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.
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!
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!
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!
- Red Onion. My favorite for pickled onions. Its flavor transforms from biting to tangy.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Halve the red onion from top to bottom, cutting down through the stem.
- Place the flat sides down and slice each half VERY thinly (as thin as you can) lengthwise.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the vinegars, honey, and spices over medium-high until it simmers. Then whisk until the honey dissolves.
- Put the onions in a jar and pour the warm pickling liquid over the top.
How to Use Pickled Onions
- Sandwiches. From deli sandwiches to Air Fryer Grilled Cheese, to BBQ sandwiches like Instant Pot Pulled Pork and Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, pickled onions add brightness.
- Creamy Salads. Try them added to Healthy Potato Salad and Creamy Cucumber Salad.
- Pasta Salads. Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad, Mexican Pasta Salad, and Shrimp Pasta Salad are all lovely with that pickled onion tang.
- Green Salads. From simple green salads like Anytime Arugula Salad to main-dish salads like BBQ Chicken Salad, pickled onions up the game.
- Tacos. From Shrimp Tacos, to Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Tacos, to Vegetarian Tacos, there’s not a single taco out there that can’t benefit from a few of these pretty pickled onions.
- Quesadillas. Turn this weeknight staple into something special with pickled onions. They’re especially tasty on a Pulled Pork Quesadilla or Breakfast Quesadilla.
- Enchiladas. Add freshness and crunch to cheesy Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas, Vegetarian Enchiladas, and even this Chicken Enchilada Skillet.
- Chili. Pickled onions make a tasty counterpoint to Crockpot White Chicken Chile, Instant Pot Chili, and Healthy Turkey Chili.
- Eggs. Doctor up your Vegetarian Breakfast Casserole, Healthy Breakfast Casserole, or Egg White Frittata.
- Dips. Try stirring pickled onions into this yummy Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip or this Skinny Chicken Enchilada Dip.
- Avocado Toast. The classic that inspired this recipe.
- Just Eat them Out of the Jar. Seriously, these perfect pickled onions are THAT good.
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.
If only every life upgrade were this easy (and DELISH!).
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
- 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.
- 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
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