Pickled Red Onions are the perfect finishing touch for so many recipes. They add the perfect amount of bite to balance out a salty or spicy dish and are so quick and easy to make!

There are so many dishes that benefit from a little bit of something pickled with a little bit of bite to cut flavors that are too spicy or too rich. Pickled onions can add balance to so many dishes and for that alone, we love them. I can also just eat them off of a fork so there’s that too…

A small brown mug with pickled red onions and two small forks in it.
Table of Contents

🥘 Ingredient Notes

The ingredients in pickled red onions laid out and labeled.
  • A Large Red Onion, very thinly sliced – If you want to give this recipe a try or just need some pickled onion and you don’t have a red onion, you can use a white or yellow onion also – it just will have a bit of a different taste.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – I prefer to use the more expensive kind that says “with the mother” on the bottle – I find that it has a stronger flavor. You can also use distilled white vinegar.
  • Cane Sugar or Granulated Sugar
  • Water – Ideally use water from your refrigerator if you can – just to get it nice and clear.
  • Kosher Salt – I almost always use kosher salt because I love the big chunks of salt. I feel like it is less salty yet things just taste like they have been salted more evenly. That makes sense, right? (I recommend buying this in the store and not online because on Amazon it is absurdly expensive. Here’s the brand I love though – I almost exclusively use Morton’s Coarse Kosher Salt – it should be like $2 – 3 depending on where you live for a 3 pound box. My second choice is Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt – but as much as I want you buying from my affiliate links – buy this in the store and save $10 but you can look at it there for reference.)
  • Whole Black Peppercorns – The whole peppercorns give such a great flavor to the onions and the vinegar.
  • Crushed Red Pepper FlakesCrushed red pepper flakes round out the flavor of these onions with just the right amount of heat.

🍽 Equipment Needed

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🥣 How to Make It

  • Peel a red onion, then slice it as thin as possible using a mandolin or food processor (or use your amazing knife skills.) (Picture 1 – 3) If you use a mandolin, please use the guard and don’t cut off your fingers.
A collage of images showing how to make pickled red onions, steps 1 - 3.
  • Then place the slices in a shallow bowl or wide-mouth mason jar. Set the bowl/jar of onions aside. (Picture 4)
  • In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water, ½ cup apple cider vinegar, 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, 12 whole black peppercorns, ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 2 teaspoons sugar to a boil. (Pictures 5 – 6)
  • Stir this until the sugar and salt dissolve. (Turn on the vent over your stove and try not to stand over this/breathe it in as it boils – the vinegar will be pungent!)
A collage of images showing how to make pickled red onions, steps 4 - 6.
  • Pour the hot liquid over the sliced onions carefully then press the onions down to make sure that they are completely submerged in the brine. (You can slide the handle of a spoon or fork into the jar to pop any air bubbles.)

A really small and light pot is the easiest way to do this so it is easy to pour (I recommend not using a really heavy enamel coated cast iron dutch oven – though it makes the brine easier to see in pictures 😉 ) — I did the hard work for you guys. (A a canning funnel will also make this easier. They fit wide mason jars and are made to have really hot liquids poured in them.)

A glass jar with pickled red onions in it and two small forks on the side.

If the onions are not going to be eaten right away, let them sit at room temperature until they cool off. (This should take 30 minutes – 1 hour.) Once cooled, cover the onions or place them in an air-tight container and put them in the fridge.

A small brown mug with pickled red onions and two small forks twisted in the onions.

🙋‍♀️ Frequently Asked Questions

How long do pickled red onions last?

Pickled red onions will be good in the fridge for about 3 weeks, but once you taste them I doubt they will last that long.

What do you eat pickled red onions with?

You can eat pickled red onions on so many things – tacos, burgers, carnitas, off of a fork, on a bagel with lox and cream cheese – so many things!

Which vinegar is best for pickling?

I love using apple cider vinegar for this recipe, but you can also use distilled white vinegar if that is all you have. Just check the label and make sure that it says 5% acidity. If it says 4%, adjust the quantities and use a little more vinegar and a little less water.

Are pickled red onions good for you?

Yes! Red onions are one of the most nutritious of the onion “family” for you because they loaded with vitamin B9 and folate which can improve heart health – so they are tasty and good for you 🙂

Can you reuse pickled red onion brine?

You could get away with using the brine a second time, but the salt/sugar/vinegar/flavor will be a little watered down as the onions will release some liquid. Just bring the brine to a boil again and pour it over fresh onions, though use slightly less onion because you will have less brine. I often do this, but the first batch is usually the best.

🍳 Serving Suggestions & Uses

Served pickled onions cold if you can – at least that is how I like them – some people like them room temperature. (Cold is my favorite way to enjoy them.)

I love them on top of a taco, burger, a bagel with lox and cream cheese, carnitas – so many things! What is your favorite way to enjoy pickled onions?

Button linking to the Pinterest page for Southern Bytes.
A close up of a glass jar of red onions with two small forks in it.

🥫 Storage/Shelf Life/Reheating

Pickled onions need to be kept in the refrigerator – this is not a canning recipe and these are not shelf-stable. They will last up to three weeks.

