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Recipes

Quick Pickled Red Onions (Easy Refrigerator Pickled Onions)

Say hello to one of your new favorite condiments! Summer is right around the corner, and nothing goes better with grilling season than quick pickled red onions. (That said, they’re awesome any time of year!) Pickled red onions are tangy, crunchy, and slightly sweet – the perfect nod to onions, but without the overpowering bite. On veggie burgers, burritos, salads or bowls, their zippy pop of flavor and color will liven up a wide variety of meals!

These quick refrigerator pickled red onions are easy to make, and unlike some pickle recipes, are ready to eat within the hour. Yet they’re ideal to make ahead of time so they can marinate for a couple days too. The base recipe requires only 5 ingredients, though you can doll up your pickled red onions with a variety of optional seasonings. All in all, the recipe is very flexible and forgiving

Homemade pickled onions are extra-special with homegrown onions. Learn how to grow your own onions here.



Supplies Needed


  • A glass storage jar with a lid, such as a pint jar or flip-top container like ours. I don’t recommend using plastic for pickled onions since it will absorb the odor of onion and vinegar. Plus, hot liquid in plastic is no bueno! 
  • A saucepan


Ingredients


We generally make our pickled red onions without white sugar. However, it is nice to add a touch of sweetness to help balance the tart and tangy flavors. I love using a little local honey! This pickled onion recipe is also usually made without white vinegar. We enjoy apple cider vinegar and red wine vinegar instead. The combination creates the perfect blend of sweet and sharp! Yet feel free to experiment with various vinegar combinations as you please (or what you have readily available), including white vinegar or even rice wine vinegar.

  • 1 large red onion (or 2 small onions), peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar (or white vinegar). When pickled, the red part of the onion “bleeds” to naturally dye the pickled onions and brine a bright pink color – no matter what type of vinegar is used. But the red wine vinegar in this recipe makes them extra red!
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sweetener of choice – such as maple syrup, honey, agave syrup, or cane sugar.
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt


This quick pickled red onion recipe makes 1 pint, or approximately 2 cups. You can use the printable recipe at the end of this post to easily scale everything up or down as desired!


A birds eye view of the ingredients for pickled red onions. A red onion is on a wooden cutting board next to an onion that has been sliced in half. Around the cutting board sits three ramekins, one filled with apple cider vinegar, one red wine vinegar, and the other water. Tablespoon and teaspoon measurements are filled with honey, salt, black peppercorns, and red chili flakes along with a sprig of fresh dill.


Optional Seasonings:


These extra ingredients are totally optional. Your quick pickled red onions will be delicious with the base recipe alone! Or, add one or two of the goodies listed below to spice things up! We added a few peppercorns and red chili flakes to this particular batch of pickled onions.

  • black peppercorns
  • fresh garlic gloves
  • a pinch of red chili flakes
  • ¼ tsp mustard seeds
  • fresh or dry dill
  • slices of fresh hot chili peppers, such as jalapeños or habaneros
  • coriander
  • ¼ tsp curry powder
  • ⅛ tsp of allspice (I’ve heard this is especially delicious!)


Slices of red onions are strewn across a corner of a wood cutting board. Half of a peeled onion sits just above the sliced while a flip top jar is next to the board, partly filled with sliced onions.


Instructions


  1. First, peel and cut the onion into very thin slices. Thicker slicers will result in more crunchy, “oniony” pickled onions. The thinner they are, the more soft, flexible, and zesty they will become – and also be ready to eat sooner! So, prepare them however you prefer. Use a mandolin to achieve super-thin shaved onion slices.
  2. Pack the sliced onions into a glass container. Separate the chunks of onion into individual pieces as you go. Rather than shoving a whole handful in the jar willy-nilly, I like to arrange the slices in the jar to fit as many as possible.

  3. After that, combine the vinegars, water, salt, sweetener of choice, and any other optional seasonings in a saucepan to create the pickling brine. Heat over a medium-high heat until it begins to simmer and the salt/sugar dissolves. Then remove from the heat. TIP: To preserve the beneficial bacteria in raw apple cider vinegar, you can heat only the water and red wine vinegar in the pot first, and then add the ACV once it’s removed from the heat.

  4. While the brine is still warm (but not piping hot), pour it over the onions until the container is completely full.

  5. Now, let the pickled red onions sit out at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes to marinate. You can enjoy them immediately thereafter, or move to the refrigerator where they’ll continue to develop flavor. The pickled onions are ready to eat once they’re bright pink and tender, which will vary depending on how thick you cut them. A day or two is usually plenty of time.

  6. Finally, store the finished pickled red onions in the refrigerator. Use within two weeks for the best quality and texture.


