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How To Make Pickled Red Onions – An Easy Recipe To Preserve Red Onions

When it comes to adding amazing flavor to your meal with one simple condiment, it doesn’t get much better than pickled red onions. The tangy and vibrant condiment has the power to transform a simple dish into a flavor-packed sensation.

Whether you’re building a hearty sandwich with layers of meat and cheese, creating a refreshing salad bursting with fresh vegetables, or assembling a mouthwatering taco the onions provide that extra pop of color and flavor that takes your meal to a new level.

Best of all, they are super easy to make. All you need is a little bit of vinegar, water, sugar, a few spices, and of course red onions. That’s it!

A jar of pickled red onions sitting on a white napkin and a fork nearby.
Pickled red onions are not only delicious but are easy to make with just a few basic ingredients.

However, unlike many pickling recipes, you don’t need any special canning equipment to preserve them. All you need is a saucepan and a mason jar or a glass container for storage.

As the onions marinate in the brine, their flavors mellow resulting in a condiment that has the perfect balance of sweet and sour. Then simply pull them out of the jar as needed to add amazing flavor to your food.

Although they will stay nice and crisp in your fridge for months at a time, I am sure that they will not last that long. Therefore be sure to keep this recipe handy so you can make them all year long!

How To Make Pickled Red Onions

Equipment Needed

1. Large Saucepan – You will be boiling water and also making the brine solution in the saucepan.

2. Mandoline Slicer or Knife – To cut the red onions into thin strips.

3. Colander – Used for draining water after the onions have been soaking and also to drain the whole spices from the brine solution.

4. Spoon or Tongs – Used to transfer the sliced onions to the mason jars or glass storage container.

5. Mason Jars or Glass Storage Container With Lids – For storing the pickled red onions in the refrigerator.

A pile of sliced onions on a black slate.
Be sure to slice the onions in uniform sizes for best results.

Ingredients Required

  • Red onions
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Water
  • Cane Sugar
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Peppercorns (optional)
  • Garlic Cloves (optional)

Possible Ingredient Substitutions:

Apple Cider Vinegar – In place of apple cider vinegar you can substitute white vinegar, red wine vinegar, or even sherry vinegar for a slightly different flavor profile.

Sugar – Although cane sugar has a bit more depth of flavor, you can use granulated white sugar in place of the cane sugar.

You can also use honey as the sweetener, however be sure to reduce the amount 1 1/2 – 2 Tablespoons in place of the 3 tablespoons of cane sugar.

And for those who are wanting to keep the recipe sugar free, use Stevia or another sugar substitute. Just be sure to follow the conversion guidelines for your preferred product.

Spices – Although the peppercorns or garlic are optional they add a good depth of flavor to the pickled red onions. Other good spice combinations to try include cumin seeds, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, or red pepper flakes for a little heat. 

What’s great about recipes like this one, you can adjust the spices to get a flavor profile that you really enjoy. Start with the basic recipe and adjust the ingredients to your taste preferences each time that you make it. Then you will have your own unique recipe made exactly how you prefer.

jar of red onions with jalapeno slices
If you like spicy food, add a few jalapeno slices to your pickled red onions.

Pickled Red Onions Recipe 

*Complete recipe instructions including specific measurements, cook temperatures and times are located in a printable recipe card at the bottom of this article. However, be sure to keep reading for helpful tips and tricks when making this recipe.


  • 4 to 5 cups water, plus an additional ½ cup water
  • 2 medium red onions
  • ½  cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons cane sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, smashed


First, to make pickled red onions, you need to boil 4 to 5 cups of water in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. 

While you wait for the water to boil, thinly slice the red onions using a sharp knife or a mandoline. I prefer to use my mandoline slicer so that the strips are uniform in size and because I can have the onions cut in less than a minute.

However, if you do use a mandoline be sure to use the finger guard that comes with it. Believe me, I can tell you from experience that those blades are sharp!

Once you have the onion slices place them in a heat-resistant bowl. Then pour the boiling water over the onion slices and allow them to soak for 10 minutes.

pickled red onions on a fork

Then carefully drain the onions and place the onion slices into your Mason jars or glass containers. Set the jars aside.

Next, mix the additional ½ cup water, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and desired spices into the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar and salt are dissolved.

Then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and allow the mixture to simmer for 5 minutes. 

Remove the saucepan from the heat and then remove the cover. Allow the brine to cool for 30 minutes. Pour the mixture over your prepared red onions in the jars.

If you used whole spices, you can drain the brine first if desired. However there is no harm in keeping the whole spices in the glass containers with the pickled red onions.

Allow the jars to cool completely before adding the lids and storing them in your refrigerator.

Ways To Use Pickled Red Onions

There are many different ways to use pickled red onions in your everyday cooking, but one of the best ways is to top them on sandwiches. They are a great addition to pulled pork sandwiches, Italian beef sandwiches, and hamburgers. Even your usual ham and cheese sandwiches can benefit from the addition of this tangy condiment.  

hamburger with pickled red onions
Adding pickled red onions to burgers takes the flavor to the next level of deliciousness.

You can also add pickled red onions to burritos, carnitas, or quesadillas. All sorts of tacos, whether fish, chicken, or beef are delicious topped with onions. Or, instead of topping your hot dog with relish, use the pickled red onions instead.  

Even mayo-based salads like egg salads or potato salads can benefit from the zesty condiment. They help to add a nice crunchy texture that the otherwise creamy salads are often missing. 

The possibilities are endless! Let your tastebuds be the judge and see what combinations you enjoy the most!


Mary and Jim

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Pickled Red Onions

A jar of pickled red onions on a dark background

A tangy yet delicious condiment that can be made using only a few simple ingredients. Add pickled red onions to sandwiches, tacos, hot dogs, salads, and so much more.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes


  • 5 cups water, plus an additional ½ cup
  • 2 medium red onions
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons cane sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns, optional
  • 2-3 smashed garlic cloves, optional


  1. Boil 5 cups of water in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. 
  2. Meanwhile, thinly slice the red onions using a sharp knife or mandoline. Add the slices to a heat-resistant bowl.
  3. Pour boiling water over the onion slices and soak for 10 minutes. Drain and divide onion slices into mason jars or glass containers. Set aside.
  4. Mix additional 1/2 cup water, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns, and garlic into the saucepan.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 5 minutes. 
  6. Remove from heat and allow the liquid to cool for 30 minutes. Pour the mixture into the jars over the onions, using a colander to collect any whole spices.
  7. Allow the jars to cool completely. Add lids and store them in the refrigerator.


You can use any type of vinegar as a substitution for apple cider vinegar.

Try using different spices like cumin seeds, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, or red pepper flakes for additiional flavor.

Recipe courtesy of Old World Garden Farms

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1 pint

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 136Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 324mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 2gSugar: 24gProtein: 2g

Nutritional Information is to be used as a general guideline only . Nutritional calculations will vary from the types and brands of the products used.

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