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Homemade Pickled Onions Recipe

by on July 26, 2013 · 40 comments

Homemade Pickled Onions Recipe

Not long ago we stumbled across a tiny taco place. The tacos were great. The condiment bar was even better. What made it so great was the big bowl of pickled onions.

Have you ever had pickled onions? Gosh they’re good. Better than that though, they are remarkably easy to make at home. If you’ve never pickled at home before, onions are a wonderful place to start. You’ll feel like a pro-pickler in no time.

All you really need is sliced onions, acid, salt and some sugar. It only takes about an hour before you can enjoy them — although, if you can wait a day, they get even better.

Remarkably easy pickled onions recipe at home …

We like using red onions. You could just as easily substitute white or yellow onions, although the color from using red is stunning. Something happens as red onions sit in the brine — they become bright and pink.

These pickled onions are sharp and sweet all at the same time. We use a combination of fresh lime juice and apple cider vinegar. That combined with some salt and sugar makes the onions refreshingly acidic. You can certainly use just one acid, but we’ve found the combination adds a touch more complexity.

There’s a lot of elbow room when it comes to adding spices or additional flavors. You could keep it clean and simple and add none or add a combination of the following: cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, crushed red pepper flakes, whole garlic, star anise, bay leaf, mustard seeds, fresh ginger slices, fennel seeds, coriander seeds or cumin seeds.

In the photo below, we’ve added cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and red pepper flakes.

Homemade Pickled Onions

Once they are ready, try adding pickled onions to tacos, burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and whatever else you think could use a pop of flavor. We particularly love a few draped over scrambled eggs.

Homemade Pickled Onions

There you have it — easy homemade pickled onions. We’re hooked and bet you will be, too.

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5.0 from 6 reviews
Homemade Pickled Onions Recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
These pickled onions are sharp, sweet and refreshingly acidic. We use a combination of fresh lime juice and apple cider vinegar. You can use just one acid, but we've found the combination adds a touch more complexity. There's a lot of elbow room when it comes to adding spices or additional flavors. We use cinnamon sticks, cloves and red pepper flakes. You could keep it clean and simple and add none or add a combination of the following: cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, crushed red pepper flakes, whole garlic, star anise, bay leaf, mustard seeds, fresh ginger slices, fennel seeds, coriander seeds or cumin seeds.

What You Need to Know: This recipe makes about 3 cups, which is quite a lot. We love adding them to just about anything, so we go through them. You could, however, easily divide the recipe by half.
Created By:
Yield: 3 cups ( 8 to 10 servings as a side dish)
You Will Need
  • 2 medium red onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup (240 ml) apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup (50 to 100 g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  1. Add sliced onions to a medium bowl. Pour enough boiling water over onions so that they are covered. Count to 10 then drain. Add onions to glass jars or a bowl.
  2. Toast cinnamon, cloves and the red pepper flakes in a small saucepan over medium heat until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk in vinegar, lime juice, a 1/4 cup of the sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until sugar and salt have dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Taste for sweetness then add more sugar as needed. Pour brine over onions.Pickled-Red-Onions-Recipe-Steps
  4. Allow to stand at room temperature until cooled, cover and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.
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About the Author


I'm Adam Gallagher and alongside my wife, Joanne, I photograph and share favorite recipes from our kitchen. Sharing our recipes began as a hobby, turned into a dream and now has become our business. I just love that.

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1 Nancy Long July 26, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Thank you for this recipe – we recently had some smoked fish spread at Bonefish Grille which was okay, but when we topped it with the accompanying pickled onion, it was lifted to another dimension.


2 Joanne July 31, 2013 at 12:29 pm

The onions really are great with just about anything. Love the idea to add them to smoked fish.


3 Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon July 28, 2013 at 6:54 pm

These onions are beauties. I need a jar of these in my fridge.


4 Joanne July 31, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Thanks, Wendi. We have two ;)


5 Chris @ Shared Appetite July 29, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Thanks for including my Easy Pickled Onions recipe :) Aren’t pickled onions the best?! I love their bright pink color and pretty much add them to all my tacos, nachos, quesadillas, and even a bunch of salads and sandwiches nowadays…. I’m slightly obsessed I guess! I love your idea to add lime juice into the mix. I’ll totally be doing that for now on. Thanks for the inspiration!


6 Joanne July 31, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Thanks so much, Chris. And yes, we’re completely obsessed, too :) Love your recipe!


7 Christina August 5, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Excellent recipe and quite easy to make. Love the smell that lingers in the kitchen! Last night I fried some pork chops, removed from the pan, added some butter and quick fried some sliced apples with lots of pickled onions then poured it all over the chops. Wow!! Double Wow delicious!!