A birds eye view of the inside of a sauce pan with freshly heated brine consisting of vinegar, water, black peppercorns and red chili flakes.
A sauce pan is being held over a flip top jar of sliced onions. It is pouring brine into the container for a batch of pickled red onions.


How to Use Pickled Red Onions


There are SO many ways to enjoy pickled red onions! They bring a fantastic bright pop of flavor to most any meal. Pickled red onions are especially welcome as a topping or condiment on sandwiches, burgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs, and salads – including green salad, pasta or potato salad. They also pair perfectly with burritos, tacos, tostadas, nachos, grain or “buddha” bowls, rice and beans, chili, roasted potatoes or veggies, egg dishes, guacamole, in pico de gallo salsa – or one of my favorites: on top of avocado toast. Last but not least, pickled onions are excellent on top of sourdough focaccia!


Two slices of avocado toast on top of  a white ceramic plate. Pink colored onion slices adorn the toast, popping brightly against the green avocado.
Homemade sourdough bread, avocado, everything-but-the-bagel seasoning, and pickled onions… YUM!


How long do pickled onions last?


Since they’re preserved in acidic vinegar, homemade pickled red onions will stay “good” for up to a month or longer in the refrigerator. They’re fine to eat as long as no mold develops. However, their quality degrades and they become increasingly soft over time, which is why I recommend using them within the first few weeks. I’m sure you’ll be eager to eat them all quickly anyways! Store-bought pickled onions typically have a longer shelf life of several months.


Are pickled onions good for you?


Yes, there are a number of health benefits of eating pickled red onions! Especially those made with raw apple cider vinegar, which is fermented, full of probiotics, and excellent for gut health. Onions are high in antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins, and anti-inflammatory compounds that support your immune system and overall health. Tufts University explains that while both raw and cooked onions are highly nutritious, raw onions have higher levels of sulfur – and sulfur can help protect against cancer as well as lower blood sugar, triglycerides, and “bad” cholesterol levels.


Can I can these pickled red onions?


No, this recipe hasn’t been tested for canning safety. This is a quick refrigerator pickle, so please stick to the instructions – or seek out an alternate canning-approved recipe.


A birds eye view of pickled red onions inside a flip top jar with the lid open. A black peppercorn is floating on the top of thinly sliced onions in the shape of crescents. The liquid is pink from the bleeding red onion.


I told you that would be quick and easy, right? I hope you thoroughly enjoy pickled red onions as much as we do! Please report back with a review once you give them a try! Let us know what variations or seasonings you like. Also, please feel free to ask any questions in the comments below, and spread the pickle love by pinning or sharing this post. We appreciate you tuning in today – and hope to see you back soon!


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5 from 5 votes

Quick Pickled Red Onions (Easy Refrigerator Pickled Onions)

Pickled red onions are tangy, crunchy, slightly sweet – and incredibly quick and easy to make! They bring a zippy pop of flavor and color to a wide variety of meals: on sandwiches, burgers, salads, bowls, and more.
Prep Time10 mins
Marinating Time45 mins
Course: Condiment, Preserved Food, Seasoning, Side Dish
Keyword: pickled red onions, quick pickled onions, refrigerator pickled onions
Servings: 2 cups

Equipment

  • Glass storage container with lid (pint jar)
  • Saucepan

Ingredients

  • 1 large red onion
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1-2 tbsp sweetener of choice (honey, maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar or cane sugar)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • optional seasonings: a pinch of black peppercorns, red chili flakes, garlic cloves, fresh or dry dill, mustard seeds, coriander, curry powder or 1/8 tsp allspice

Instructions

  • Peel and cut the onion into very thin slices. Use a mandolin to achieve super-thin shaved onion slices.
  • Separate the cut onion into individual slices, and then pack them into a glass container.
  • Combine the vinegars, water, salt, sweetener of choice, and any other optional seasonings in a saucepan. Heat over a medium-high heat until it begins to simmer and the salt/sugar dissolves. Remove from heat.
  • While the brine is still warm (but not piping hot), pour it over the onions until the container is completely full.
  • Let the pickled red onions sit out at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes to marinate. You can enjoy them immediately thereafter, or move to the refrigerator where they’ll continue to develop flavor.
  • Store in the refrigerator, and use within 2 weeks for the best quality and texture.



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3 Comments

    • DeannaCat

      Hey there! I think they’d be just fine without it – especially because the apple cider vinegar offers a little sweetness (and naturally reduces blood sugar spikes!). I am also diabetic (type 1) but we only use 1 tbsp of honey for the whole jar, so it’s a pretty minimal amount that actually seeps into the onion themselves. Enjoy!

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