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!

You May Also Like

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

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter with easy, delicious, and fresh recipes and receive our eCookbook with 16 of our most loved recipes for free! Click Go to signup for free!

109 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Phil Mills March 17, 2020, 2:35 pm

    The best pickles I have ever had! And since making these I have really got into making other pickles too. So thank you for helping me discover a new hobby!

  • Jane January 26, 2020, 12:44 pm

    You have ruined me. I cannot live without these now. So great on EVERYTHING! Can you use the cinnamon stick for multiple batches? They are pricey. Thank you, Jane

    • Joanne September 6, 2021, 4:26 pm

      Hi Jane, we would recommend that you use new cinnamon stick for each batch.

  • Shimshon (Stuart) Robinson January 6, 2020, 12:55 am

    Can this be made without adding sugar? I have diabetes. Thank you

    • Adam January 14, 2020, 1:17 pm

      Hi, You can reduce the amount of sugar in our recipe, however, we recommend keeping a little sugar in the brine to balance the acidity of the vinegar and lime juice.

  • CHRISTINA October 7, 2019, 7:18 pm

    Hi there, I don’t have mason jars.. but have several bonne maree jam jars with metal lids… are these ok to use ??

    • Adam January 14, 2020, 1:20 pm

      Hi Christina, Any clean jar or food-safe friendly container will work. Keep in mind that these pickles are refrigerator pickles and that the recipe is not written as canned/jarred pickles that can be stored outside the refrigerator.

  • Jenny September 18, 2019, 8:26 am

    Sorry! Forgot to leave a rating!!!

  • Jenny September 18, 2019, 8:24 am

    I’ve just made the pickled red onions! Really delicious. Could the same ingredients and method be used to pickle other vegetables? If so which ones would be best. I have a glut of courgettes (zucchini). Would they work well?

  • sophia September 12, 2019, 6:14 pm

    I do not care for lime flavor… is there a substitute or can I just leave it out? Also, will Stevia work in stead of sugar? I try to avoid sugar.

    • Adam January 14, 2020, 1:18 pm

      Hi Sophia, You can eliminate the lime juice from the recipe and just use the apple cider vinegar. We have never tried Stevia so we are unable to say how well it will work in the recipe.

    • Max.S. March 23, 2020, 4:27 am

      I have successfully made other refrigerator pickles using artificial sweetener, so I’m pretty sure it’d work for these onions. I didn’t like the taste (of that other recipe I’ve made) with artificial sweetener as compared to granulated sugar, so just know that it might taste different.

  • Missy Whitman August 26, 2019, 12:14 pm

    Insanely Good! So easy to make! Thank you for this recipe.

  • Danielle July 23, 2019, 6:19 pm

    The brine!!! These are amazing

  • JoAnn July 20, 2019, 4:33 pm

    I simply can’t wait to try this. The cauliflower chic peas salad will be my dish for my next knitting retreat!

  • Vanessa Bowman June 20, 2019, 4:38 pm

    Can you tell me how long the pickled onions will last in the refrigerator?

    • Joanne July 29, 2019, 1:37 pm

      Two to three weeks.

    • Elaine Ellery July 1, 2022, 6:09 pm

      They will not last long believe me! No one can resist them. Mine don’t get any further than the kitchen counter before they are gone!

  • Mogal April 6, 2019, 9:56 pm

    I saw on Diners,drive inns and dives talking about pickled onions so I went on Google and found a recipe. Made them and in the frig. Gonna have with tacos tomorrow, can’t wait to try them as I’m an onion freak anyway. I bet this is something I will keep in the frig from now on!!

  • Colorado Mom February 19, 2019, 8:57 pm

    I made these pickled onions and they came out terrifically! I used them to top my leftover short ribs for delicious tacos. So good! Thank you!

  • Deb August 11, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rather than refrigerate, can these be processed using the hot water bath method for canning? Very excited to try this recipe!

    • Adam May 14, 2019, 6:56 pm

      Hi Deb, great question! Unfortunately, we can only speak to how these pickles turn out when following our quicker method in the recipe above. I am sure you can jar/can these for a longer shelf-life, but I have not tried doing this myself.

  • Ms Holley July 28, 2018, 2:42 pm

    Looks and sounds great can not wait to try


Leave a Comment/Review

Cancel reply

All comments are moderated before appearing on the site. Thank you so much for waiting. First time commenting? Please review our Comment Guidelines. You must be at least 16 years old to post a comment. All comments are governed by our Privacy Policy & Terms.

* Required fields (Email address will not be published)

Did you make it? How was it?:


Previous Post: Next Post: