Learning how to make pickled red onions is SO easy – it only takes five minutes and you probably have all the ingredients! You’ll love having a jar of these in your fridge for tacos, avocado toast, and more!

Recipe Overview

Why you’ll love it: This no cook recipe is quick, easy, and keeps well in the fridge for up to three weeks.

How long it takes: 5 minutes to prep, 55 minutes to marinate.
Equipment you’ll need: sharp knife or mandoline, measuring cup, small jar
Servings: 8

Pickled red onions in a small clear glass jar.
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About Pickled Red Onions

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably already know from my stories that I’m obsessed with these. OBSESSED. As in three meals a day obsessed.

PS: If you don’t follow me on Instagram, consider hopping over and checking it out! You’ll see some behind-the-scenes stuff on my stories!

The first time I made pickled red onions was for my daughter’s birthday party right after we moved into our new house (seriously, two weeks after). We did a taco bar with all the fixings. I made Cheesy Baked Corn with Bacon and Jalapeño, Homemade Refried Beans, Cilantro Lime Rice, from-scratch Margaritas, and two kinds of salsa: Restaurant Style Salsa and Chipotle Salsa. And of course guacamole!

On a whim, I decided to make pickled red onions. They are great on almost any Mexican dish and tacos are no exception. I was amazed at how quickly they disappeared! Faster than the cheese! Not faster than the margaritas though.

Now when you open my fridge, you’ll often see a jar of pickled onions right alongside the salsa, ketchup and mustard. Once you learn how to make them, I bet they’ll always be in your fridge, too.

Overhead view of pickled onions.

How to Use Pickled Red Onions

Are tacos the only way to eat pickled onions? No way! You’ll find that they are an excellent topping on so many things!

  • For Breakfast: Try them on avocado toast. It really livens up the avocado toast and the tangy pickled red onions are the perfect contrast to the rich, creamy avocado. If avocados aren’t your thing, try topping scrambled eggs or breakfast sandwiches with a forkful or two of pickled onions. They really jazz things up without being too oniony or strong flavored.
  • With Vegetables: They go great with roasted vegetables like these southwestern style Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes or Crispy Roasted Potatoes. Try them on a Baked Potato as a lowfat alternative to sour cream.
  • With Main Dishes: How about grilled chicken or on sandwiches and wrap? Pickled onions can take the place of most condiments. We also loved them on pulled pork sandwiches! Oh, and pizza, too! I bet you can’t wait to get started!

What You’ll Need

  • Red Onion: Does it have to be a red onion? No, not necessarily, but a red onion has such a beautiful color, don’t you think? Other types of onion are just fine though.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: While you can use other types of vinegar, my preference is always apple cider vinegar. I typically have it on hand and I like the subtle sweetness it adds. White wine vinegar, rice vinegar, or plain white vinegar are good substitutes. Use a mixture of two kinds if you like. Balsamic vinegar is not a good choice for this recipe.
  • Sugar: Start with a tablespoon and adjust as desired. Some of us like things a little more tart and others a little sweeter. That’s why homemade is the best — you can make everything just the way YOU like it. In fact, if you’d rather, substitute honey or maple syrup for the sugar.
  • Salt: Most pickles have a bit of salt. It just makes them taste better. We use kosher salt but other varieties work as well.
  • Very Warm Water: The water dilutes the vinegar so it’s not so in-your-face tart. Heating it helps to dissolve the sugar and salt.
  • Jar or Bowl: I prefer a jar because it’s easier to store in the fridge, but a covered bowl is fine, too. Don’t feel like you have to run out and buy a jar. Recycled jars with a tight-fitting lid work perfectly. Just make sure it’s nice and clean.
Overhead view of ingredients: red onion, vinegar, water, salt, sugar.

How to Make Pickled Red Onions

It’s so easy, folks! No pans, no cooking, and only one measuring cup to wash.

