How to Make Pickled Onions in 1 Hour

A quick and easy pickled red onions recipe with onions, lime, apple cider vinegar, and spices. Jump to the Pickled Onions Recipe or read on to see how we make it.

How to Make Pickled Onions in 1 Hour

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.

How to Make Pickled Onions in 1 Hour

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.

Pickled Onions Recipe in 1 Hour

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.

Pickled Onions Recipe in 1 Hour

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.

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

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Recipe updated, originally posted July 2013. Since posting this in 2013, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne

4.6 from 8 reviews
How to Make Pickled Onions in 1 Hour
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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67 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Tracy August 13, 2016, 5:44 pm

    Can these be made without adding the salt for those who are on a salt free diet? I haven’t made them yet, but want very much to! They sound delish!

    • Joanne August 16, 2016, 2:48 pm

      Hi Tracy, You can leave the salt out. The onions will still pickle and soften, the flavor will just be slightly different to our version.

  • Leslie April 1, 2016, 3:10 pm

    I was wondering if we store the onions in the fridge in the liquid brine or do we strain after a day and keep them without liquid. Can’t wait to try them! They look great.

    • Joanne May 18, 2016, 1:45 pm

      Keep the onions in the liquid. Enjoy!

  • Robin April 1, 2016, 12:53 am

    I made these and they are so delicious. We put them on veggie burgers, now looking forward to serving them on other things. This is a condiment I will always have available! Thank you.

  • AC February 2, 2016, 4:26 pm

    These were so perfect! I had pickled onions for the first time at an Indian Buffet and discovered they went well with everything. This recipe seemed to be the most authentic so I followed it exactly and I couldn’t be happier! My boyfriend who tolerates the excessive amount of onions I put in my recipes (but usually leaves most on his plate) eats these straight out of the jar and actually craves them as a snack! I want to use this pickling recipe with every veggie I can think of!

  • Angel January 23, 2016, 8:48 pm

    when you say refrigerate for 2 weeks, does that mean that you need to wait 2 weeks before they are ready to eat; or does it mean that they are good for up to 2 weeks? how soon will they be ready to eat after made?

    • Joanne May 19, 2016, 1:23 pm

      Hi Angel, You can store the onions up to 2 weeks. They can be eaten the day of making.

  • Karen September 1, 2015, 9:38 am

    Can I use Pickling salt instead of the kosher? Ran out and just don’t want to go to the store for one item.

    • Joanne September 16, 2015, 2:26 pm

      Yes, definitely.

  • Erin August 26, 2015, 10:51 pm

    Can I use white onions?

    • Joanne August 28, 2015, 10:50 am

      Yes, definitely.

  • Emma in Ottawa June 27, 2015, 2:24 pm

    These are an essentialcondiment for any burger bar extravaganza. Actually, these make everything more exciting. Terrific with Indian foods and huevos rancheros. Thanks for this recipe.

  • Colleen May 22, 2015, 12:07 am

    Love your recipe! Also included thinly sliced radishes with the onions and OMG, what a delish topping for our nachos.

  • Nick Walker May 15, 2015, 12:14 am

    Terrific recipe. I have some chillies in the garden and finely chopped a re and a green excluding seeds (They are quite hot) Looked and tasted great with some home smoked kahwai, crusty bread and a beer. Thanks

  • Doris April 22, 2015, 3:15 pm

    Could you make this recipe with balsamic vinegars instead?

    • Joanne April 23, 2015, 12:14 pm

      Hi Doris, You can use whatever vinegar you like. Remember, though, that balsamic vinegar is darker in color so the onions will look different to ours in the photos (unless you use white balsamic). Hope it turns out well for you!

  • Connie April 20, 2015, 11:29 pm

    Do you know why my onions didn’t turn bright pink. They are pale pink. Ty

    • Joanne April 21, 2015, 12:59 pm

      Hi Connie, maybe we started with brighter colored onions? We don’t add any color to them so it is all dependent on how red/purple the onions you use are.

  • Bethany April 13, 2015, 4:54 pm

    Just made these and could NOT wait to taste them before they were cooled…they are DELICIOUS! I love the lime juice, it adds such zing! Thanks so much for sharing your recipe 🙂

  • Shannon April 5, 2015, 1:18 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve tried countless times until I found your recipe have I been successful. Have you ever tried the cabbage that is pickled sometimes it’s in Mexican restaurants, I wonder if you would do the same steps to get pickled cabbage?

    • Joanne April 9, 2015, 5:16 pm

      We have not, although it sounds delicious!

  • Susan g January 17, 2015, 1:08 pm

    Delicious…love this on any grilled food.

  • Braden December 16, 2014, 4:21 pm

    Hi there,
    Just made this recipe and can’t wait to try them on some tacos tomorrow.
    I was wondering, what is the purpose of cooling the jars before covering and putting in the fridge? Would it be ok to put the lids on while hot to get a better seal on the jars?
    Thanks for the recipe!

  • ineke schoneveld October 17, 2014, 2:31 am

    How would I go about bottling these? As I have a large bag of small red onions

  • Jill Farley August 16, 2014, 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!

  • Ronald Hunt June 16, 2014, 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!

    • Joanne June 20, 2014, 12:13 pm

      Oh, yum! Now I want that, too 🙂

  • Molly @ Toffee Bits and Chocolate Chips in Paris! June 16, 2014, 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!!!!

    • Joanne June 20, 2014, 12:15 pm

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

  • Mike June 1, 2014, 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?

    • Joanne August 8, 2014, 12:02 pm

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

  • Geri May 19, 2014, 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.

    • Joanne June 20, 2014, 2:01 pm

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

  • keenpetite May 6, 2014, 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

    • Joanne May 12, 2014, 5:57 pm

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

  • Diana G April 12, 2014, 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.

    • Joanne April 16, 2014, 12:55 pm

      Great! So glad it worked well for you.

  • Lauren March 22, 2014, 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!

    • Joanne March 24, 2014, 9:49 am

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

  • R March 8, 2014, 1:48 pm


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

    • Joanne March 17, 2014, 4:37 pm

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

  • John February 21, 2014, 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

  • meg December 8, 2013, 2:53 pm

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

    • Joanne December 9, 2013, 12:04 pm

      Try it, it should work just fine.

  • John November 25, 2013, 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,


    • Joanne November 29, 2013, 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.

  • Sharon November 7, 2013, 1:19 pm

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

    • Joanne November 8, 2013, 2:02 pm

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

  • Heather September 6, 2013, 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?

    • Joanne September 7, 2013, 2:45 pm

      Yep, it should do really well canned.

      • Heather September 12, 2013, 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.

        • Joanne September 16, 2013, 11:29 am

          Thanks so much!

  • Jessica August 24, 2013, 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.

  • Christina August 5, 2013, 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!!

    • Joanne August 8, 2013, 12:45 pm

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

  • Chris @ Shared Appetite July 29, 2013, 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!

    • Joanne July 31, 2013, 12:09 pm

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

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

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

    • Joanne July 31, 2013, 12:23 pm

      Thanks, Wendi. We have two 😉

  • Nancy Long July 26, 2013, 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.

    • Joanne July 31, 2013, 12:29 pm

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


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