How to make pickled red onions with 5 base ingredients and in just minutes! These quick pickled red onions are sweet, tangy, and crisp. They’re the ultimate condiment to elevate burgers, tacos, salads, and more!
Tangy Quick Pickled Red Onions
Pickled red onions are a new must-have in my fridge. They’re tangy, sweet, crisp, and will elevate any meal with a pop of color (they’re bright pink!) and flavor. Even better, these quick pickled red onions take less than 10 minutes to pull together and are ready to eat in as little as 30 minutes (but best when left overnight). Plus, they can then be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.
For the longest time, I assumed that learning how to pickle red onions would be a lengthy, complicated process, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only is it incredibly quick and simple, but it’s versatile too. You can follow the base recipe as written for simple but still wonderfully zingy, tasty pink onions. Alternatively, use one of the many ingredient substitutions if needed, or refer to my list of optional add-ins for tons of ways to add even more depth of flavor to this perfect meal-topper.
Plus, with Christmas just around the corner, I should mention that these quick pickled red onions make for a great edible Christmas gift or addition to your holiday cheeseboard/ grazing platters. When you’re not too busy stuffing them into tacos, burritos, vegan grilled cheese, salads, and more!
- Red onions: You’ll need thinly sliced red onions, though technically, this method will work with yellow or white onions too.
- Water: Will slightly dilute the vinegar for a milder flavor.
- White vinegar: Use distilled white vinegar for a classic simple pickling liquid. If you want to experiment with flavor, you can experiment with other kinds of vinegar, like rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, champagne vinegar, red wine vinegar, etc., for this pickled red onion recipe.
- Sugar: Use your sweetener of choice. White sugar, organic cane sugar, coconut sugar, or even a sugar-free sweetener like Erythritol. Maple syrup or agave also work. Note that the sugar you use will affect the color of the pickling liquid.
- Salt: I like to use sea salt. If you plan to do a lot of pickling, then ‘pickling salt’ is best. This won’t make the brine cloudy (which can look like spoilage but isn’t).
- Red pepper flakes: (Optional) To add a hint of spice to the pickled red onion recipe, add a pinch of red pepper flakes. Alternatively, pink peppercorns (whole peppercorns) would work well, or even thin slices of chili/jalapeño.
Optional add-ins & Variations
- Herbs: There are several fresh herbs you could add to the pickled onions, including thyme, oregano, bay leaf, rosemary, etc.
When using any whole spices, you can add even more flavor by first toasting them in a dry pan until fragrant.
- Spices: Whole spices (max. 1 tsp) are another great addition to these quick pickled onions. Clove, star anise, cinnamon stick, cardamom, and seeds like cumin seeds, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, mustard seeds, or coriander seeds would all pair well with the red onions. You could also add allspice berries (only 1/4-1/2 tsp).
- Ginger: Combine the ginger with a Kaffir lime leaf while using a little lime juice in place of vinegar for a simple Thai pickled onion recipe.
- Garlic: Add some minced, sliced, or whole garlic cloves to the pickling brine. The garlic may turn blue, but this is normal (even if it looks a little concerning).
- Orange rind: Any citrus rind would work (lemon, lime, orange, etc.).
- Lemon/Lime juice: To create a more complex flavor to the pickled red onions, you can use a combination of fresh lemon or lime juice with vinegar.
- Beetroot: If you want bright pink onions, you can add a slice of beetroot to the jar (whether you use red onions or other varieties).
Please read the recipe card below for the full ingredients list, measurements, complete recipe method, and nutritional information.
How to Make Pickled Onions?
- First, heat the water in a small saucepan until just before it simmers. Then set aside.
- Meanwhile, slice the red onions thinly using a knife or mandoline (1/8-inch is best). Transfer the sliced onions to a large mason jar (or 2-3 smaller jars).
- In the saucepan or a separate bowl, combine the warm water with the salt, red pepper flakes (if using), sugar, and vinegar. Stir well and wait until the sugar/salt dissolves into the mixture.
- Then, pour the pickle brine into the mason jar to cover the red onions. Press the onions down gently until fully submerged, close the lid, and leave to cool slightly at room temperature. Then transfer to the fridge to ‘marinate’ for a minimum of 30 minutes but better left overnight and enjoy!
How Long Do Pickled Red Onions Last?
