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How To Pickle Red Onions [Quick and Easy]

Pickled Red Onions, with and without rosemary, jarred

If you thought pickling red onions was difficult, or took a long time, think again. In this recipe I’ll show you how easy it is, and how quickly you can pickle your own onions.

A quick look around this site will show that I’m a fan of sandwiches. It’s amazing what you can do with a few slices of bread and some imagination.

Pulled pork sandwiches with pickled red onions
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What’s interesting about sandwiches is that adding one little ingredient can completely upgrade the flavor profile. These onions will do that for sure, and do wonders for the texture too! That said, they’re the ideal sidekick for other foods as well.

The acidity of pickled red onions is the perfect balance for fatty, rich dishes, like pork shoulder. They’re great to serve alongside a hearty rich beef stew as well.

smoked pork shoulder with pickled red onions

You’ll find pickled red onions appear on menus in most sandwich shops, but I’m here to tell you they belong in your kitchen too! With this quick and easy pickled red onion recipe, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been making pickled red onions all along.

Depending on your preferences, you can add in some really fun extras to this already great recipe. This lets you customize the flavor of the onions. More on that later.

pickled red onions in a jar with rosemary on a cutting board

I normally make a double batch of this easy pickled red onions recipe when I do them: some plain and some with rosemary. Those are my two favorite versions of these quick pickled onions, but you can also do them with garlic, spicy peppers—your imagination is your limit with this recipe.

How Long Do Pickled Red Onions Last?

Pickled red onions will last in your refrigerator for about four weeks. I find they are at their peak between one and three weeks but they’re absolutely still safe to eat up to four weeks. Maybe even beyond to be honest, but I’ve never pushed it past four weeks personally.

pickled red onion recipe in a glass jar with thyme

Which Vinegar Is Best for Pickling?

This involves some personal preference but generally speaking, the best vinegar for pickling is plain old distilled white vinegar. It’s inexpensive and because it’s clear it doesn’t change the color of the food it’s pickling.

White wine vinegar and rice vinegar are other clear vinegars that have enough acid to pickle, and wont change the color of the food. They’re slightly more expensive than distilled white vinegar though, with no real added flavor benefit.

Having said that, I love to mix both distilled white vinegar with some apple cider vinegar when making pickled red onions. I find the gentle touch of the fermented apple juice makes for an interesting dynamic in flavor. 

pickled red onions in an open jar

Keep in mind though, that the color of apple cider vinegar will slightly change the color of the onions; just slightly.

Stay away from red wine vinegar for pickling. It doesn’t have a high enough acidity to properly pickle so that should be reserved for other things.

Variations of Pickled Red Onions

Speaking of vinegars for pickling, you can also use a lime juice base for some Mexican style pickled red onions. Those are very interesting to be sure and go great on tacos and burritos and even quesadillas.

If you like your onions with a little heat to them, try adding some sliced jalapeño to the mix. I’d suggest going easy as a little goes a LONG way here. Trust me on this one.

pickled red onions in a jar with some herbs next to them

Rosemary is another way to change the flavor of pickled red onions just slightly. I do this often, along with some whole peppercorns and even some garlic cloves.

Finally, while this isn’t a variation on red onions, try using the same recipe but swapping the onions all together for fresh green beans. Those take about 7-10 days to pickle so that isn’t a quick recipe, but after a week or so you have one incredible snack.

pickled green beans in a glass jar with garlic

About The Ingredients & Equipment

Pickling salt – I like to use picking salt for a few reasons; there’s a great article about pickling salt here. If you don’t have pickling salt, you can absolutely use kosher salt.

Vinegar – I prefer the combination of distilled white vinegar and cider vinegar. That said, I will sometimes use rice vinegar for a little different (sweeter) flavor profile.

Sugar – Use plain white granulated sugar. If you’re watching your sugar intake, this isn’t a recipe you’d want to substitute in Splenda for.

Jars – I recommend using glass jars for these onions, as plastic containers will discolor. If you don’t have a mason jar, do what I often do. Save your old pickle and sauce jars. Remove the labels and they make excellent storage containers, on the cheap!

pickled red onions in a jar with a handle and whole red onion

How To Make Pickled Red Onions

Serves: 6-8 | Prep time: 15 mins.

Ingredients
1-2 large red onions
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp pickling salt
1 tsp whole black peppercorns (optional)
2 sprigs rosemary (optional)

pickled red onions in an open jar with a latch

Step 1: Peel your raw red onion. Slice the red onions into about ¼” thick slices with a mandolin or an extra sharp knife.

sliced red onions on a cutting board

Step 2: Place the sliced onion into a 16 ounce mason jar. If you don’t have a jar, any sealable glass container will work. Add optional rosemary sprig and black peppercorns to the mixture, if you choose.

Pickled Red Onion Recipe: Thinly sliced red onions in a jar with or without rosemary, ready for pickling

Step 3: In a small saucepan, bring both vinegars to a low boil before adding the salt and sugar. Whisk the vinegar mixture constantly until the sugar and salt dissolve.

Step 4: Using a funnel, pour the vinegar into the jar. Ensure onions are completely covered.

Step 5: Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before putting a lid on the sealable container. The onions will be ready to eat in 30 minutes to an hour. Store the onions in the fridge for up to four weeks.

pickled red onions in a glass jar with peppercorns and fork

Make this Pickled Red Onions recipe:

Pickled Red Onions, with and without rosemary, jarred

Pickled Red Onions

4.50 from 8 votes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1-2 red onion
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp pickling salt
  • 1 tsp whole black pepper corns (optional)
  • 2 sprigs rosemary (optional)

Instructions

  • Peel your red onion and slice it as thinly as possible with an extra sharp knife. 
  • Place slices into a 16 ounce sized canning jar. Add optional rosemary sprig and black peppercorns, if you choose.
  • In a small saucepan, bring both vinegars to a low boil, adding in sugar and salt. Whisk until they dissolve. 
  • Using a funnel, pour vinegar into jar. Ensure onions are completely covered.
  • Allow jar to cool to room temperature before putting lid on and storing in refrigerator.

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