How to Pickle Red Onions

5 from 101 votes

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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Learn how to pickle red onions and elevate your everyday meals with delicious tangy flavors. Add pickled red onions to sandwiches, tacos, burritos, or salads for a nice crunch and irresistible flavor, or serve them as a tasty side relish for cooked meats and soups. Either way, you’ll learn how to pickle red onions quickly using either the fast or slow method.

Pickled onions in a clear mason jar
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In this post, you’ll find two ways to pickle red onions. The first way, called quick pickling, yields tangy, crisp onions in a snap – ideal for those spontaneous culinary moments when you just can’t wait. The second is the slow method, allowing the flavors to develop and meld over a few days, resulting in a more nuanced flavor.


  • Unique garnish or condiment – Pickled red onions aren’t what you’d expect on a charcuterie board or on top of salads. But perhaps that’s what makes it so special – a surprising twist that elevates familiar dishes to a whole new level.
  • Customize to taste – The ease and simplicity of making pickled red onions open up endless possibilities to get creative and add a personal touch to each batch.
  • Quick and easy – You’ll learn how to make quick pickled red onions so you can whip up a batch in just a few minutes. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool down before you can add it to your dish.
  • Long shelf life – This is an excellent addition to your kitchen arsenal because it can last up to 2 months, allowing you to have this versatile condiment on hand at all times.

Ingredients to make PICKLED RED ONIONS

  • Red onion: Pickling experts stress using the freshest produce for the best taste and longevity. Look for a red onion with shiny, dry, and papery skin. The outer skin should be smooth and free from cuts, bruises, and blemishes. Avoid onions that feel mushy or have visible signs of sprouting.
  • Red wine vinegar: The main ingredient in the vinegar brine which adds acidity, which is crucial for the pickling process. It also helps to preserve the onions and enhance tanginess. To create the ideal 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.
  • Sugar: Balances the acidity of the vinegar and adds a touch of sweetness that compliments the onions well.
  • Water: Dilutes the vinegar slightly and adds liquid volume, ensuring the onions are fully submerged during pickling.
  • Bay leaf and black peppercorns: These simple seasonings add incredible flavor. The bay leaf adds a herbal note, while the peppercorns add a mild pepper flavor that complements the overall taste profile.
  • Salt: Enhances overall taste and balances the sweetness of sugar and acidity of the vinegar, creating a well-rounded flavor.
Ingredients for recipe: bay leaf, salt, sugar, vinegar, water, red onion.

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 up the process. The second, slower method produces a crunchier finished product. Both produce the best pickled red onions – it’s just a matter of preference and how much time you have.

How to pickle red onions – a quick method

  1. Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, bay leaf, and black peppercorns in a saucepot and bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, carefully add sliced onions, and simmer on low heat until the onions begin to soften.
  3. Allow onions to cool.
  4. Then, transfer the onions and the vinegar brine to a container like a mason jar. Cover and refrigerate.
3 photo collage to show steps for how to pickle onions the quick qay

How to pickle red onions – slow method

  1. Mix water and salt in a bowl and whisk together. Add the onions and set aside.
  2. Combine vinegar, water, sugar, bay leaf, and black peppercorns in a saucepot and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and cool.
  3. When the vinegar brine has cooled, drain the onions and give them a quick rinse.
  4. Transfer onions to a jar or container, packing them in fairly tightly. Pour the cooled brine over the top, ensuring that the onions are fully submerged. Cover the jar with a lid and transfer to the refrigerator.
4 photo collage showing steps for how to pickle onions to show way

Tips for pickling onions

  1. Select the right-sized jar for pickling. When choosing a jar for pickling, any lidded jar or glass storage container will work since we won’t be canning the onions. However, it’s important to ensure that the onions fit well in the jar, allowing them to be fully submerged in the brine.
  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. Thin and even slicing: For quicker pickling and more even flavor distribution, slice the onions thinly and evenly. A mandoline slicer or sharp knife can help achieve uniform slices.
  4. Pickling time: The longer you let the onions pickle, the more intense the flavor will be.
  5. Repurpose the brine: Don’t throw away the leftover pickling liquid once the onions are consumed. Use it in salad dressings, marinades, or other pickled vegetables.
  • Swap red onions with white onions. White onions have a milder flavor compared to red onions but still work well for pickling.
  • Try a different vinegar. Instead of red wine vinegar, use apple cider vinegar for a slightly sweeter and fruitier taste or white wine vinegar for a more delicate flavor. Avoid aged vinegar like balsamic.
  • Add whole spices. Experiment with spices like whole cloves, allspice berries, or coriander seeds to add unique and interesting flavors. Or, add a teaspoon of pickling spice for ease and convenience.
  • Herbaceous flavor. Consider adding fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, or oregano to the brine for an aromatic note.
  • Spice it up. Add some red pepper flakes to give a kick to the pickled onions or crushed garlic cloves to infuse that deep garlicky flavor.

Recipes with pickled onions

Clear jar with pickled onions the quick method


Store the pickled onions in an air-tight glass container in the fridge. A mason jar with a tight-fitting lid works best to contain the liquid and onions.


If using the quick method, pickled onions will last up to one month in the fridge. If you have used the slow method, store the onions in the fridge for up to two months.


I don’t recommend freezing pickled onions because the texture of the onions will change. Freezing will cause the onions to become softer and lose their crunchiness.

Frequently asked questions

Can I store the pickled onions at room temperature?

This quick pickling method is not shelf-stable like traditional pickled onions, therefore, it’s best to store the onions in the refrigerator to ensure freshness and safety. Refrigeration helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Plus, chilled pickled onions taste better too.

How long do the onions need to pickle before they can be used?

For the quick method, the pickled onions will be ready to use once they are sufficiently cooled, usually within a few hours. For the slow method, allow the pickled onions to sit in the refrigerator for at least 3 days to develop their flavor.

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.

Pickled onions in a clear jar

Pickled onions are always a hit, adding a delicious burst of tanginess to each bite. I especially love them on cheese boards, where their zesty flavor can be perfectly layered with crackers and cheese. Now that you know how to make sweet pickled red onions, how will you enjoy them?

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How to Pickle Red 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!
5 from 101 votes
Servings 4 servings
Course Condiments
Calories 68
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes


Quick Method

Slow Method


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 1 cup water and salt in a bowl and whisk together, add the onions, let stand for one hour
  • Combine vinegar, remaining ¾ cup 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.


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.
Photo Credit: Erin Jensen


Calories: 68kcal, Carbohydrates: 15g, Protein: 0.3g, Fat: 0.1g, Saturated Fat: 0.02g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.01g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g, Sodium: 78mg, Potassium: 61mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 14g, Vitamin A: 3IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 11mg, Iron: 0.3mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Cuisine American
Course: Condiments

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  1. If using fresh lime juice to pickle onions (slow method) instead of vinegar does it store as long in the fridge as the slow vinegar method?

    1. Yes, 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.