How To Make Quick-Pickled Red Onions

updated Sep 8, 2023
How To Make Quick-Pickled Onions

This bright, jewel-toned condiment only takes about 10 minutes and offers a zesty tang to countless dishes with a lovely splash of color as well.

Makesabout 2 cups

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Credit: Dana Velden

If you were to peek into my refrigerator any day of the week, any season of the year, you would surely find a jar of pickled red onions. This bright, jewel-toned condiment offers a zesty tang to countless dishes and adds a lovely splash of color as well. It takes about 10 minutes to assemble and lasts for weeks in the refrigerator. What more can you want from a pickle?

Making pickled red onions at home is easy. Thinly slice the onions, stir the sugar, salt, vinegar, and other flavorings; par-blanch the onions, transfer them to a jar, and store it. Find out the uses of pickled onions and learn more about how to make it.

Quick Overview

Tips For Making Pickled Red Onions

  • Thinly slice the onions into approximately 1/4-inch moons.
  • Use a pale-colored vinegar, such as rice vinegar or white wine vinegar.
  • Add a little sugar to balance the salty vinegar brine.
  • Use herbs or other Asian spices for added oomph.
  • Store your pickled onions in a glass or ceramic container instead of metal ones.
Credit: Dana Velden

Uses of Pickled Red Onions

There are countless uses for pickled onions. Tuck them into sandwiches, especially those with rich meats, like pulled pork; use them as a condiment to top tacos, bean dishes, and rich mayo-based salads, like potato or egg salad; toss them into lettuce salads, grain salads, and salads with sturdy greens, like kale.

Their bright-pink color, crunchy texture, and piquant flavor will perk up almost any dish. They’re also perfect for serving with sandwich and salad buffets at parties.

Credit: Dana Velden

The Onions

I like to cut my onions into rings because I find the tangled loops are easier to scoop from the jar and I like the way they look. If you prefer, you can also cut the onions into half moons. They can be sliced paper-thin or into rather thick, 1/2-inch slices, but I like to split the difference and slice them slightly thinner than 1/4-inch thick.

I only use red onions for my pickled onions, but yellow or white onions can be used as well. Of course you won’t get that lovely bright-pink color, but if that’s not a factor, then give it a try. Be sure to use a firm onion that is free of soft spots and blemishes.

The Vinegar

I usually use a pale-colored vinegar, such as rice vinegar or white wine vinegar. If I happen to be out, apple cider vinegar will do. Do not use the industrial white vinegar that comes in large gallon containers, as it is too harsh-tasting.

The Sugar

The sugar provides a nice balance to the salty vinegar brine, but you can leave it out if you are avoiding sugar. Honey or another sugar substitute might work, but start with less just to be safe.

The Flavorings

At their most basic, pickled red onions are simply sliced onions that have been covered in a mixture of vinegar, salt, and sugar, and allowed to marinate. It’s a lot of fun to add additional spices and to customize the mixture to match your dish.

In the recipe below, I used my favorite mixture of flavorings, which includes fresh garlic and a chili for added oomph. You can leave them out or add additional selections, such as a bay leaf; herbs, like rosemary or oregano; orange peel; or cloves. Asian spices, such as star anise, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, and fresh ginger, would also be a nice garnish for a rice-based stir-fry or other Asian dish.

Storing Pickled Red Onions

Over time, the onions will eventually turn a uniform shade of vivid pink. Be sure to store your pickled onions in a glass or ceramic container. Most metals will react with the vinegar, and plastic will absorb the flavors. I like to use a pretty canning jar so I can just grab the onions from the refrigerator and plunk them on the table with no fuss.

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A jar of quick-pickled onions in your refrigerator gives you a last minute, tangy addition to many dishes. (Image credit: Dana Velden)

How To Make Quick-Pickled Onions

This bright, jewel-toned condiment only takes about 10 minutes and offers a zesty tang to countless dishes with a lovely splash of color as well.

Makes about 2 cups

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    medium red onion, about 5 ounces

  • 1/2 teaspoon


  • 1/2 teaspoon


  • 3/4 cup

    rice vinegar, white vinegar, or apple cider vinegar

Flavorings (optional):

  • 1

    small clove of garlic, halved

  • 5

    black peppercorns

  • 5

    allspice berries

  • 3

    small sprigs of thyme

  • 1

    small dried chili


  • Kettle for boiling water

  • Knife and cutting board

  • Sieve or colander

  • Clean jar or container


  1. Slice the onions: Start 2 or 3 cups of water on to boil in a kettle. Peel and thinly slice the onion into approximately 1/4-inch moons. Peel and cut the garlic clove in half.

  2. Dissolve the sugar and salt: In the container you will be using to store the onions, add the sugar, salt, vinegar, and flavorings. Stir to dissolve.

  3. Par-blanch the onions: Place the onions in the sieve and place the sieve in the sink. Slowly pour the boiling water over the onions and let them drain.

  4. Add the onions to the jar: Add the onions to the jar and stir gently to evenly distribute the flavorings.

  5. Store: The onions will be ready in about 30 minutes, but are better after a few hours. Store in the refrigerator. They will keep for several weeks, but are best in the first week.