Tangy-sweet pickled red onions are an irresistible topping for everything from street tacos to curry. Make this easy recipe in about 5 minutes and enjoy as soon as 30 minutes later! No canning required.
If you’ve eaten street tacos you’ve noticed bright pink color onions (or maybe you didn’t even know they were onions) topping them.
I’m sure they caught your attention because they add a wonderful flavor and bite to whatever they are eaten on along with that beautiful eye-catching color.
The great thing about these little pink gems is they are VERY easy to make at home!
Keep a jar in your refrigerator on the ready for homemade street tacos, burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, hot dogs, salads, on avocado toast, in potato salad and on ethnic dishes like curries.
There are many exciting things about this quick pickle recipe. It’s easy, fast and something you’ll find many uses for once you’ve made them the first time.
There is no canning required with these quick pickled red onions. You’ll make a simple pickling liquid, add the sliced onions, seal them in a Mason jar or other glass airtight container and keep them in the refrigerator for a couple weeks.
It’s such a simple recipe that adds so much flavor to any way you use them! When the pickles are done, put the pickling solution to good use in homemade salad dressings!
Try our quick pickled Jalapenos too!
Making Refrigerator Pickles
A reason this recipe is quick is it does not use a traditional pressure canner or water bath canning method.
Those are reserved for longer term canned goods that are shelf stable.
Refrigerator pickles combine a brine with a fruit or vegetable to take on the tangy flavor of the liquid they are soaking in while in the refrigerator.
This both gives flexibility to whip them up quickly and removes the concerns about food safety in traditional canning recipes.
It can be done with any fruits or vegetables such as the beets in this Arugula Apple-Beet Candied Pecan Salad recipe.
What Do Pickled Red Onions Taste Like?
Thinly sliced red onions soak in sweet and lightly salty flavors.
The end result? A wonderful sweet-tangy flavor.
Recipe Ingredients Notes
Just a handful of simple ingredients go into making these delicious pickled onions! You may have all the basic ingredients you need in your pantry right now.
- Red Onions
- Apple Cider Vinegar. See notes on using different types of vinegar below.
- Kosher Salt
- Granulated Sugar
- Garlic Cloves
- Whole Black Peppercorns
What Type of Vinegar to Use
The type of vinegar used in the recipe affects the flavor.
I used apple cider vinegar for this recipe but it could be changed up to use rice vinegar, white vinegar or red wine vinegar too.
White distilled vinegar has a stronger flavor; it also can be used but may be too tangy for some.
The flavor can be changed even further by adding different spices or fresh herbs to the pickling mixture.
How to make Quick Pickled Red Onions
The recipe is very easy.
STEP 1: Thinly slice the red onions across the onion. See tips below.
STEP 2: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the vinegar, salt and sugar to make a brine. Stir just until the white sugar and salt have dissolved; remove from heat (it does not need to come to a boil). Add the garlic and whole peppercorns.
STEP 3: Cool to room temperature then place in the refrigerator. Chill for at least 30 minutes before eating.
PRO TIP: Slicing the Red Onions
You can choose the thickness desired of the red onion slices for pickling.
They can be paper thin slices or thicker slices up to approximately ¼-inch thick to allow them to soften and become pliable.
For this quick pickled red onion recipe, you can use a heavy sharp chef’s knife or a mandoline slicer (recommended).
Use a Mandoline for Slicing
Using a mandoline slicer, is the easiest way to quickly and efficiently slice raw red onions for this quick pickled onions recipe. . A mandoline is a slicer that can be set to slice vegetables to any thickness. All slices will be identically thick which is harder to do with a knife by hand.
The advantage of a mandoline for this recipe is that you can make the slices uniformly thick, and whatever thickness you choose. Once the mandoline is set up, the slicing takes mere minutes to complete an entire onion.
Mandolines are available at most cooking stores, department stores, and Asian grocery stores.
TIP: Buy a mandoline that has a guard that goes over the item being sliced which will protect your fingers from the sharp cutting blade.
Frequently Asked Questions
The most important thing is to use a glass container. The acidity in vinegar can have a chemical reaction with metal or other container materials. Using a jar with a sealing lid is necessary.
You can repurpose a jar you have, use Mason jars or I like Weck jars. Weck jars stack easily and they look cool. They come with glass lids, a seal and clips for closure. Plastic lids are also available for the jars.
They can keep, sealed, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. They taste best and have the best texture 1 week after making them.
These pickled onions taste best if allowed to soak for a few hours. They become pliable though still have a crunch. TIP: When the pickles are done, use the brine in homemade salad dressing!
More recipes you’ll love!
Quick Pickled Red Onions
- 1 medium Red Onion
- 1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1 tablespoon Granulated Sugar
- 1 Garlic Clove
- 1 teaspoon Black Peppercorns
- 1 16-ounce (.5 liter) Glass Jar with lid
- Peel and slice the onion (across the onion) with a knife or mandoline. Slice thickness may be paper thin to 1/4-inch thick based on preference.
- In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine the vinegar, salt and sugar, stirring just until the salt and sugar dissolve (1-2 minutes). Remove from heat and add the garlic clove and peppercorns.
- Place sliced onions in a glass jar, pour brine over the onions, seal and place in the refrigerator for minimum 30 minutes before eating. The onions may be stored in the refridgerator, sealed, up to several weeks.
Originally published: April 19, 2018
This is the best pickled onion recipe ever! We can’t get enough!
Krissy Allori says
I have actually been looking for a way to pickle red onions and this was perfect! Love them on sandwiches and with a hummus plate.
My family and I love this recipe! So easy and so delicious too! This is definitely our favorite recipe to make! Perfect for our burger nights!
Thank you so much for your help on how to cook the best burgers, you answered in a complete and easy for me to understand! I will definitely return To your site for more “ how-to’s” on other food ideas! Oh & PS… I’ll be making the “pickled onion”recipe today too! Please have a safe & happy 4th of July, & thanks again😊😋
Toni Dash says
I’m so happy it helped! Burgers aren’t hard but they are EASY to do badly lol. I think you’ll love the pickled onions too! Happy 4th!
Christina Hoffman says
Just made these — incredible. There is no going back now!
Trying your beet salad next . . .
Thank you so much, Christina
Toni Dash says
I have another fun quick pickling recipe coming out this week! I’m Over the moon crazy over it! Check back!!
Beautiful! Can this brine be used for other vegetables?
Toni Dash says
I have only used it for the onions but I don’t see why not!
This looks great! The best way to preserve onions!
Love this!! Just the perfect blend of flavors! Thank you!
Sara Welch says
I love enjoying these on my salads or burgers; so easy and great to have on hand!
I had no idea how easy these were… I’ll be making them all the time now!