Pickled Red Onions

Want to jazz up your next salad or bowl? Add pickled red onions! Tangy & sweet, they're the best way to give almost any dish a bright pop of flavor!

Pickled red onions

Pickled red onions have been an indispensable ingredient in my kitchen for years. Not only are they a gorgeous, vibrant pink, but they’re tangy, sweet, and a little crunchy. I like to say that they give sandwiches, salads, bowls, and more a “bright pop of flavor,” and though Jack makes fun of me for how often I use that phrase, I can’t think of a better way to describe them.

Try making a batch of quick pickled red onions, and you’ll see what I mean. Top a few onto an otherwise good sandwich or salad, and it’ll become great. Their vinegary, zippy taste adds an irresistible extra dimension of flavor, brightening and sharpening the other elements of the dish. You only need a few minutes and 5 ingredients to make this pickled onion recipe, so give them a try – you’ll add them to everything!

Pickled onion recipe ingredients

How to Make Pickled Onions

To make pickled red onions, you’ll need 5 basic ingredients: red onions, white vinegar, water, cane sugar, and sea salt. 

First, thinly slice the onions (I recommend using a mandoline for quick, uniform slicing!) and divide them between two jars. Then, heat the vinegar, water, cane sugar, and salt over medium heat, and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. This will only take a minute or so!

Let the brine cool slightly, and pour it over the sliced onions. Allow the jars to cool to room temperature before covering them and transferring them to the fridge. Your onions will be ready to eat when they are bright pink and tender. This could take anywhere from 1 hour to overnight, depending on the thickness of your onions. They will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Pickled onion recipe

Sometimes, I’ll add a few peppercorns or garlic cloves to the jar along with the onions to make their flavor a little more complex. I like to change up the vinegar too! I particularly like a mix of white wine and rice vinegar, and apple cider vinegar and white vinegar are a fun tangy combination. These variations are great, but they’re totally optional; your quick pickled onions will be delicious even if you stick to the basic recipe!

Pickled Red Onions

What to Do with Pickled Red Onions

As I said above, pickled onions are my favorite way to add a bright pop of flavor to almost any dish. Most simply, they’re excellent on avocado toast, but your options don’t end there. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use them:

Do you have a favorite way to use pickled onions? Let me know in the comments!

Pickled onions

If you love these quick pickled red onions…

Try my roasted red peppers, roasted tomatoes, pickled jalapeños, or pickled chard stems next!

Pickled Red Onions

rate this recipe:
4.98 from 267 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves 12
Pickled red onions add a sweet & tangy pop of flavor to salads, sandwiches, burgers, and more! Once you make them, they'll keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.





  • Thinly slice the onions (it's helpful to use a mandoline), and divide the onions between 2 (16-ounce) jars or 3 (10-ounce) jars. Place the garlic and peppercorns in each jar, if using
  • Heat the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve, about 1 minute. Let cool and pour over the onions. Set aside to cool to room temperature, then store the onions in the fridge.
  • Your pickled onions will be ready to eat once they're bright pink and tender - about 1 hour for very thinly sliced onions, or overnight for thicker sliced onions. They will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.



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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Shawna

    5 stars
    I used this brine recipe 2 weeks ago for my first attempt at pickling onions, i used apple cider vinegar instead of white. The onions werr so good! Then i got crafty and started to experiment. In the bottom of a new jar i put a dollop of minced garlic and a healthy shake shake of red pepper flakes. Then i packed the jar with sliced cucumbers and thin red onions. They were delicious and got better each day, everyone at my husbands office loved them! I took some and chopped them up and threw them in tuna salad in place of our standard dill relish and diced white onion, total game changer! It was like a super gourmet tuna salad LOL
    Making another big batch today to take on vacation next week!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Shawna, sounds so delicious, I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the brine!

  2. Connie from Love%20and%20Lemons

    5 stars
    Love these onions. They were called for in a chick pea salad recipe I tried. They’re also great on burgers, hot dogs, hoagies/subs, liverwurst sandwiches.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved them!

  3. Roni

    5 stars
    Needed some sweet pickled onions to top a lobster, smoked salmon, arugula, caper and white sauce pizza. THESE were PERFECT! A squeeze of lemon and fresh dill provided the expected flavour boosts . . . but the sweet, tangy crunch and lovely pink colour of the onions pushed the dish over the edge!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Roni, I’m so glad you loved them!

    • Roxanne

      How much salt and sugar and vinegar and water for one red onion?

