This recipe for Quick Pickled Red Onions is easy to make and perfect for tacos, sandwiches, pasta salads, sandwiches, and more! They’re cheap, and the perfect balance of sweet and tangy, with all the “bite” from raw red onions completely removed. And you only need a few ingredients and 5 minutes of prep!
I love how fast and easy these pickled red onions are to make- just add some ingredients to a jar, shake, and refrigerate. That’s it!
They’ll last for weeks in the fridge, if you somehow experience the miracle of not eating them all within a few hours. They’re addicting, added to any number of recipes, and frankly eaten plain out of the jar.
I wouldn’t THINK of popping a piece of raw red onion into my mouth for a snack, but it’s different when they’re pickled! Quick pickling the red onions takes all the bite out of them, creating a delicious sweet and tangy flavor with a soft outside and crunchy inside.
These pickled red onions first appeared on a Bowl of Delicious recipe for crispy brussels sprouts with pickled red onions. I had multiple readers contact me saying they used the recipe JUST for the onions, so I thought I’d share them on their own!
You’re going to love this addictive recipe.
How to make pickled red onions
Just combine sliced onions, salt, sugar, peppercorns, vinegar, and hot water in a jar. Shake, refrigerate, and you’re done!
- First, slice the red onions. I like to slice them into rings and remove the very center piece. You can cut them however you like- they’d be delicious diced for more of a “relish,” or sliced into smaller pieces.
- Then, pack the onions into a mason jar. It may seem like a tight squeeze, but you can use a wooden spoon to kind of smush them down. You want the jar to be full, so the liquid covers the onions completely.
- Add some sugar, salt, and peppercorns to the jar.
- Pour some white vinegar on top of the onion mixture, about halfway up the jar.
- Add some boiling water to fill the rest of the jar.
- Finally- cover, shake until the salt and sugar are dissolved, and refrigerate until cool, about 30 minutes.
Can I use another kind of vinegar or honey instead of sugar?
Personally, I would stick with regular distilled white vinegar for this and regular white sugar.
I’ve tried making quick refrigerator pickles with honey, apple cider vinegar, and other substitutions before, and it doesn’t come out as good. I find other vinegars much stronger in taste, and other sweeteners just not sweet enough.
The simplicity of white sugar and white vinegar allows the color of the red onions to really pop, and the flavor to be pure and delicious.
That said, you do you! If you DO want to try another vinegar, like apple cider vinegar, I recommend using a smaller amount compared to the water. If you use honey, try 2 tablespoons or more instead of 1 tablespoon. And be sure to let me know in the comments if you try it out!
What size jar to use
I used a 16-oz. mason jar for these. I found it was the perfect size for one medium-large onion. You can use another kind of jar, bigger or smaller if you like, but be sure you don’t go TOO big, as you want the jar to be full so the onions are completely covered in the brine.
The only required ingredients for this recipe are the onions, salt, sugar, vinegar, and water. You can omit the peppercorns if you want. And you can try adding other spices and aromatics to the jar as well!
- Add other whole spices, like whole allspice berries, whole coriander seed, celery seed, etc.
- Smash a clove of garlic or two and add it to the jar with the onions.
- Add a slice or two of fresh ginger to the jar.
- Try adding other spices, like crushed red pepper for some heat, etc.
What to eat with pickled red onions
- Serve it on toasted homemade bread with cream cheese and sliced olives, as pictured above.
- Add it on top of an english muffin with smoked salmon, capers, and cream cheese.
- Sprinkle them on top of crispy roasted brussels sprouts or balsamic roasted veggies.
- Use them in cucumber tomato feta salad or panzanella salad.
- Add a few slices on top of BBQ chicken pizza, instead of using raw onion.
- Add them to sandwiches, tacos, burgers, or anything else you would normally add pickles or sliced red onions to!
Or eat em’ straight from the jar. No judgement here :-)
Other quick refrigerator pickle recipes
Quick Pickled Red Onions
- Mason Jar with Lid
- Add the sliced red onions to a 2-3 cup jar. If it's a tight fit, just use a wooden spoon to smush them down into the jar.
- Add the sugar (1 tablespoon), kosher salt (1/2 tablespoon), and peppercorns (1/2 teaspoon) to the jar.
- Pour white vinegar (3/4 to 1 cup) on top of the onions, stopping when you get halfway up the jar.
- Pour boiling water (3/4 to 1 cup) into the jar. I like to microwave water in my pyrex measuring cup until it's boiling (about 1.5 minutes) and then pour it from there, but you can use a kettle or pot on the stovetop, too.
- Cover the jar and shake until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
- Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until they're cooled off. The taste will get better the longer they sit.
- Storage: these pickled red onions will stay good for several weeks in the fridge in an airtight jar or container.
- Variations: The peppercorns can be omitted if you don't have them, and/or other ingredients can be added to the jar such as a smashed clove of garlic or two, fresh herbs like thyme or oregano, other whole spices like coriander seeds, celery seed, or allspice berries, sliced fresh ginger, crushed red pepper for spice, etc. Play around with it!
- Serving suggestions for pickled red onions: Top roasted veggies with them, use them on sandwiches or tacos, add them to a bagel with cream cheese, add to salads or pastas, top deviled eggs with them, add them to a cheese board... or eat them straight out of the jar!
- You can use the brine in salad dressings, stirred into soups, or in other recipes that require an acidic ingredient.