My Go-To Pickled Red Onions Recipe - Skillful Cook
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My Go-To Pickled Red Onions

4 reviews / 5 average

This is my go-to method for making pickled red onions! Takes 5 minutes and no heating necessary.

It's a fact: pickled red onions make everything better. A little extra bite, a little extra tang, and those beautiful ribbony bits of purple and pink. This is one of my favorite fast and easy ways to make any meal a little (lot) more exciting.


In This Post: Everything You Need For Pickled Red Onions


Watch How To Make Pickled Red Onions


Ingredients For This Recipe

Red Onion

Thinly sliced red onion for that perfectly-pink hue. I love using my mandoline for this.

Vinegar

Plain white vinegar is my preference for this recipe.

Salt and Sugar

Some sweetness and saltiness to tie everything together!


My Go-To Method For Pickled Red Onions

Step 1: Cut a Chunk Off the Onion.

I cut just to the side of the stem, going straight down. Remove the peel.

White hand cutting red onion in half

Step 2: Slice On a Mandoline.

This is where the magic happens.

I put my OXO mandoline (affiliate link) on setting #1 - the thinnest setting.

White hand cutting red onion on white mandoline.

I turn the onion sideways and run it down the mandoline so that I get very thin little onion C-shapes.

In my opinion, the cut of the onion is very important in achieving an end result that is thin, ribbony, and beautiful. It's also important to maximize the surface area of the absorbent onion flesh (not the skin) so that the onions really get saturated with all that vinegary goodness.

White hand holding thinly sliced red onions.

Step 3: Add the Vinegar, Water, and Salt.

Transfer your onions to a jar. Add a pinch of salt and sugar.

Fill the jar 1/3 to 1/2 way with white vinegar. And fill it the rest of the way with water.

White vinegar being poured into a jar of red onions.

Step 4: Rest!

Give these guys a little rest: 30 minutes minimum, and (personal preference) 5-7 days in the fridge.

White hand holding a jar of red onions.

I don't heat up my liquids which is why I don't keep them around much longer than 5-7 days. (I also prefer the taste and texture within a few days!) This method is considered quick pickling: just putting raw onion slices in a brine and refrigerating. It works like a charm!


Lindsay's Notes

Pickled red onions add so much to a sandwich, a bowl, a taco, and more. They are pretty, they are tasty, and I really really love them.

But - hot take - I strongly dislike adding a bunch of extra steps to a recipe just for something that is added at the end as a garnish. Getting out a full-blown saucepan for my garnishes is a line that I don't like to cross.

This is my solution to both: a super fast, easy jar of beautifully ribboned pickled red onions that can be made in about five minutes flat.

Two key things that I do that might be different from other methods:

  • The Cut: I use a mandoline to slice the onions very, very thin. This helps with getting maximum onion surface area to absorb the brine, and it also helps to create beautifully twisty, thin little ribbons that can be piled in a pretty little tangle on top of your bowls, sandwiches, etc.
  • The No-Heat Method: I add the water and vinegar directly to the jar. No boiling, no extras. Just straight white vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. This is considered quick pickling and works great if you're just making one jar to be used in recipes throughout the week (versus doing the water bath and canning).

After my five minutes of prep, they hang out in the fridge while I make the rest of dinner. And they're ready to be eaten by the time I'm done cooking! Yay for pickled red onions.


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A picture of My Go-To Pickled Red Onions

My Go-To Pickled Red Onions


  • Author: Lindsay
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 jar of pickled red onions 1x

Description

These pickled red onions are super fast, super easy, and add a beautiful tangle of tangy onion flavor just about to any recipe!


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut into several chunks (see photos above)
  • Roughly 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • Roughly 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Instructions

  1. Thinly slice your chunks of onion into C-shapes using a mandoline on the thinnest setting. (This is what I prefer - if you want the onions more chunky, adjust as needed.)
  2. Place the onions in a jar and add vinegar - I just eyeball it until the jar is about one third of the way full.
  3. Fill the rest of the jar with water. Add salt and sugar; shake a few times to combine. 
  4. Let them rest in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour - then they're ready to use! They can stay in the fridge up to 5-7 days.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Category: Topping
  • Method: Fridge
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: pickled onions, red onions, pickled red onion

Frequently Asked Questions For Pickled Red Onions

What can I use instead of white vinegar?

