intent is not to make preserves for long- term storage, but instant pickles for short- term delight.
Are there instructions for the par-blanching, or is that the actual pouring of the hot liquid over the onions?
@Julie, I put my sliced onions in a strainer, fill and start my electric kettle, then pour the boiling water over them. Today, I ran hot faucet water over my closed mason jar filled with onions. After tempering the jar, I poured water straight from the kettle into the jar. I used a tea strainer to keep the onions in. Inverted the jar, done. Since the glass was still hot, I poured my pickling liquid right inside.
This is a great recipe and I’ve made them before. I’m trying some pickling spice today because I have it on hand, but have dropped a few whole cloves and peppercorns in the jar in previous batches. Love having pickled red onions in the fridge!
Hi! When you let the onions simmer for 30 minutes, is it with the lid on?
So good! I’ve made these before with red wine vinegar and they were good but LOVE the apple cider vinegar. Tangy and delicious!
Obsessed with these onions. Why did I wait so long to try this!? I added maybe 3/4 of a jalapeño (sliced) and some thinly sliced garlic.
Just made these for a salad and they were easy to prepare and as good as the restaurant pickled red onions I was trying to mimic!! Thank you!! Maureen
When you say slice vertically do you mean longitudinally? With the stem axis.
Slice them like you’re making onion rings. Pro tip tho, cut those in half to make half-moons. Today, I julienned them with my mandoline. They’ll be the perfect size for tacos and burgers.
Love this recipe, just one question- how long will these keep, refrigerated in a Mason jar?
According to the recipe, two weeks. I’ve had mine last for months tho. ??♂️
Could you can these for longer storage. Than you gift your time. Excited to try picking onions , thank you ?
I always do a canning method when I make this recipe. I sterilize my jars, fill while the jar is still hot, add boiling hot liquid and seal. They last on my shelf for months.
Today I added a bay leaf, 1/2 tsp dehydrated minced garlic, 1/2 tsp peppercorns, and 1/4 tsp of dried oregano to each of my jars, and then filled with onions (I did some jars of jalapeno slices and sliced radishes too!). Then, in a pot I brought to a boil the apple cider vinegar and water, and I used agave syrup and pink Himalayan salt as well, then poured it into each jar, and put the lids on.
Want to bake these now, but I don’t have a mason jar. What about a small Corning ware dish?
The liquid only filled 1/4 of the jar, with the onions in it.
What size of jar did you use? I find that a pint jar usually works just right.
How long canI keep them in the refrigerator
My tweeks …
– Added a few whole pepper corns when boiling.
– Let jar sit unrefrigerated for several hours.
– Then refrigerate over night.
You’ll get more of a pickled taste.
These were very good and had great guest appeal.
Delightfully simple! Delightfully delectable! A perfect accompaniment layered on a vegan sloppy Joe. Thank you!
Just found your blog, very great recipes and nice to read.
I tried this, too. It is delicious to add to salad or on top of a sandwich.
These are so delicious on my sandwich. I use avocado spread instead of mayonnaise and I use smoked deli ham, deli buffalo turkey, apple wood bacon, swiss and provolone cheese and slightly toast in the oven. For my veggies, I use fresh spinach, tomato, pickle and the pickled onions. That is the best sandwich ever. Thank you for this recipe. These onions added a whole new level to the sandwich. Thanks again
We make these all the time! So delicious!
I’m making these for the second time tomorrow! I can’t get enough of them so I’m gonna make a double batch… or dare I make a triple batch? LOL
I eat them straight from the jar. YUMMY!
Thank you for sharing this recipe.
I’ve made these and love them. I do add a teaspoon of pickling spice to the liquid then strain it before pouring over the onions. This same pickling solution is great with celery sticks, carrot slices, jalapeño slices and blanched cauliflower florets. I chop the pickled onions into potato salad and pasta salad – delicious!
I saw only part of a pickled red onion recipe on the Marilyn Dennis Show so checked out more info and saw this site.
