How to Pickle Onions

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This is an easy tutorial for how to pickle onions. I share the quick method that's ready in half hour and the slow method for a crunchy bite!

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Knowing how to pickle onions will enhance everyday sandwiches, tacos, and burritos. Additionally, pickled onions make a delightful side relish for cooked meats or soups. Follow my directions for a fast or slow method.

Pickled onions in a clear mason jar

Red – or purple – onions contain vitamin C and iron, but perhaps their most beneficial ingredients are antioxidants. Studies are showing that onion antioxidants may help digestion, fight inflammation, and boost the immune system.

Two methods for pickling onions

Here are two methods for adding that piquant taste to red onions. In the first, the onions are heated to speed the process. The second, slower method produces a crunchier finished product.

How to pickle onions – quick method

  1. Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, the bay leaf, and black peppercorns in a saucepot and bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, carefully add the onions, simmer on low for five minutes, or until the onions just begin to soften.
  3. Allow onions to cool.
3 photo collage to show steps for how to pickle onions the quick qay
  • Then, transfer onions and liquid to a container to hold them and refrigerate.
Clear jar with pickled onions the quick method
  • They will be ready to use once cooled. Of course, cover with a lid for longterm storage.
Top view of jar with pickled onions the quick method

How to pickle onions – slow method

  1. Combine water and salt in a bowl and whisk together.
  2. Add the onions and let stand for one hour.
  3. Combine vinegar, water, sugar, bay leaf, and black peppercorns in a saucepot and bring to a boil. Then cool immediately
  4. Once, the vinegar brine has cooled, drain the onions and give them a quick rinse.
4 photo collage showing steps for how to pickle onions to show way
  • Place onions into a jar or container to hold them. You can pack the onions fairly tightly. Now pour the cooled brine over the top, submerging the onions, and store in a lidded jar in the refrigerator. They will be ready to use in three days.
Pour the pickling juice over the onions into glass jar for the slow method

Tips for pickling onions

  1. Select the right sized jar for pickling. Since we are not heat processing these onions, technically you do not need a canning jar, any lidded jar or even glass storage container will work. But you want to make sure the onions fit in so they will be submerged in the brining liquid.
  2. Clean your jar. Especially for the second recipe, make sure your jar and lid are very clean so as not to introduce bacteria to the onion pickling process.
  3. Choose very fresh onions: Pickling experts stress using the freshest produce free of signs of mold or blemishes for best taste and longevity.
  4. Check your vinegar: To create the correct environment for a long fridge life, the vinegar used for pickling needs to have at least a 5 percent acidity level. Check your bottle’s label.

Recipes with pickled onions

Frequently asked questions

Can I use this method to pickle other vegetables?

The slow method can be used with any vegetable such as cauliflower, carrots, peppers, fennel bulb, cucumbers, etc.  Increase the time for brine to set into the vegetable based on the size of the cut vegetable.

How long do homemade pickled onions last?

Answers really vary on this, but most seem to agree up to one month for the quick version and up to two months for the longer version.

Can I use different types of spices and/or vinegars for pickling?

Definitely! Just check that your vinegar’s acidity level is above 5 percent. Rice wine vinegar, white or red wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar would all be great depending on what flavor you desire. Avoid aged vinegar like balsamic.

Pickled onions in a clear jar

Pickled onions are always a hit. I especially love them on cheese boards where they can be layered with crackers and cheese.

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How to Pickle Onions

This is an easy tutorial for how to pickle onions. I share the quick method that's ready in half hour and the slow method for a crunchy bite!
No ratings yet
Servings 4 servings
Course Condiments
Calories 137
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins

Ingredients
  

Quick Method

  • 1 red onion sliced
  • ¾ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup cane sugar
  • teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 whole black peppercorns

Slow Method

  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • 1 red onion sliced
  • ¾ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup cane sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 whole black peppercorns

Instructions

Quick Method

  • Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, bay leaf, and black peppercorns in a sauce pot and bring to a boil.
  • Once boiling, carefully add the onions, simmer on low for five minutes or until the onions begin to soften.
  • Allow onions to cool then transfer onions and liquid to a container to hold them and refrigerate. They will be ready to use once cooled.

Slow Method

  • Combine water and salt in a bowl and whisk together, add the onions, let stand for one hour
  • Combine vinegar, water, sugar, bay leaf, and black peppercorns in a sauce pot and bring to a boil, cool immediately.
  • Once the vinegar brine has cooled, drain the onions and give them a quick rinse and place into a jar or container to hold them
  • Pour the cooled brine over the top and store in the refrigerator. Ready to use after three days.

Notes

Storage: Store the pickled onions in an air tight glass container in the fridge. The quick method will last up to one month and the slow method will last up to two months.
Nutritional Data: Please note that the nutrition label provided is an estimate based on an online nutrition calculator. It will vary based on the specific ingredients you use. 
Photo Credit: Erin Jensen

Nutrition

Calories: 137kcal, Carbohydrates: 31g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 1251mg, Potassium: 115mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 27g, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 21mg, Iron: 1mg

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Pickled onions in a clear mason jar

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