These tangy, bright Pickled Red Onions come together in just 30 minutes with a few simple ingredients.
Pickled Red Onions add flavor and dimension to countless dishes from tacos to sandwiches to nachos to pizzas.
One of my favorite homemade condiments is pickled red onions. They add a huge punch of flavor and are super simple to make.
This version for quick-pickled onions will allow you to enjoy tangy, slightly sweet, pickled onions in just 30 minutes with just a few pantry ingredients.
What you Need
You only need onions, vinegar, salt, and sugar to make pickled onions. I do like to add in whole peppercorns for more flavor, but they are an optional addition.
How to Pickle Onions
- Thinly slice the onions. The best way to do this is to use a mandoline, but you certainly can just use a sharp knife instead of a mandoline.
- In a medium saucepan, heat water, vinegar, salt, and sugar together over medium heat until the sugar and salt dissolve. Turn off the heat and allow that mixture to cool slightly.
- Divide the sliced red onions between 2 pint-size jars. Add ½ teaspoon of peppercorns to each jar.
- Pour the vinegar mixture evenly over the onions.
- Use a fork or spoon to push the onion slices into the pickling liquid to fully submerge.
- Place the lid on the jars and refrigerate.
- The onions will be ready to enjoy in just 30 minutes, but they will become softer, more flavorful, and brighter in pink the longer they sit.
How to Use Pickled Onions
There are countless uses for pickled onions--let your imagination and taste buds guide you. Here are some of my personal favorite ways to use them.
- Top Pulled Pork Sandwiches with them in place of coleslaw, or addition to coleslaw.
- Cut heavy dishes like Beef Barbacoa or Carnitas with the addition of these onions.
- Top tacos with pickled red onions. They are an especially great compliment to Cauliflower Tacos and Lentil Tacos.
- Use them to top a Chickpea Salad or add to Spinach Bacon Salad, or any side salad.
- Add to Egg Salad, Tuna Salad, or Chickpea Salad to cut the richness and add tang.
- Pickled red onions are delicious on BBQ Chicken Burgers, Classic Burgers, and Black Bean Burgers.
This is a fairly basic recipe for pickled onions. Feel free to experiment with the seasonings and spices by adding things like garlic, dill, or star anise, etc.
- Add Garlic. Add in one or two thinly sliced cloves of garlic to the onions before pickling for a nice punch of garlic flavor.
- Add Heat. Add a sliced jalapeno to the onions to add heat and flavor to the final pickled onion. Or you can add in ½ to 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.
FAQs on Pickled Onions
They will safely keep for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator, but I find they taste best used within 5 days.
Technically, no, you only need vinegar and salt to pickle anything. However, a bit of sweetness balances out the acidity of the vinegar and the sharpness of the onions. I would suggest using a sweetener of some sort--be it granulated sugar, honey, or maple syrup.
I really don't recommend using a substitute like Stevia or Splenda, as it can change the texture of the onions and has an aftertaste. I would recommend omitting or cutting the sugar in half instead of using a sugar substitute.
Any basic vinegar, like white distilled vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or rice vinegar works well. I typically opt for plain white vinegar as it is cheap and always in my pantry.
Red onions are the most commonly pickled onion due to their beautiful pink color once pickled. But this method works with any variety of onions. Keep in mind the flavor will be impacted by the onion you select.
The longer the onions sit in the pickling liquid, the more vibrant the hue of pink will become. After a couple of days, the entire onion slices will be bright pink. However, these quick-pickled onions are ready to be used after just 30 minutes, once they are soft and pliable.
More Easy Homemade Condiments
If you enjoyed these pickled onions, I would love for you to leave a comment and review below.
Pickled Red Onions
- 2 small red onions
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- Using a mandoline, or a very sharp knife, thinly slice the onions into ⅛ inch thick slices. Divide the onions evenly between two pint-size jars or one quart-size jar.
- If using, add ½ teaspoon of peppercorns to each jar of onions.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar over medium heat, until the sugar and salt are dissolved, whisking occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly about 5 minutes.
- Pour the vinegar mixture over the onions, dividing the mixture evenly between the jars. Use a fork or spoon to submerge the onions fully in the vinegar mixture.
- Place the lid on the jars and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.