Pickled Onions are going to dramatically improve your life. Or at least your tacos, sandwiches, salads, cheese boards, and (if you’re anything like me) the bites you sneak directly out of the refrigerator before dinner.

pickled red onions on a fork

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Life improvement might sound like an overstated achievement to award a pickled vegetable, but having a jar of these ruby beauties in your refrigerator sends the kind of positive life signals that can you make you feel better about your existence at large.

It is as if, so long as I can keep a mason jar of pickled onions on hand—easy to do considering it takes all of five minutes to stir them together—surely I must have the rest of my act together too.

  • Pickled onions are a combination of sweet, salty, and tangy.
  • They add freshness, pop, and crunch to everyday favorites.

You can use pickled onions on salads (try it on this Spinach Strawberry Salad), sandwiches (like this Pulled Chicken Sandwich), burgers (hello better Shrimp Burger), tacos (especially Instant Pot Carnitas), and so much more!

red onions pickled in vinegar in a jar

This is a recipe for quick pickled onions.

That means once you’ve stirred them together (which takes only a few minutes), they’re ready to add to your meal after just 15 minutes of pickling time.

Pickled onions can last in your refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Go on and make a big batch, even if you’re just a household of one or two.

You’ll love having them at the ready to improve your life too!

red pickled onions in a mason jar

What is a Pickle?

Pickling is a process of preserving foods by soaking them in a solution of water and vinegar or water and salt.

  • This produces acid and prevents spoilage.
  • The resulting food is a pickle.

Pickling is an ancient, global art!

  • From dill pickles in New York, to German sauerkraut, to Korean kimchee, to Indian chutneys, to Japanese pickles, you can find pickled foods all over the world and through the centuries.

How to Make Pickled Onions

This recipe for quick pickled onions was inspired by some incredible pickled red onions I tried on top of avocado toast in San Francisco.

What made them special was a warm, subtle undertone of whole spices.

The pickled onions were fantastic on my avocado toast to be certain, but they were so tasty in their own right, they could easily hold their own on a charcuterie board.

  • I’ve included suggestions for using the whole spices here if you’d like to create something similar to what I tried in San Francisco.
  • You can add red pepper flakes for spicy pickled onions.
  • Or omit the spices entirely for classic, perfect pickled onions.

Pickling is easy and flexible. Have fun!

spicy pickled onions in vinegar in a mason jar

The Ingredients

  • Red Onion. My favorite for pickled onions. Its flavor transforms from biting to tangy.

Market Swap

You can also use this recipe for pickled white onions, though personally I prefer the more robust red.

  • Vinegar. A mix of white vinegar and apple cider vinegar adds fruity complexity and kicks off the pickling process.
  • Honey. Pickles are traditionally made with water, vinegar, and cane sugar. I prefer to use honey. It’s more natural and adds subtle floral notes.

Substitution Tip!

If you prefer (or need the pickled onions vegan), you can swap the honey for pure maple syrup or regular cane sugar.

  • Whole Spices. Bayleaf, a cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and whole cloves give the pickled onions warmth and complexity. You can use all of them, none of them, or pick one or two.

Tip!

The flavor of the whole spices will become more pronounced the longer the pickled onions sit in your refrigerator. Once the onions reach a flavor profile you are happy with, you can remove and discard them.

  • Red Pepper Flakes. Add up to 1/4 teaspoon for spicy pickled onions. I like a tiny pinch (around 1/8 teaspoon) for subtle heat.

The Directions

sliced red onion on a cutting board
  1. Halve the red onion from top to bottom, cutting down through the stem.
slices of red onion for pickling on a cutting board
  1. Place the flat sides down and slice each half VERY thinly (as thin as you can) lengthwise.
white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and honey in a saucepan
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the vinegars, honey, and spices over medium-high until it simmers. Then whisk until the honey dissolves.
sliced onions in a jar
  1. Put the onions in a jar and pour the warm pickling liquid over the top.

