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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

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


    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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77 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Ms Holley July 28, 2018, 2:42 pm

    Looks and sounds great can not wait to try

  • Sandra Maccagnan April 13, 2018, 10:22 am

    Karen regarding the salt, I bought a large container of Pink Himalayan salt but haven’t used it yet. Is this something I can substitute for kosher salt which I don’t have? Also regarding the apple cider vinegar can Organic Raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar be used? I am anxious to try this since I’m looking for ways to get fermented foods into my diet for gut health. Thanks for all your help with this. Sandy

    PS: Do you have a great healthy pickle recipe to share? I love bread and butter pickles but I’m trying to stay away from sugar for health reasons. So on this recipe and the onion recipe, I’m going to try to substitute stevia. Has anyone had success in doing this sugar substitution? Thanks again and can’t wait to try your onions. Never had anything like that before but they sound delish…

  • Julia Thomsen March 24, 2018, 3:32 pm

    I made this a couple of times and have loved it! Thank you. I do have a question as so far I have just followed the recipe exactly. About the lime, can it be omitted or subbed with lemon juice? I don’t have a lime tree and don’t buy them often but I do have a lemon tree. Or if that flavor isn’t right can I just take it out all together and if so do I add as much more of the vinegar? Just curious.

    • Joanne May 4, 2018, 12:15 pm

      Hi Julia, Lemons should work as a substitute for the lime.

  • Kate Hartman March 5, 2018, 5:03 pm

    The 1 cup of vinegar doesn’t cover all of the onions in my jar, only about half. Is this a problem? Should I make more liquid mixture to cover them all? Thank you!!

    • Joanne May 4, 2018, 12:22 pm

      Hi Kate, making a bit more liquid should do it. Or use a slightly wider container.

  • Belle October 5, 2017, 5:03 am

    This is a weekly staple … bf loves it, and gets anxiety when it starts to run out. He also loves the hummus recipe. Actually I have to make the hummus every 2-3 days because he practically inhales the stuff.

  • jessi September 26, 2017, 8:23 pm

    Hi There!

    Do I need to do the sterilizing of the jars to store the pickles or is that not necessary since they are going to be eaten within the next week or so?


    • Joanne November 20, 2017, 7:02 pm

      This is not necessary since we store them in the refrigerator and they are eaten within a couple weeks.

  • Donna Rankin October 16, 2016, 4:58 pm

    Can I leave out the sugar and or replace with stevia?

    • Joanne October 17, 2016, 3:16 pm

      Hi Donna, You can leave some or all of the sugar out and the onions will still pickle. We have never tried this with stevia, but I’d be curious to see if it works out well for you. Let us know if you try it.

  • Rachel B October 1, 2016, 12:00 pm

    Do I leave the cinnamon sticks in wuthbthem in the fridge?

    • Joanne October 10, 2016, 3:53 pm

      Yes, leave them in there.

  • 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.


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