8 Joanne August 8, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Wow, that sounds amazing. You’re right about them smell, too. Yum.


9 Jessica August 24, 2013 at 10:46 am

I finally got around to making these, and mine look just like your picture, so I’m satisfied. We had vegetable sushi rolls for dinner, and these made for a nice pop of both color and flavor.


10 Heather September 6, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I grow red onions and was wondering if this would translate well to a canning recipe. If yes, any thoughts or tips?


11 Joanne September 7, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Yep, it should do really well canned.


12 Heather September 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Thank you for your swift response! I’m gonna do it today. I was wondering if you have experience with British style pickled onions, as i was thinking of trying to can them as well. My onions are a bit larger than traditional, but my family loves onions and i know they’ll be consumed. I’m gonna salt them and dry them overnight, in hopes that it will help remove the skins between the layers, as well as some of the sulfur and thus stave off any tendency towards mushiness. Any tips would be appreciated. I’ve also recommended you to a couple of friends and i’ve been enjoying poking around your site very much.


13 Joanne September 16, 2013 at 11:29 am

Thanks so much!


14 Sharon November 7, 2013 at 1:19 pm

How about this for pickled mushrooms????
Anyone tried it????


15 Joanne November 8, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Hi Sharon, we have never tried pickling mushrooms. Maybe someone will comment with their own experience.


16 John November 25, 2013 at 8:44 pm

How long after these go into the refrigerator before they can be eaten? Do they need to sit for a week or two or anything?

Thank you,



17 Joanne November 29, 2013 at 11:26 am

No, not at all. You can eat them once the onions have cooled. They keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.


18 meg December 8, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Inspiring! Think I could substitute honey for sugar? Hmm, might have to try!


19 Joanne December 9, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Try it, it should work just fine.


20 John February 21, 2014 at 2:15 pm

I made these today, I cannot wait to try them, Very simple to make had my kids help me I did all the cutting


21 R March 8, 2014 at 1:48 pm


This recipe is great! Quick question – do you drain the juice from the bowl before refrigerating? Or at any time? Thanks!


22 Joanne March 17, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Nope, we just scoop out onions using a fork (or our fingers).


23 Lauren March 22, 2014 at 2:31 am

Do the onions have to be completely covered by the juice? and can the liquid be reheated and used again? Thank you!


24 Joanne March 24, 2014 at 9:49 am

Yes, the onions should be covered. We’re not quite sure about the juice — we probably would not reuse it.


25 Diana G April 12, 2014 at 11:23 pm

I tried this recipe out today and loved it. I halved the entire recipe since it’s just for me. I got excited when the onions turned out pink. Not only did they look great, they tasted really great with my tacos tonight. This recipe is very easy and I’ll be making it again and again.


26 Joanne April 16, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Great! So glad it worked well for you.


27 keenpetite May 6, 2014 at 5:06 am

Every time we eat @ mexican restaurant, I crave this tasty onions for weeks; finally got a recipe
and today I am making my first batch, plan to have shrimp tostadas on 5/7/14 with these excellent & tasty onions.
Muchas gracias


28 Joanne May 12, 2014 at 5:57 pm

They are good, aren’t they? We hope our recipe lives up to your shrimp tostadas (that sounds so good)!


29 Geri May 19, 2014 at 4:12 pm

I made only half the recipe since I am a widow living by myself. I love them and enjoy on meat, sandwiches, salads etc. I am already planning my next batch. Very good recipe and color is beautiful.


30 Joanne June 20, 2014 at 2:01 pm

We’re thrilled you enjoyed our recipe! Thank you for coming back and commenting.


31 Mike June 1, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Your recipe mentioned “refrigerate up to 2 weeks”. Is that before consumption? Or can I make pickle the onions the night before and use them the next day?


32 Joanne August 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm

We meant that they will last up to 2 weeks. You can eat them right away.


33 Molly @ Toffee Bits and Chocolate Chips in Paris! June 16, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Yum! I have a new love for pickled onions now! I’d never tried it before and you’re so right- incredibly easy. I did a mixture of water and white vinegar and then as far as spices two different types of peppercorns, and cumin seeds. KIller!!!!


34 Joanne June 20, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Great spices — especially love the two different types of peppercorns.


35 Ronald Hunt June 16, 2014 at 4:36 pm

I made these out of curiosity a couple weeks ago and added some to my pulled pork sandwich, along with some spicy sweet mustard. Talk about a wake-up call for the taste buds!! Five stars all day!


36 Joanne June 20, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Oh, yum! Now I want that, too :)


37 Jill Farley August 16, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Love the recipe! The lime juice gives a great flavor- I used bottled key lime juice because I had it on hand and I used Splenda instead of sugar due to diabetes. These onions add a great component to everything. I plan to try this with some other veggies!


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