Equipment Tip

  • Jar size matters. To make sure you have adequate room for the onion slices and pickling liquid, use a jar that is at least 24 ounces (3 cups); 32 ounces is even better.
  • Here is a good size for mason jar pickled onions. I use these jars, and 1 medium red onion fits just right.
spicy pickled onions in a mason jar

How to Use Pickled Onions

Storage Tips

To Store. Pickled onions can last in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. I like them best during the first week because they are the most crisp, but they’re still yummy later on.

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

  • Chopping Knife. Zwilling carbon and stainless steel chef’s knife with ergonomic handle.
  • Cutting Board. Easy-to-clean non-porous surface with rubber counter grips.
  • Saucepan. 2 layers of durable, stainless steel for maximum durability and fast, even heat distribution. Plus a lifetime warranty.

My Favorite Mason Jars

These mason jars have a classic aesthetic, an airtight rubber seal, and are heat resistant (perfect for the warm vinegars in this recipe). They’re just the right size for this pickled onions recipe.

pickled red onions on a fork

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought!

Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked the recipe.

If only every life upgrade were this easy (and DELISH!).

pickled red onions on a fork

Pickled Onions

5 from 1 vote
Red pickled onions are easy and ready in minutes. This recipe is crispy, tangy and versatile. Use it for salads, sandwiches, tacos, and more!

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 3 mins
Total: 25 mins

Servings: 10 1/4-cup servings

Ingredients
  

For Classic, Perfect Pickled Onions:

  • 1 small/medium red onion
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey or pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

For Spiced Pickled Onions (Add Any Combo Of):

  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick broken in half
  • 2 to 3 whole cloves allspice berries, or a mix
  • 2 whole peppercorns
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes use 1/4 teaspoon for spicy pickled onions

Instructions
 

  • Halve the red onion from top to bottom, cutting down through the stem. Place the flat sides down on the cutting board.
  • Slice each half VERY thinly (as thin as you can) lengthwise (that’s through the stem, the same direction you cut it initially). Transfer to a 1 1/2 pint (24 ounce or 3-cup) or larger mason jar (I use these jars and a medium red onion fits just right) or a similar heat-proof storage container.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat the water, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, honey, kosher salt, and any additional spices over medium-high, just until the mixture comes to a simmer. Whisk together the ingredients until the honey dissolves.
  • Place the onion jar in the sink to catch any splashes, then pour the warm pickling liquid over the top (including any whole spices). Use a dull knife or small spoon to lightly stir and push the onions around and down. Ensure the onions and spices are submerged. Let sit for at least 15 minutes prior to use (30 minutes is even better). Or, cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Notes

  • These pickled onions CANNOT be canned. It was developed for pickles that are stored in the refrigerator only. If you’d like to can them, please use a different recipe designed specifically for canning, as this one is not safe to can. (I don’t have a particular recipe I recommend, but a quick online search should turn up some great options.)
  • TO STORE: Pickled onions can last in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. I like them best during the first week because they are the most crisp, but they’re still yummy later on.
  • Nutrition facts have been calculated without the pickling liquid (for the onion only), as the liquid is discarded. Please note, nutrition facts are a general guide only. For a more specialized calculation, you can play around with the recipe amounts at no charge at websites such as myfitnesspal.com

Nutrition

Serving: 0.25cups (without liquid)Calories: 4kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gPotassium: 16mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 1IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 3mgIron: 1mg

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Pickled onions are just one of many tasty condiments that can elevate the flavors of a main dish. Here are some of my favorite sauces, spreads, and dressings:

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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6 Comments

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  1. Do you leave the liquid in for the 3 weeks or after pickling do you discard the liquid?
    These look delicious. Cannot wait to try them.

    1. Hi Bennett, I am not sure I am understanding your question? Are you looking for the ingredients and directions? They are located in the recipe card.

  2. I made this recipe last night and was amazed with it’s taste. I had it with lunch today and enjoyed it very much. It’s a keeper, especially for summertime and sandwiches. Thanks for sharing.5 stars