Some people prefer to use red wine vinegar! I like white vinegar here (and in many recipes) because it's just extra punchy.

How long will pickled onions last?

These will last for 5-7 days in the fridge. You could probably keep them longer; however, I don't like to keep them any longer than that because 1) I don't boil my liquid first, and 2) I prefer the taste within the first few days.

Why do some people boil the liquid for pickled onions?

I do not boil the liquid, and I think my pickled onions are exceptional! *grins* So I am living proof that you don't need to boil the liquid. That said, the two main reasons that people boil their liquid for pickled onions are:
1) for canning purposes or to make them last longer.
2) to help the liquid get absorbed into the onions faster.

In my opinion and experience, a really strategically thin slice of your onions can accomplish the same thing and allows for super fast absorption of the liquid in the same way that boiling does.

Are pickled onions gluten-free and/or dairy-free?

Yes to both!

What mandoline do you use?

I use the OXO mandoline (affiliate link) and I love it. I use it on setting #1 for these onions so they get nice and papery thin.

What are the best onions for pickling?

I always use red onions (hence this recipe: pickled red onions). Their bite and their color make them very delightful to add to so many things.

What are pickled onions used for?

I primarily use them as a garnish. They're perfect in a little tangled pile on tostadas, tacos, sandwiches, wraps, bowls, pizzas, all of the above, and more. They add tanginess, color, and oniony bite - like a raw onion, but less offensive and more nuanced.

What are the health benefits of eating pickled onions?

Red onions have a lot of good-for-you vitamins and minerals in them to begin with, but the most notable health benefits here might be from the pickling process itself. This produces probiotics which can help with digestion - you can read more about it here.

My Favorite Uses For Pickled Red Onions

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12 Comments

  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    Red onions are also good for juicing in a juice machine, so that you can drink the juice combined with another vegetable in the food juicer to help you lose weight and get rid of stomach fat. 🙂

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    One of my favorite recipes is onion with lemon juice!
    I cut 2 medium onions into thin half rings, which I transfer to a dish. I water them with juice squeezed from one lemon. Sprinkle with a pinch of crushed black pepper.

    Pour 1/2 cup of purified water into a separate bowl. I add salt, vegetable oil, sugar (1 teaspoon each). I pour the onion, mix and keep under the lid for 30 minutes. This appetizer goes well with fish.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      A bit of diced jalapeno or green peppercorns adds some zip and if you zap the contents in a mason jar for two to three minutes in the microwave before capping you can keep it refrigerated for several weeks. This is essentially a Mexican idea and a traditional way to preserve without refrigeration…they add lime slices!

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    Love to keep a batch of these in the fridge at all times.
    Currently using these to bribe my 2.5 year old to finish drinking his water bottle and he’s had about 10 so I’d say they are kid approved 😂

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

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  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’ve been using this recipe for pickled red onions for months now and it’s my absolute favorite! The onions are always so flavorful and tangy, and they add the perfect touch to any dish. I love that they’re so easy to make and that they can be ready in as little as 30 minutes. I highly recommend this recipe to anyone who loves pickled red onions!

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    I was skeptical about using a mandoline to slice the onions, but I’m so glad I did! It made the onions so thin and delicate, and they absorbed the pickling liquid perfectly. The onions were ready in just 30 minutes, and they were so delicious! I used them on tacos, sandwiches, and even salads. I will definitely be making this recipe again!

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    I don’t have a website I just wanted to tell you how my husband taught me to make pickled onions. You cut your onions the way you do then he washes them in running water in a colander. Drains them and puts them in a bowl and pours lemon juice over them to cover. Adds pepper, accent and garlic powder stirs up well covers bowl and lets it set for a couple of hours and there ready to eat.