Quick pickled red onions are an easy condiment you can make at home that are so flavorful! Read below for a step-by-step guide on how to pickle onions (or any other vegetable!) and elevate your meals! Suggestions included for easy ways to vary the flavor of the pickling brine, including additional vinegar, herbs, and spices.
How to pickle red onions
This method for quick pickling vegetables is based off a recipe on The Kitchn that my family has loved for years! Instead of following traditional canning methods for pickling (boiling water, vinegar, and spices on a stove top), you simply pour boiling water over thinly sliced onions, then place them in a container with the pickling brine and spice mix of your choosing.
Next, place the lid on, shake, cover, and store in a refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Longer is better!
Pickling spice ingredients
- Rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar – Other vinegars will work too, such as white wine. Do not use anything too strongly flavored or dark, such as balsamic vinegar. It will completely overpower the onions! Similarly, I do not recommend using distilled white vinegar, as the flavor is extremely harsh.
- Kosher salt – To bring out the natural flavor of whichever vegetables you’re pickling.
- Granulated sugar – For sweetness
- Garlic cloves – Peeled and halved, to help infuse the vegetables with a bit of garlic.
- Whole black peppercorns – This adds a slight bit of heat and a subtle pepper flavor. For more heat, try adding ½ – 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes. Be careful, it’s spicy!
Looking for more pickling brine flavor options? Try adding mustard seeds, citrus peel (lemon, lime, orange, etc.), ginger, fresh herbs such as thyme, oregano, rosemary, dill, bay leaf or mint. Flavored salts would be fun to experiment with too!
If this is your first time making this pickled red onion recipe, maybe try it as it’s written first, see what you like, then do a side-by-side comparison with a flavored version. One large red onion will make a double batch of this recipe, so it’s worth trying both the original (seriously the best pickled onions!) and whatever variations you’re interested in!
How to store pickled vegetables
Pickled onions and other vegetables should be stored in glass jars (such as mason or weck jars with lids) or ceramic containers. Do not store pickled onions in a plastic container, as it could absorb the vinegar. And unfortunately, metal storage containers are not ideal either, as the material will react with the vinegar. Stick to glass or ceramic!
How long do pickled onions last?
While pickled red onions will last up to 3 weeks, they are best when used within 1 week.
Pickled red onions will last up to 3 weeks, but they are unquestionably best during the first week. For one, they are nice and crunchy just after pickling. The longer they sit in excess of 1 week, the less crisp and crunchy the are.
What vegetables can I pickle?
The sky’s the limit! You can pickle almost any vegetable. A few of my favorites are: cucumbers, shallots, fennel, thinly sliced carrots, mushrooms, radishes!
Also, you can absolutely pickle fruit! Yes, you read that correctly! If you’ve never tried pickled watermelon, it is a must for summer!
Ideas for using pickled red onions
These onions can be used endlessly! I add them to breakfast scrambles or fried eggs, as a bright acidic topping for sandwiches, on top of grilled meats and seafood, and they are perfect on salads of every kind!
I’m telling you, this is the easiest, best pickled onion recipe!
If you make Quick Pickled Red Onions, please let me know by leaving a rating and review below!
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For recipes that work well with pickled onions, check out the following:
Ground lamb burgers with homemade tzatziki
Vietnamese-style Banh mi sheet pan nachos
How to create and host a Sunday bagel brunch
Chorizo frittata with roasted peppers
Whole30 breakfast hash with beets and avocado
Quick Pickled Red Onions
- Sieve or fine mesh strainer
- Mason jars or other glass jars with lids for storing
- Kettle for heating water
- ½ large red onion thinly sliced into half moons (about ~½ cup)
- 1 cup rice vinegar or other vinegar (see note below)
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp granulated sugar
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and halved
- ½ tsp whole black peppercorns
- thyme optional
- lemon peel optional
- ½-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes optional
- ½-1 tsp mustard seeds optional
- Pour vinegar in a mason jar or glass container that is large enough to fit both the vinegar and the red onions. If the vinegar only comes up halfway on the jar, you've likely got enough room to add the onions. If not, grab a larger container.
- Add kosher salt, sugar, garlic, and peppercorns to the vinegar. If you're using any fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano, etc.) or citrus (lemon, lime, or orange peel), add them now. Seal the container and shake to dissolve sugar and salt, then reopen.
- Place thinly sliced red onion in a sieve or fine mesh strainer and set in a sink or over a glass bowl.
- Heat water in a kettle until boiling, then pour over sliced red onions. Carefully transfer onions to the jar, then seal, shake, and place in a refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (longer is better). Add to any recipe where you'd like a burst of sweet, bright acidity! Pickled onions will keep for 2-3 weeks.
- Other vegetables – This same method will work with other vegetables too! Onions, shallots, fennel, thinly sliced carrots, cucumbers, mushrooms, radishes. The list goes on and on!
- Vinegar – my favorite vinegars to use are rice vinegar and apple cider vinegar, but white wine is a great too! Do not use something strong like balsamic vinegar, as it will overpower the flavor of the onions.
- Herbs – Adding fresh herbs is a great way to customize the flavor of pickled vegetables. Thyme, rosemary, oregano, tarragon, mint, dill, chervil, etc. are all great options!
- Citrus – You can add the peel of any citrus to the vinegar to give a fresh, fruity flavor
- Sweetness – If you prefer a less sweet, more tart pickle, increase, increase the kosher salt to ¾ tsp and reduce the granulated sugar to ⅛ tsp.
- Spice – Want to give your pickling brine a kick? Add ½-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes. This makes it hottt, so proceed with caution!
- Double the recipe – This pickled red onion recipe can easily be doubled or tripled to serve a larger crowd!