      • Jim

        I’m planning on halving the recipe and using one 1 pint jar. 1 cup water, vinegar. One tablespoon non-iodized salt. One tablespoon plus one teaspoon sugar. One clove garlic, 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns.

  4. Cory

    5 stars
    How many times can I reuse the brine once we’ve eaten all the pickles?

    • KSlush

      5 stars
      I just made this with one average size red onion. I cut all the other ingredients in half and it all fit into a 10-12oz jar plus a smaller one, so similar to 1 16oz. There was a tiny bit of brine left over, but that’s normal for pickle making. Hope that helps 🙂

      Looking forward to trying these tomorrow on smoked brisket tacos!

  5. Brian Erckman

    Recommend trying them on a grilled chicken breast sandwich with crushed pineapple and a little jalapeño. If you don’t care for pineapple make the bun a glazed donut. Don’t use a whole donut per bun, split a good sized donut in half.

  6. Marcia

    HI THERE, is the sugar necessary or can i leave it out? thank you

    • Mizz P

      I would think these would be extremely sour/tart without the addition of a sweetener. I have only tried this with white sugar and cannot speak to whether honey or any other sweetener (or artificial sweetener) would work. I suppose you could experiment with a micro-batch (e.g., 1/4 c. each water and vinegar, a bit of salt and no sugar and just a few slices of onion) and see what you think.

  7. Gloria

    5 stars
    Can you re-use the liquid and add more onions?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Gloria, you can – eventually, it’ll start to taste kind of sharp and that’s the time to make a new batch.

  8. Susie

    5 stars
    made these 2 days ago and they are fabulous. have you tried canning them? I have 30 pounds of onions to use..lol

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Susie, so glad you love them! Unfortunately, we haven’t tried canning the onions. I recommend looking for a recipe specifically designed for canning.

  9. Christie

    Hey! I’m wondering if this recipe could be naturally fermented? Using apple cider vinegar instead of white and no heat. I may try it out!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Christie, we haven’t tried this, so I’m not sure how it would work.

    • Mizz P

      I have tried this with ACV (with “mother”) and heat it in the microwave just enough to where the sugar and salt dissolve with a bit of stirring and it works well for me.

  10. Alex

    5 stars
    Best pickled red onion recipe. I personally use 1 cup of white wine vinegar and 1 cup of rice vinegar but the original is equally as good. This will be my go too recipe from now on.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you’ve been loving them!

  11. Iona

    Can you use an alternative type of sugar if you don’t have cane sugar to hand?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Iona, regular white sugar or honey would work here instead. If using honey, I would reduce it to 2-3 tablespoons.

  12. A

    I think there is a typo in the recipe.
    It states 2 tablespoons of salt but after following the recipe it was way too salty.
    Have since tried again… 2 teaspoons seems more reasonable! 😊

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      We do use 2 tablespoons salt here, but if you like the onions to be less salty, 2 teaspoons is a great adjustment!

      • Carl

        2 stars
        Yes, I’m going to cut down on the salt. It should be 2 tsp.

  13. Lexi K

    5 stars
    I’ve used this recipe twice now and I love it! These pickled onions are so fast and easy to make, and are so delicious on so many things.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      I’m so glad you love the recipe!

  14. Myrinda

    Can these be pressure canned to be shelf stable?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Myrinda, we haven’t tried canning these, so I’d recommend looking for a recipe that’s specifically developed for canning.

  15. Pamela Gallo

    My instagram acct is Mango_mia5. Making your pickled onions recipe as I type. First you say it will keep in fridge up to 3 weeks. At the end of your recipe you say it will keep in fridge up to 2 weeks. I’ll go with two weeks and then if any leftover I’ll judge if three weeks is good! Looking forward to having a jar of these in fridge! Pickles onions are hard to find in the stores!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Pamela, oops, thank you for pointing that out. 2 weeks is best, they’re still fine to eat at 3, the flavor just changes over time.

  16. Casey

    Hi Mary, you said in the ingredients about two small onions. Do you mean 2 bags of small red onions? Because 2 small onions is too less for those jars/ vinegar.

    • Patricia

      I had so much liquid left over too.

  17. Mary

    Have you ever tried this recipe using a sugar substitute like erythritol?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Mary, we haven’t tried this, though a little honey works nicely if you’d prefer a natural sweetener!

      • Holden

        Hi, how much honey to replace the sugar? And do I add it when I would add the sugar? thanks

        • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

          Hi Holden, I would use 2-3 tablespoons honey and add it at the same time that you would add the sugar.

    • yolanda

      5 stars
      I used Bocha Sweet and it tastes great!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.