Learn how to quickly pickle red onion slices at home in 5 minutes with this easy step-by-step recipe. The pickling brine is made using 4 ingredients — hot water, apple cider vinegar, salt and sugar — and requires just 5 minutes of hands-on work. They add to terrific pop of flavor to tacos, burgers, sandwiches, and more! Once prepared, store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks!
After having spent countless trips tasting many different street style tacos around the globe, I could never quite seem to replicate them at home. There was something about them that I absolutely loved but was always missing when it came to making my own. There was some ingredient, some common element…
Finally, it clicked. All of the street style tacos that I loved contained this pink stringy ingredient. After a quick bit of research I came to know that those bright pink strings happened to be pickled onions!
From there, I taught myself how to make them and quickly became hooked. They were popping up on nearly every recipe I made for myself – tacos, sandwiches, salads, and soups. You name it, it probably included these quick-pickled red onion slices.
What is pickling?
But first – what even is pickling? Pickling is the act of preserving a food item’s lifespan through one of two pickling processes.
The first is through anaerobic fermentation in brine. The second method is by immersing the onions in a type of vinegar. It’s a much simpler route and it’s what I use to pickle all of my ingredients, from cucumbers to cabbage! A few of my all-time favorites are:
So when it comes to how to pickle red onions quickly, vinegar-based quick pickling is the answer!
Here’s what you’ll need
Quick pickled red onion slices live up to their title. They’re wonderfully fast to whip up, which is thanks in part to their short and sweet list of ingredients! These onions require only a handful of ingredients (that are probably already in your kitchen).
- Hot Water: Hot water helps to dissolve the sugar quickly and balance out the acidity of the vinegar.
- Sugar: Though the overall flavor of these pickled onions is tart and savory, sugar helps to balance the flavors. Alternatively, you can use honey.
- Salt: We will need a dash of salt in our pickling mixture.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: We’re using apple cider vinegar here, though white or white wine vinegar also work well.
- Red Onion: Finally, you can’t have pickled onions without the onion! We will use one heaping cup of thinly sliced red onion (1 medium onion = 1 cup)
How to make quick pickled onions
Quick pickled red onions require just 3 steps. From heating the water to jarring the final onions, this recipe is incredibly easy and will provide onions that are perfect for adding to pretty much any meal!
- Heat the water: Heat water in either a kettle, the microwave, or on the stove until steaming hot. Stir in the sugar and salt until dissolved, and then stir in the vinegar.
- Prepare the onion: Thinly slice the red onion, either with a mandolin slicer (for ultra-thin slices) or by hand (for slightly thicker, crunchier pickled onions).
- Combine the ingredients: Add the onions to a lidded non-reactive container (like a glass jar or ceramic vessel; I use a 16oz mason jar). Pour the liquid over the onions so that they’re covered (you may not need all of the liquid). Let cool to room temperature, and then seal shut and transfer to the refrigerator. Let them pickle for at least 30 minutes before digging in!
This tool makes quick and even slicing a breeze!
How to store
Quick pickled onions can be used on a variety of dishes. They taste exceptionally delicious when added to salads, sandwiches, and tacos! When you make this recipe, you’ll have a great stash of pickled onions that you can use for weeks to come.
Be sure to keep your refrigerator pickled onions in a non-reactive sealed dish or jar (such as a mason jar with a screw-on lid). Eat within 2-3 weeks.
Can You Can It?
Note: This is not a recipe for canned red onions, and therefore these have not been tested for long-term canning storage. Be sure to follow the best USDA canning practices if canning for long-term storage.
In the mood to mix things up? Try a variation! For the spicy and garlic lovers alike, we’ve got a way to make these pickled onions your favorite.
- Spicy: You can easily achieve spicy pickled onions by adding a pinch of crushed red pepper to your recipe. For best results, add the peppers to the hot water. Red pepper flakes produce the most spiciness when heated!
- Garlic: Garlic pickled onions? Yes, please! I like to add a clove of crushed garlic to this recipe for an extra kick.
- Vinegar: You can switch up the vinegar used to pickle the onions. Feel free to use white or white wine vinegar for equally delicious results!
- No Sugar: Though pickled onions are best with a dash of sweetener, you can omit the sugar if needed.
- Mexican Inspired: Make a Mexican-inspired batch of pickled red onions by adding a pinch of cumin, a bay leaf, and a few black peppercorns.
How to serve pickled onions
Wondering what to serve pickled onions with? Look no further! Try your delicious creation with any of the below recipes. Hint: These onions are especially tasty on tacos, sandwiches, and salads!
- Roasted Beet and Chickpea Tacos
- Buffalo Tempeh Sandwich
- Tempeh Tacos with Avocado Kiwi Salsa
- Grilled Broccoli Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing
- Soyrizo Tacos with Adobe Crème
- ½ cup hot water 120 mL
- 1 Tbsp sugar or honey
- 1 tsp non-iodized salt
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar 120 mL
- 1 large red onion thinly sliced, 1 heaping cup
- Liquid: Heat water in either a kettle, the microwave, or on the stove until steaming hot. Stir in sugar and salt until dissolved. Stir in vinegar.
- Onion: Thinly slice the red onion, either with a mandoline slicer (for ultra-thin slices) or by hand (for slightly thicker, crunchier pickled onions).
- Combine: Add onions to a lidded non-reactive container (like a glass jar or ceramic vessel – I used a 16-oz mason jar). Pour liquid over onions so that they are covered (you may not need all of the liquid). Let cool to room temperature, then seal shut and transfer to the refrigerator. (Let pickle for at least 30 minutes before digging in.)
Tips & Tricks
-Make it spicy by adding a pinch of crushed red pepper
-Make it garlicky by adding a clove of crushed garlic
-Use another vinegar, like white or white wine vinegar.