✏️ Helpful Tips

  • If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, you can also use distilled white vinegar if that is all you have, just be sure check the label and make sure that it says 5% acidity. If it says 4%, adjust the quantities and use a little more vinegar and a little less water.
  • If you want to make pickled onions that can be canned and preserved, this website has a lot of safe canning recipes. I personally love the Balsamic Onion Jam and the Broiled Pickled Onions on the site.

Want to Pickle More Things?

A large pyrex measuring cup with pickles and onions in a brine in it.
Quick & Easy Dill Pickle (Refrigerator) Recipe
5 from 4 votes
Dill Pickles are salty, crunchy, sour, and perfectly delicious. I add them to nearly everything – and also snack on them all the time. These quick pickles are so easy to make and are my favorite snack to have in the fridge.
View Recipe
an overhead image of a jar of pickled carrots and radishes
Quick Pickled Radishes (and Carrots)
5 from 1 vote
Pickled radishes are crunchy and tangy with a little bit of bite. They are perfect for topping salads, tacos, and burgers, and are a great way to extend the life of summer produce.
View Recipe

Have You Tried This Recipe?
Please rate it and leave a comment below. I would love to hear what you think!

📝 Recipe

A small brown mug with pickled red onions and two small forks twisted in the onions.

Quick Pickled Red Onions

5 from 3 votes
Pickled Red Onions are the perfect finishing touch for so many recipes. They add the perfect amount of bite to balance out a salty or spicy dish and are so quick and easy to make!
Author: Kari
Servings: 12
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 2 mins
Pickling Time: 30 mins
Total: 37 mins

Equipment

Ingredients  

  • 1 large red onion very thinly sliced with a mandolin
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons cane or granulated sugar optional – omit for whole 30
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 whole peppercorns
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions 

  • Slice the red onion as thin as possible using a mandolin, then place the slices in a shallow bowl or wide-mouth mason jar. Set the onions aside.
    1 large red onion
  • In a small saucepan — bring water, apple cider vinegar, salt, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and sugar to a boil.
    ½ cup apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons cane or granulated sugar, 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, 12 whole peppercorns, ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 1 cup water
  • Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. (Try not to stand over this/breathe it in as it boils – the vinegar will be pungent!)
  • Pour the hot liquid over the sliced onions carefully then press the onions down to make sure that they are completely submerged in the brine.
  • You can slide the handle of a spoon or fork into the jar to pop any air bubbles.
  • If the onions are not going to be eaten right away, let them sit at room temperature until they cool off. This should take 30 minutes – 1 hour. Once cooled, cover the onions and put them in the fridge.

Video

Notes

🙋‍♀️ Frequently Asked Questions
How long do pickled red onions last?
Pickled red onions will be good in the fridge for about 3 weeks, but once you taste them I doubt they will last that long.
What do you eat pickled red onions with?
You can eat pickled red onions on so many things – tacos, burgers, carnitas, off of a fork, on a bagel with lox and cream cheese – so many things!
Which vinegar is best for pickling?
I love using apple cider vinegar for this recipe, but you can also use distilled white vinegar if that is all you have. Just check the label and make sure that it says 5% acidity. If it says 4%, adjust the quantities and use a little more vinegar and a little less water.
Are pickled red onions good for you?
Yes! Red onions are one of the most nutritious of the onion “family” for you because they loaded with vitamin B9 and folate which can improve heart health – so they are tasty and good for you 🙂
Can you reuse pickled red onion brine?
You could get away with using the brine a second time, but the salt/sugar/vinegar/flavor will be a little watered down as the onions will release some liquid. Just bring the brine to a boil again and pour it over fresh onions, though use slightly less onion because you will have less brine. I often do this, but the first batch is usually the best.
🍳 Serving Suggestions & Uses
Served pickled onions cold if you can – at least that is how I like them – some people like them room temperature. (Cold is my favorite way to enjoy them.)
I love them on top of a taco, burger, a bagel with lox and cream cheese, carnitas – so many things! What is your favorite way to enjoy pickled onions?
🥫Storage/Shelf Life/Reheating
Pickled onions need to be kept in the refrigerator – this is not a canning recipe and these are not shelf-stable. They will last up to three weeks.
📋 Tips
– If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, you can also use distilled white vinegar if that is all you have, just be sure check the label and make sure that it says 5% acidity. If it says 4%, adjust the quantities and use a little more vinegar and a little less water.
– If you want to make pickled onions that can be canned and preserved, this website has a lot of safe canning recipes. I personally love the Balsamic Onion Jam and the Broiled Pickled Onions on the site.

Nutrition

Serving: 2tbspCalories: 9kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 245mgPotassium: 23mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 13IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 4mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is approximate and is automatically calculated, so should only be used as a guide.

Course: Condiments, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Keyword: pickled onions, pickled red onions, quick pickled onions
Did you make this recipe?Mention @southernbytes or tag #southernbytes!

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Hi, I’m Kari!

I am a newlywed, food blogger, health coach, and mama to a hot mess of a border collie. I love to put a new spin on old family recipes and I try to make as many meals as possible with an Instant Pot.

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