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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104 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Lyn Reasbeck July 18, 2020, 12:19 pm

    I have lost count of how many times I have made these and the Herby Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad. The salad is a hit with all my family and friends and I use the pickles on everything! I have used Stevia powder to sweeten and it was good, but much prefer my organic honey

  • Mark April 2, 2020, 10:26 am

    Great recipe! Have you tried substituting molasses for the sugar? Molasses just has a bolder flavor than sugar, one that accompanies lime juice and other spices in your recipe. You have great recipes here. Congratulations on really helpful but home-run recipes!!!!


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