How To Make Quick Pickled Onions

You’ll find a batch of these quick pink pickled onions in our fridge most weeks. Follow our tips and make quick pickled onions begging to be added to tacos, salads, grain bowls, sandwiches, and more! Jump to the Quick Pickled Onions Recipe or read on to see our tips for making them.

Watch Us Make Pickled Onions

Pickled Onions Are Remarkably Easy To Make

If you’ve never had quick pickled onions before, you are in for a treat. Pickled onions are tangy, a bit sweet, and crunchy all at the same time. We love to use a combination of fresh lime juice and apple cider vinegar when making them and find the combination of acids makes for a more refreshing, complex flavor.

Even more importantly, pickled onions are incredibly simple 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.

You'll find a batch of these quick pink pickled onions in our fridge most weeks. Follow our tips and make quick pickled onions begging to be added to tacos, salads, grain bowls, sandwiches, and more!

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.

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.

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. This is my go-to spice blend for pickled onions (especially when I’m planning on using them for tacos).

How to Make Quick Pickled Onions

The process for making them is simple, heat the vinegar, lime juice, salt, sugar, and spices together then pour the hot pickling liquid over thinly sliced onions. Set the onions aside and wait until the liquid is room temperature. It’s at this point that you can use the onions or you can store them away in the fridge for another day.

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.

You'll find a batch of these pink pickled onions in our fridge most weeks. Follow our tips and make quick pickled onions begging to be added to tacos, salads, grain bowls, sandwiches, and more!

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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 Quick Pickled Onions

  • 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

1 large or 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

3 tablespoons to 8 tablespoons (38 to 100 grams) sugar, see notes

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 5 then drain. Add the onions to glass jars (or a food safe glass container with lid).

    Toast cinnamon, cloves, and the red pepper flakes until fragrant in a small saucepan over medium heat, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the vinegar, lime juice, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, and salt.

    Bring to a simmer and cook until the sugar and salt have dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Taste for sweetness then add more sugar as needed.

    Pour brine over the onions. Allow to stand at room temperature until cooled. Serve or cover and refrigerate 2 to 3 weeks.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • This recipe makes about 3 cups, which is quite a lot. To make a smaller batch, divide the ingredients called for in the recipe by half.
  • Sugar: We prefer to use 3 tablespoons of sugar, however, you can adjust the amount to your taste. For sweet pickled onions, add closer to 1/2 cup (or 8 tablespoons) of the sugar. When making the brine, taste for sweetness, and then add more sugar to your taste.
  • The nutrition facts are estimates. We have used the USDA database 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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92 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
  • 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

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