I used 1 part apple juice and 2 parts apple cider vinegar with onions in brine bringing to a rapid boil for 5 minutes. Placed in a mason jar and now waiting for 30 minutes to serve with supper.
I like this site for so many options to explore.
When saving onions after 30 minutes of marinading do you drain the liquid off first or keep in pickling liquid?
Keep it in the liquid. The liquid itself is pretty tasty and you can store it in the fridge for a few days if you don’t eat all of it immediately. We like to use it in mangu, which is green plantains that have been boiled and mashed. Just add these onions, some sausage and sliced cheese for a traditional Dominican breakfast.
I so love your approach, layout and simplicity in your directions. Thank you so much for this great use of red onions as I just purchased a huge sack of red onions. Makes a great holiday gift to substitute for cookies.
Thanks a bunch, Angela
This recipe is awesome and a really cute gift for friends. Since making these pickled red onions, I can not have a fish or turkey taco, or burger without them. They make the dish! Thank you for sharing! The protein balls on this same site are amazing as well. A healthy snack for my kiddos.
It might be the millennial in me, but these are delightful on top of some avocado toast!
Good idea! I’m going to make that today 😀
Oh my, these are so easy, quick and delicious! Thank you!
How long will these last when refrigerated??
Sounds delicious! Yum!
These are so addicting, they are now a permanent fixture in my fridge! I use a little bit less than a tablespoon of sugar because i like them less sweet. They are perfect on salads, burgers and fish tacos! My four year old will sit with a fork and eat the whole jar of onions. 😂 Absolutely the easiest and most delicious pickled onions I have found!
Perfect recipe! Used apple cider vinegar as suggested. Thank you!
The recipe edit mentions an ‘extra 1/4 cup of water’. Does this mean the total water is 1/2 cup?
Had a large red onion and just didn’t see it fitting in a pint jar. Sliced it on my Mandoline and doubled the brine recipe. Quart jar was perfect…. Waiting for them to cool off, right now!
I’ve made these 3 times so far. A game changer. I put them on everything. Thank you for the recipe.
Thanks for this delicious and easy way of using onions. Jackie 👍
I haven’t made this yet but I can see that it will taste so delicious any way I make it!
How long do these store for once made?
These are the best . Made stuffed polish dog with string cheese and a saddle back jalapeño bacon wrapped missiles – bombs that are very rich.
The pickled onions just makes your food pop
with an exposition 💥🇺🇲🍬 .
So does this recipe call for 1/4 water total as stated in the ingredients or do you add another 1/4 water (as stated in the notes) making it 1/2 cup water total? I’ve never made pickled onions before so the way this is written is slightly confusing. Thanks!
Love this recipe and have made it a few times and passed it on to friends. For sweetener I used Monkfruit…I love tossing these in salads and on my falafel wraps.l and with scrambled eggs, lox and cream cheese…etc etc. I pour the boiling water over them
and strain to take the bite out before pickling. Enjoy!
I quadrupled the recipe and added garlic and jalapeno. For half the recipe I added some pickling spice. These are so good. Thank you for such a great recipe. I will definitely make it again.
We made lots for the Mexican theme 40th. Birthday party for my son. I tried buying some but could not find any so then I went on line and discovered your tasty recipe. Will be making these lots. Thank you.
Can you just use this same recipe to make pickled jalapenos or radishes too? I want all three on-hand for tacos.
Doubled the recipe as is and added some peppercorns. Used 3 red onions and it filled a 1 qt mason jar perfectly .
How long will the pickled onions last
To reduce the acridity, soak the sliced onion in ice water before placing them in the brine. Great in spinach salad, add oranges, strawberries or peaches. Delicious
We made this to go with some smoked beef brisket and it was delicious!
I will be making these over and over. I think I could have eaten the whole jar. I used half the sweetener and they were perfect!
How long do the onions last after pickling them?