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
  • Erin August 26, 2015, 10:51 pm

    Can I use white onions?

    Reply
    • Joanne August 28, 2015, 10:50 am

      Yes, definitely.

      Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
  • 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

    Reply
  • Doris April 22, 2015, 3:15 pm

    Could you make this recipe with balsamic vinegars instead?

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  • Connie April 20, 2015, 11:29 pm

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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • 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 🙂

    Reply
  • 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?

    Reply
    • Joanne April 9, 2015, 5:16 pm

      We have not, although it sounds delicious!

      Reply
  • Susan g January 17, 2015, 1:08 pm

    Delicious…love this on any grilled food.

    Reply
  • 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!

    Reply

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