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.

Pickling onions at home is remarkably easy…

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 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 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

How to Make Pickled Onions in 1 Hour

  • PREP
  • COOK
  • TOTAL

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. 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.

Makes approximately 3 cups

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 grams) sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Directions

    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 glass container with lid).

    Toast cinnamon, cloves and the red pepper flakes in a small saucepan over medium heat until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. 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.

    Allow to stand at room temperature until cooled, cover and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • 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.
  • Nutrition Facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA Supertracker recipe calculator to calculate approximate values. We assumed 1/4 cup of sugar.

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste

Nutrition Per Serving: Serving Size 1/4 cup / Calories 30 / Protein 0 g / Carbohydrate 7 g / Dietary Fiber 0 g / Total Sugars 5 g / Total Fat 0 g / Saturated Fat 0 g / Cholesterol 0 mg
AUTHOR: Adam and Joanne Gallagher

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69 comments… Leave a Comment
  • 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

    Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
    • Joanne June 20, 2014, 12:13 pm

      Oh, yum! Now I want that, too 🙂

      Reply
  • 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!!!!

    Reply
    • Joanne June 20, 2014, 12:15 pm

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

      Reply
  • 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?

    Reply
    • Joanne August 8, 2014, 12:02 pm

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

      Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
    • Joanne June 20, 2014, 2:01 pm

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

      Reply
  • 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

    Reply
    • 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)!

      Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
    • Joanne April 16, 2014, 12:55 pm

      Great! So glad it worked well for you.

      Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • R March 8, 2014, 1:48 pm

    Hi,

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

    Reply
    • Joanne March 17, 2014, 4:37 pm

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

      Reply

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