Slice the red onions as thin as you like. I use a mandoline to slice the onions. This is the mandoline I have. Not only does it get them super thin, it also gets the job done more quickly than you would think possible. However, please do watch your fingers! No one wants pickled fingertips in the jar.

Can you make pickled red onions without a mandoline?

Absolutely! You’ll need a sharp knife, a cutting board, and a steady hand. Slice the onions as thinly as you can.

Here’s another thing to think about though. Some folks like the onions sliced a little thicker. The thicker slices stay a bit crisper. You’ll want to allow a little extra time for them to soak in the brine before eating them.

Sliced red onions on a wood or bamboo cutting board.

Okay, enough about slicing. Stuff all the sliced onions in a (very clean) jar of your choice. Nothing fancy here, no special layering or anything, just pile them in. If they don’t fit in one jar, use two jars. I chose these fancy little jars for the photos but most of the time I use a larger jar.

In a measuring cup, stir together the apple cider vinegar, salt, sugar, and warm water. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved.

Pickling liquid in a glass measuring cup.

Pour the pickling mixture over your sliced onions.

Pickling liquid being poured over sliced onions in a jar.

There should be enough liquid to completely cover the onions. If there isn’t, either remove some of the onions, use a smaller jar, or make more pickling brine. If it’s super close, just add in a little more water or vinegar to top it off.

Sliced onions in pickling brine.

Let them set on the counter for an hour, uncovered, to cool off and absorb the flavorful brine. At this point, you can begin to enjoy them but if you’re making them ahead, cover them and stick them in the fridge. They’ll keep in the fridge for two to three weeks (but they probably won’t stick around that long)!

Sliced red onions in pickling solution in small glass jar.

FAQs

What vinegar is best for pickling?

Most types of vinegar can be used for pickling except for balsamic vinegar or malt vinegar. White distilled vinegar is popular because it’s clear and doesn’t add any color to the pickled vegetable. It has a good acidity and a tart flavor. Other good vinegars to use are cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or rice vinegar.

Do I have to boil vinegar for pickling?

Since this is a quick pickle, boiling isn’t necessary. The hot water will dissolve the sugar and salt. Adding boiling liquid to the onions softens them, making them less crispy.

How long do pickled red onions last?

They won’t last long because you’ll be eating them right up! Seriously, they’ll keep in the fridge for up to three weeks. If they look mushy or cloudy, or have a bad odor, toss them out and make a fresh batch. Be sure to wash and rinse the jar thoroughly or run it through the dishwasher.

Can you pickle other vegetables using the same method?

For sure! Try this Pickled Radish Recipe, Pickled Asparagus, Pickled Green Beans, or Refrigerator Dill Pickles. Spicy Pickled Vegetables or Pickled Cauliflower are pretty amazing, too.

Make It Your Own

There are lots of variations you can make to this recipe.

  • Use a different type of onion or slice it thicker. Slice the onion into rings, half moons, or roughly chop it.
  • Substitute a different kind of vinegar, or another sweetener.
  • Make the onions sweeter or not as sweet.
  • Add red pepper flakes if you like things spicy.
  • Sliced garlic cloves add pungent flavor.
  • Try adding whole spices (peppercorns, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seed), a bay leaf, or sprigs of fresh herbs.
  • Double the recipe or halve the recipe.

It’s easy to make it your own!

Sliced pickled red onions in a jar.

Storage Tips

Like I mentioned above, pickled onions will keep in the fridge for up to three weeks.

Can you freeze pickled onions?

I’ve never tried freezing pickled onions because they are so easy to make fresh. However, if you have a lot of onions that you’d like to use up, slice the onions and put the sliced onions in freezer safe bags. There’s no need for blanching. They’ll keep for about three months. When you’d like to make pickled onions, simply add the brine to the thawed onions and proceed with the recipe. They may not be quite as crisp.

More ways to Use Pickled Red onions

I gave you a bunch of ideas already but I have lots more!

