How to make quick pickled onions that you can top your burgers, sandwiches, salads, and tacos with! This recipe requires 5 simple ingredients, and you can customize it with all sorts of variations!

Pickled red onions! 

They add color, texture, and so much flavor to just about anything! I love making a big batch of these and keeping them around in the refrigerator when I want to spice up homemade burgers, salads, and tacos! I prefer pickled onions to raw ones, especially if you’re serving these with guests around. Pickling onions takes away the raw, harsh bite and leaves you with a crunchy, slightly salty-sweet-vinegary flavor, one that’s perfectly acceptable to eat in the company of others!

Pickled red onions have always been a favorite of mine, but I can distinctly remember having them in my late 20s on a plate of za’atar fried eggs with everything bagel seasoned fried bread and labneh. I can’t tell you the explosion of flavors that was but I can tell you that from that day forth, I’ve been a ginormous fan.

What are quick-pickled onions?

Pickled onions are used as a condiment on many different foods. They’re typically made with three ingredients: salt, sugar, and vinegar but can also include many different add-ins. Quick pickled onions are onions that only require a brief 30-60 minutes in the pickling brine before they’re ready to eat.

three red onions on white marble

What do you need to make homemade quick-pickled onions?

  • Onions: I like to use red onions for homemade pickled onions. But that doesn’t mean the recipe won’t work with white or yellow onions as well. For me, the bright fuchsia color is part of the appeal, so I prefer red onions. However, the recipe will work with all three. You can go as thin as ⅛-inch thick or as thick as ½-inch slices. Keep in mind that the thicker the slices, the more time they’ll require to pickle, and also, the more crunchy texture they’ll have. The thinner the slices, the quicker they’ll pickle and the less crunch.
  • Vinegars: I use a combination of apple cider vinegar and distilled white vinegar for this recipe. You could also omit the sugar entirely and use seasoned rice vinegar in place of both kinds of vinegar and sugar.
  • Kosher Salt: I use enough salt to balance the amount of sugar in the recipe. However, you can use less or more to preference. 
  • Sugar: I like my pickled onions to have a hint of sweetness, so I listed the basic amount I always use. Sometimes I’ll increase the amount to two tablespoons if I’m serving these with something that’s on the saltier side to balance it better! The point is, you can play around with the amount of sugar you use.
  • Peppercorns: I suggest using a good quality black peppercorn for this recipe. I keep Tellicherry peppercorns on hand and use them for this recipe. I purchase them online or at a specialty grocery store. They are the finest peppercorns globally, and since this pickled onion recipe doesn’t have many ingredients, it’s important to use good quality ingredients. You could also use a tricolored blend if you’d like.

How to make quick-pickled onions:

  1. Prep the onions. Slice both ends of the onion, remove the peel and slice the onions to your desired thickness. Add the sliced onions to a glass jar and set them aside for now.
  2. Make the pickling liquid. Once the onions are sliced, grab a small saucepan. Add water to the saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat. When boiling, add the sugar, salt, and both kinds of vinegar and bring the pickling liquid back up to a gentle simmer. You can also add in any flavorings you want to use. 
  3. Make pickled onions. Remove the liquid from the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Then, place the jar of onions on a plate or in the sink and pour the pickling liquid over the onions. Use a fork to press down the onions. You want them to be completely submerged in the pickling liquid.

FAQs about quick-pickled onions:

  1. Variations: Add a smashed clove of garlic (or two) while the vinegar is simmering on the stove. You could add spices! I like to use black peppercorns as part of my basic recipe, but you could play with this tons! You could add fresh or dried bay leaves, cloves, a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, allspice berries, star anise, or a blend of pickling spices. Or add fresh herbs! You can use rosemary, thyme, oregano, or a combination of garlic and herbs.
  2. How do you suggest storing them? I like to use glass mason jars or this jar with metal clips and a rubber seal. 
  3. How long do pickled onions last in the refrigerator? Pickled onions are best when consumed within one week of preparation, but you could keep them around for up to two weeks.
jar with pickled onions and black peppercorn

What can you put pickled onions on?

They’re also good on burgers, sandwiches, alongside homemade bbq, with potato salad, or even a macaroni salad!

Easy Quick-Pickled Onions

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

How to make quick pickled onions that you can top your burgers, sandwiches, salads, and tacos with! This recipe requires 5 simple ingredients, and you can customize it with all sorts of variations!

Easy Quick-Pickled Onions


  • 1 large red onion, sliced (⅛ -½ inch thick)
  • ½ cup EACH: water AND apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ tablespoon sugar (or more if you prefer sweeter)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns (optional)


    1. ONIONS: Add the thinly sliced red onions to a large jar that has a tight-fitting lid, set aside for later
    2. LIQUID: In a saucepan, heat the water until boiling over medium heat. Then add the sugar, salt, and both kinds of vinegar and bring the pickling liquid to a gentle simmer.
    3. PICKLED ONIONS: When simmering, add the peppercorns, remove from heat and allow the liquid to cool for 2 minutes. Place the jar of onions in the sink or on a plate and pour the pickling liquid over the onions in the jar. Using a spoon or fork, press the onions down so that they are completely submerged in the pickling liquid. Cover and allow the onions to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. You can also make these ahead of time, let pickle at room temperature, and then pop them into the refrigerator to use later. Pickled onions hold up for 1-2 weeks when refrigerated.


  • Check the post for a full list of variations and other add-ins, like garlic cloves, fresh herbs, and spices!
  • Update 4/22: After making these at least a dozen more times since I published the recipe, I've started adding a small peeled nub of raw red beet to the sliced onions before pouring the warm vinegar over the top. It gives the onions a more vibrant color!

Have you made this recipe?

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