Pickled Red Onions

I am a huge fan of quick pickling. Red onions, blueberries, celery, fennel, green beans, rhubarb, cucumbers, asparagus, mustard seeds, and so on. It’s so easy, you can pickle nearly anything and give simple things an exciting transformation. Keep in mind, pickling does not require canning. See? Simple!

Another reason I love quick-pickling is because it’s a great solution whenever you have extra of something. For example, you buy a large red onion ‘cuz they only have one size at the store, but your recipe just calls for 1/3 cup leaving you with more than half the onion leftover!? Sound familiar? Well, next time that happens to you, do this….

Bowl of bright pink red onions sitting in pickling liquid.

In a saucepan, combine equal parts water and vinegar. My preferred pickling vinegars are apple cider and rice wine. They are both sweet and flavorful, and I use them both a lot for various cooking. However, you can also use distilled white vinegar if that’s what you have.

Next, add some sugar and a pinch of salt. If I’m using 1 cup each of water and vinegar, I’ll eye-ball about 1/3-1/2 cup of sugar and about 2 teaspoons of salt. Just to give you an idea of ratio – way more sugar than salt. Honestly, this is one of those things that you can play around with. I don’t consider it an exact science. #Shrug

Bring this concoction to a boil to dissolve the sugar and salt, then pour over sliced or diced onions in a heat proof bowl. That’s all there is too it! Let the onions hang out and cool down, then package them up and stash in the fridge.

Bowl of sliced red onions.

The above steps are basic and can be done with no fuss at a moments notice. Once you’ve mastered that, you can take it to the next level. Totally optional, but to mix things up a bit, add some other stuff. What kind of stuff? Well, first I think about my spice cabinet. Peppercorns, star anise, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds. These all add depth of flavor.

Next, I also consider fresh stuff. Citrus peels, jalapeños, garlic cloves, fresh dill…more flavor agents. Get creative! It’s that simple!

Bowl of bright pink red onions sitting in pickling liquid.

Finally, you may wonder what you do with pickled stuff after, well, you’ve pickled it. I add it to all kinds of dishes. Salads are simple, but I also top off burgers or sandwiches, chicken salad, or serve alongside meatballs or fritters, like in this post I wrote earlier this week for Corn Fritters with Pepper Jack Fondue and Pickled Red Onions. I mean, yum, right? So have fun with it and get creative!

Overhead shot of a beaded plate with pepper jack cheese fondue topped with three corn and beer fritters along with baby radish greens and pickled red onions

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Bowl of bright pink red onions sitting in pickling liquid.

Pickled Red Onions

  • Author: Emily Wilson
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 2 cups 1x
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Cuisine: American


Quick-pickling is easy and fun, while also adding so much flavor to a variety of vegetables.


  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon salt


  1. Measure the apple cider vinegar, water, sugar and salt into a medium saucepan. Set over high heat and bring to a boil until sugar and salt dissolve.
  2. Slice red onion and put in a heat-proof bowl. Pour pickling liquid over the red onions. Let rest at room temperature until cool, then transfer to a storage container and refrigerate.


Feel free to experiment with other vegetables. Asparagus, fennel, celery, jalapenos, etc. If you opt to try pickling fruit, let the pickling liquid cool completely before pouring it over delicate fruit like berries.

Keywords: pickled, red onions

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