Make ahead: Technically, these quick pickled red onions are ready to serve and enjoy within an hour or two. However, the flavor will taste much better once they’ve been allowed to ‘marinate’ overnight in the refrigerator.
Store: This recipe is for refrigerator pickled onions and should be stored in the jar for up to two weeks. Make sure the onions remain submerged beneath the pickling liquid. They may last longer than 2 weeks but will lose flavor over time.
I don’t recommend freezing the pickled onions. However, you can freeze the regular un-pickled sliced red onions for up to a year in the freezer, ready to pickle whenever the mood strikes!
How to Use Pink Pickled Onions?
To say that the uses for these pickled red onions are plentiful would be an understatement:
- Sprinkle the pink pickled onions over avocado toast
- Stuff in vegan grilled cheese and other sandwiches
- Add to falafel wraps and pita sandwiches
- Add to tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and other Mexican dishes
- Top off nachos or nacho fries
- Add the onion pickle to hotdogs and burgers, like this vegan black bean burger
- To top a vegan sloppy joe
- Use to garnish pizza
- Garnish a bowl of soup, like this pinto bean soup, or tortilla soup
- Add to potato salad
- Add to salads and salad/ grain bowls
- Use to garnish a vegan omelette or quiche
- To top rice-based stir-fries and simple rice dishes
- To garnish vegan cheese fondue
- Add to holiday cheeseboards and grazing platter with crackers and fruit
What are your favorite ways to enjoy pink onion pickles? Let me know in the comments.
What is the easiest way to slice the onions?
First, chop off the root and stem ends from the onions. Then, slice them from top to bottom in half. Place each half cut-side down on your surface and use a knife to make thin slices, OR use a mandoline. You can also slice full onion ring slices rather than half-moons.
Do we need to sterilize the storage jar?
No, as these are refrigerator pickles, you just need a clean jar, but sterilization isn’t necessary (though it won’t do any harm for extending the shelf life!).
Can I make the raw onion flavor more mellow?
Yes, you could blanch the onions to remove some of the harsh, raw flavor. To do so, you can either boil the red onions for two minutes OR pour boiling water over the onions in a sieve. Not only will this make for milder pink pickled onions, but it’s also meant to keep the onions crunchier for longer.
Can you use the leftover brine?
Not only can you reuse the vinegar mixture for more pickled vegetables or for a further batch of pickled onions, but the pickling liquid can also be added to sauces and dressings to add tang. You can even add it to cocktails! Just note that the flavor will reduce over time, so I only reuse it once.
Recipe Notes and Top Tips
- The thickness of the onion slices: Thin slices are the traditional option for pickled pink onions. However, slightly thicker slices will provide more crunch. So adjust based on personal preference. Marinate thicker slices for longer.
- Adjust the amount of sugar: Based on whether you prefer tangier or sweeter pickled onions.
- Use non-reactive glassware: To store the onion pickle, make sure you use a glass jar that doesn’t contain any reactive materials.
More Vegan Onion Recipes
If you try this quick pickled red onion recipe, I’d love a comment and ★★★★★ recipe rating below. Also, please don’t forget to tag me in re-creations on Instagram or Facebook with @elavegan and #elavegan—I love seeing them.
Pickled Red Onions
- You can watch the video in the post for visual instructions.In a saucepan, heat the water on the stove, turn off the heat before it starts simmering, set aside.
- Slice the onions thinly (into rings or half-moons) with a knife, or use a mandoline. Transfer the sliced onions to a large (750 ml) mason jar (or use 2-3 smaller jars).
- Add the salt, red pepper flakes (if using), sugar of choice, and white vinegar to the warm water. Give it a good stir and wait until the sugar and salt dissolve.
- Pour the mixture into the mason jar, over the onions. Press them down gently with a spoon, close the lid, and transfer the jar to your fridge. You can try them after just 30 minutes, however, I prefer to let them marinate overnight for best results.
- Enjoy on avocado toast, falafel, tacos, burgers, pizza, and more!
- You can use organic cane sugar, coconut sugar, or a sugar-free sweetener like Erythritol.
- Add other spices/herbs of choice, such as peppercorns, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, fresh ginger, fresh garlic. Read the blog post for many suggestions and serving ideas.
- The total time doesn't include the marinating time.
Nutrition information is an estimate and has been calculated automatically