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

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.

Quick pink pickled onions

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.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do pickled onions last?

These pickled onions only take about 1 hour to make. Once you’ve made them, they will last, when stored in the refrigerator, up to two weeks. The longer the onions sit, the more pickled they will become.

What is the best vinegar for pickled onions? Can I substitute for other vinegars?

Most often, we use a combination of apple cider vinegar and fresh lime juice to pickle onions. The two acids taste amazing together. That being said, if you do not have access to fresh limes, you can just use the apple cider vinegar. Other vinegars like red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, and distilled white vinegar will also work, but will provide a different flavor to the pickle.

Can I can or jar these onions?

We have not attempted to can or jar these pickles. This recipe is written as a quick pickle that is to be stored in the refrigerator.

What do you do with pickled onions?

We love adding pickled onions to salads, sandwiches, tacos, rice bowls, and fajitas. They are crisp, tangy, and slightly sweet. Try them with our shredded beef tacos, citrus lime chicken fajitas, our ultimate fajitas with shrimp, beef and chicken, or these simple roasted veggie tacos. We also use them as an ingredient in this raw cauliflower salad with chickpeas!

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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

These pickled onions are crisp, tangy, and slightly sweet. 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

Watch Us Make the Recipe

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


    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. Maple syrup or honey can also be used in the recipe. They can taste a bit sweeter than plain sugar, so add to your tastes (we would start with 2 tablespoons and go from there).
  • 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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109 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Judy Van Dyk July 13, 2018, 2:06 pm

    Can the pickles be stored along with our canned vegetables?

    • Adam May 14, 2019, 6:56 pm

      Hi Judy, This method is a quick, refrigerator pickle so I keep them in the fridge. You can probably jar/can them for a longer shelf life, but I have not done this myself.

  • Nicole June 27, 2018, 1:02 am

    Can you use this brine on any veg you want to pickle? And if yes then is it the exact same process, with the putting the veg in boiling water for ten seconds? Thank you

    • Adam May 14, 2019, 6:57 pm

      Hi Nicole, I bet this method would work for a variety of veggies (I’m thinking vegetables like carrots and cauliflower would be a great start).

  • 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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