If you’ve never tried pickled red onions, you’ve been seriously missing out on one of life’s pleasures. Learn how to pickle onions yourself and grab this addictive quick pickled red onions recipe so you can make them anytime!
I love pickled foods.
This red pickled onion recipe is simple and adds a nice punch of flavor to salads and sandwiches. It’s become a must-have on-hand recipe for our household.
Ok, enough about pickles; let’s get to it!
INSPIRATION FOR PICKLED ONIONS
My previous pickling escapades were inspired by necessity. When my garden produced so many cucumbers and jalapenos that we couldn’t eat them all, I had to figure out a way to preserve them so we could enjoy our garden-fresh produce all winter.
Pickling was the perfect solution!
This pickled onions recipe was not born out of necessity but rather desire.
My husband and I went to a restaurant once, and I got this incredible pulled pork sandwich with pickled red onions. The tangy, slightly sweet flavor hooked me from the first bite.
WHERE TO GET FRESH ONIONS IF YOU CAN’T PLANT THEM
Red onions take awhile to mature, and in Canada, where I live, our growing season can be a tad short. However, you can get it done if you start your onions early and baby them through the season.
And, if you grow red onions, this recipe can help you use your summer crop.
However, even if you don’t grow your onions, you can still easily make this recipe by picking some onions at your local farmer’s market or grocery store.
Ingredients for easy pickled onions
- Red onions
- Apple cider vinegar
- White vinegar
- Pickling salt
- Granulated sugar
- Mustard Seed
- Red pepper flakes (optional)
- Bay leaves
Do I have to use apple cider vinegar?
Nope! I prefer apple cider vinegar in a blend with my pickled red onions because it has a softer bite, but if I don’t have any on hand, I will use straight white wine vinegar or white distilled vinegar. There are recipes for quick pickled red onions that call for rice vinegar or red wine vinegar, and I have tried those but didn’t find the rice vinegar suited my tastes.
It is important to note that some kinds of vinegar have different acid levels. The recipe here has the right pH level to be safe, but if you start swapping out different types of vinegar, please verify that the acid level is safe for your pickles ( at least 5%)
Is Sugar Necessary In This Recipe?
Sugar is not necessary, but it does help take the edge off the vinegar. Also, a bit of sweetness adds an extra depth of flavor. This recipe is not a sweet pickled onion recipe, but it does have a hint of sweetness.
You can leave the sweet out altogether if you wish, or you can swap the sugar for maple syrup, honey, agave, etc., to your tastes. Maple syrup is delicious in this recipe, but I’m Canadian, and we put that sh… stuff on everything so I don’t know if my maple syrup bias is trustworthy.
Can I swap the spices?
You can safely swap the spices. If you do not like spicy, leave out the red pepper flakes. If you don’t like bay, leave it out. You absolutely can add a garlic clove if you want to, or whole cloves, or a few sprigs of fresh herbs.
Can I adjust the Brine Ratio?
It is not safe to adjust the brine ratio in the pickling liquid. The quick pickled onions, especially if you store them for winter, require a pH level of 4.6 or lower to remain safe.
Can I use white, yellow, or sweet onions instead of red?
You can! You can use white or yellow onions, but here are a few things to know.
Yellow and white onions, I find, are powerful. So if you like a strong onion flavor, you can try swapping the red onion for white.
Sweet onions tend to be softer and will yield a softer pickle.
On the other hand, the red onion has a great tart bite, is not too crisp and soft, and makes perfect pickled onions.
HOW TO Make quick pickled red onions
Learning how to pickle red onions actually couldn’t be easier. Not only is it easy, but it doesn’t require tons of ingredients or time (my favorite type of recipe!). This is a delicious recipe you will want to make over and over. These pickled onions make excellent pantry staples.
Here’s a detailed description of how I make my quick pickled onions. There’s even a handy recipe card at the end of this post if you want to print out the recipe and have it ready.
- Helpful Tip: We have a complete guide on safe canning practices that you should read if you are new to canning.
STEP 1: STERILIZE AND PREPARE YOUR JARS
It’s essential that you clean and sterilize your jars.
Since I don’t tend to make a ton of pickled onions at a time (this recipe is so easy you can make it in small batches throughout the year), I love using ½ pint jars. They’re the perfect size to hold what we need for a few servings without taking up too much space in the fridge.
However, if you love pickled red onions and practically eat them by the handful, feel free to use larger jars! The process may take slightly longer, but the steps will stay the same.
STEP 2: CLEAN AND SLICE YOUR RED ONIONS
Start with red onions that are at room temperature. You want to avoid pulling red onions out of the fridge and trying to add them to your brine.
Before you start slicing your red onions, make sure that you peel the skin off. It’s easiest to do if you cut off the top and bottom of your onion. Then the outer peel practically falls off.
Begin slicing your onions. I like to use a mandoline for extra thin slices. Or, when I want them slightly thicker for more crunch, I hold the onion sideways and continue slicing the already cut end until I get through the onion and to the other side. Then, I cut the onion slices in half.