Recipe

How to Pickle Red Onions

4.47 from 1070 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Servings: 8 servings
Learning how to make pickled red onions is SO easy – it only takes five minutes and you probably have all the ingredients! You'll love having a jar of these in your fridge for tacos, avocado toast, and more!
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Ingredients 

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced (use a mandoline if you have one)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup hot water (not boiling)

Instructions 

  • Slice the red onions as thin as you can. I use a mandoline but a sharp knife works well, too.
  • Stuff all the red onions in the jar of your choice. A bowl works too but a jar is easier to store in the fridge.
  • In a measuring cup, combine apple cider vinegar, salt, sugar, and warm water. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour the pickling mixture over the sliced onions, making sure they are immersed in the liquid, and let them set for an hour.
  • After an hour, cover and store in the fridge for up to three weeks.

Notes

  • Other types of onions can be used instead of red onions.
  • Substitute maple syrup or honey for the granulated sugar if desired. For sweeter pickled onions, use more sweetener, for tangy pickled onions, use less.
  • If you prefer, substitute plain white distilled vinegar, rice vinegar, or white wine vinegar for the apple cider vinegar. A combination is fine, too.
  • Recipe is easily doubled. Make sure you have enough clean jars with lids. Sliced onions should be completely immersed in vinegar solution.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 14kcal, Carbohydrates: 3g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 437mg, Potassium: 31mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 1IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 4mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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393 Comments

  1. Deb Russell says:

    I enjoy the recipes here but I constantly get messages saying un-responsive and I keep losing the page. I don’t have this issue on any other recipe site. Constant here – page unresponsive.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Hmm, I’ve never had that experience or had anyone else share that experience. Can you what browser you’re using and what device? Thanks

  2. Troy Purinton says:

    Can these be processed in a canner??

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Probably, but I haven’t done it and don’t have accurate guidance, sorry! They do last at least a few weeks in the fridge, though!

  3. Bridgett Howard says:

    This recipe is so easy! thank you for posting it. I made some for a BBQ we had for father’s day and they were a huge hit. Goes great on a pulled pork BBQ sandwich!! I ran out, so I made more today!!!! YUMMY!!!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      So glad you liked them! They are amazing on BBQ! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

  4. Diana Hillis says:

    Just curious – once they’re in the frig overnight – do you discard the liquid, or continue to store the onions in the liquid? I am so excited to make these, have had them many times at restaurants. Thank you for posting this.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Leave them in the liquid! I hope you love them!

  5. Scott Dixon says:

    Hey Rachel, you’ve got me hooked on pickling everything now. I started with the red onions and they are incredibly tasty and super easy to make. My 2 1/2 year old grandson absolutely loves them and won’t stop eating them. He calls them crunchies. I’ve made several jars for my co-workers and they keep begging for more. Thanks for the recipe!!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      I love that! I’m so glad you like them! They really add so much to a recipe, don’t they?

  6. Jen says:

    I made these for fish tacos a few weeks ago…and have made two batches since! Delish! I crave them so much I even put them on my eggs in the morning! Thank you for the recipe!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      I’m the same way! I love them with everything! So glad you liked them too!

  7. Tina says:

    My husband is from Honduras and he was so excited ! Says they are perfect , exactly as his family used to make. ( We live in Canada)

    Thanks, super good, very easy! Will make again and again .  

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Oh I’m so glad to hear that! Thanks for the kind comment, it means a lot!

  8. Amy says:

    These came out SO GOOD!! I used rice vinegar because that’s all I had on hand and they came out great. So incredibly easy too!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      So glad to hear it! Reminds me I should get another jar in the fridge! ;)

    2. Elizabeth says:

      These are amazing! Do you know how long these would last in my fridge for?

      1. Rachel Gurk says:

        So glad you like them! They last at least a couple of weeks in the fridge. Once the brine starts to look cloudy, you’ll want to toss them.

  9. Krysta says:

    SO fast, so easy SO DELICIOUS!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      So glad you liked this recipe! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

  10. Meg Anderson says:

    So quick and easy, and delicious with burgers or grilled meat.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Yes, so good on so many things! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!