Step 3: Place the Sliced Red Onions in A Bowl and Toss With Two Tablespoons of Salt
Many recipes will ask that you set aside your onions overnight, but we’ve tested overnight and an hour and honestly we can’t tell the difference in the end product.
But you will want to let your onions sit, tossed in salt, for at least one hour. The salt pulls out excess liquid and bitterness. We found the pickles we tested without this step had a hard astringent bite.
Once the onions have had a chance to sit out, rinse them well under cold water to remove all the salt.
STEP 3: MAKE AND CAN THE PICKLING liquid
Add your pickling ingredients (2 cups water, 1 cup white vinegar, 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons pickling salt, 1/2 cup sugar) to a large stock pot and bring the mixture to a consistent rolling boil.
Add your onions to the boiling mixture and stir to combine. Bring it back to a boil and let it boil again for 2 minutes.
Add your boiling mixture to your jars, allowing ¼ inch of space at the top. Poke the mix several times with a knife to release air bubbles.
Next, clean the rims of your jar with a clean paper towel or cloth. Cover with your lids and rings, but don’t over-tighten them.
Process your jars of quick pickled onions in your canner for 15 minutes if using pints or 20 minutes for quarts.
STEP 4: STORE The JARS For Up to One Year
After processing, remove your jars from your canner. Let them sit and rest on the counter without disturbing them for 24 hours.
Check your seals. Store any that didn’t seal in the refrigerator, and be sure to eat them within a month. You can store jars that seal in a cool dark location for up to a year.
You can eat your pickled red onions right away. However, like with homemade pickles, the flavor will intensify and improve over time.
That’s all there is to making this pickled red onions recipe (easy, right?)!
Frequently Asked Questions About Quick Pickled Red Onions
Here are a few good questions I’ve seen from readers, and I wanted to share them in case you have the same questions:
What Can I Eat With Quick Pickled Red Onions?
Here’s the fun part! The number of ways to use your quick pickled red onions is limited only by your imagination. This recipe is a fun and easy addition that will add a delicious kick to your meals.
Add quick pickled red onion as toppings to your:
- Salads (chop up and add to macaroni or potato salad for a tart kick)
- Sandwiches, especially delicious with pulled pork. Like we kept saying over and over, how GOOD the pulled pork was with pickled onions.
- Egg recipes
- Asian and Mexican recipes (including egg rolls, tacos, carnitas, quesadillas, nachos, etc.)
- Cheese dips
- Avocado toast
- Blend into salad dressings for a big boost of flavor
Quick pickled onions to Stock Up For Winter
Through canning, you can preserve the taste of summer all winter long!
Pickled onions are an easy introduction to canning because the recipes are high in acid, safe, and incredibly easy.
More Resources For Canning And Preserving
If you are looking at baskets of produce from your garden and wondering what you can do with all that fresh produce, we have ideas for you!
- Have Too Many Cucumbers? Here’s What To Do With Extra Cucumbers!
- How To Make Crunchy Homemade Dill Pickles
- How to Make the Rhubarb Jam Without Sugar
- Have Too Many Jalapeños? Here’s What To Do With All Those Extra Jalapeños!
- Jalapeno Pepper Jelly Recipe
- Delicious Homemade Peach Preserves
- Making Home Made Smoked Salt
- Jalapeno Scoville Rating: How to Affect Jalapeno’s Heat
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 4 tablespoons of pickling salt divided
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp pepper corns
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 6 bay leaves
- 1/2 - 1 tsp of red pepper flakes (optional, but tasty)
- 3lbs red onions
- Peel and thinly slice the red onions and place them in a large bowl.
- Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the pickling salt over the onions and toss to coat. Allow the onions to rest for at least 1 hour.
- Rinse the onions well under cold water, making sure to remove all excess salt.
- Put the canner on the stove and fill it halfway with water and set it to boil.
- Once the canner boils, add your mason jars and allow them to boil for 10 minutes.
- In a saucepan add the vinegar, water, sugar, and the remaining pickling salt (2 tablespoons) and bring to a boil.
- Once the brine has boiled, turn the burner to medium and add the sliced onions. Cook the onions for 3 minutes.
- While the onions are cooking in the brine, add 1/8 tsp of peppercorns, and mustard seed to the bottom of each clean and sterilized mason jar. Add in one bay leaf, and a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional).
- Use tongs and fill the mason jars with the hot onions leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.
- Once the jars are filled, use the remaining brine to fill the jars to 1/4 inch headspace. Be sure to use a non-metallic knife or spoon to poke the onions to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims with a clean tea towel and add the lids twisting only until finger-tight.
- Add the jars to the canner and boil hard for 15 minutes (20 minutes for quarts)
- Remove the canned pickled onion from the canner and set it aside to cool for 24 hours.
- Store your pickled onions for up to 1 year in a cool dark space.
You can use all white vinegar, or all apple cider but the blend of the two is the best of both worlds.
The sugar can be removed, but it will make the pickled onions a bit harsh. The sugar helps mellow the vinegar. If you are watching your sugar intake, you can use allulose, monk fruit, or your favorite low-calorie sweetener. Personally, we find allulose works best in canning and does not impart any weird aftertaste.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 48 Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 13Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 13mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 2gProtein: 0g