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Homemade Pickled Red Onions are tangy, sweet, versatile, and WAY better than the jar you get from the store. These flavorful onions instantly boost the flavor of just about any recipe, from green salads to juicy cheeseburgers!
While not everyone is a fan of pickled foods, these pickled red onions are a crowd-pleaser. I’ve served them on sandwiches and tacos for friends who claimed to “hate all things pickled.” Each of them was shocked at how much they enjoyed these delicious onions!
Of course, those who love pickled foods will be obsessed with your homemade pickled red onions.
You can personalize the taste of this recipe by adding different herbs, peppers, and spices to the jar, but I like to stick to warm cinnamon and star anise to bring cozy autumn notes to the onions.
If you want to continue pickling at home, check out my Pickled Okra recipe. Or try more of my delicious onion recipes like Glazed Cipollini Onions with Rosemary or Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken topped with juicy tomatoes and thinly sliced sautéed onions.
Key ingredients & substitutions for the best Pickled Red Onions Recipe
- Red onion | You’ll only need one onion thinly sliced and separated into rings. While you can substitute the red onion for another type, keep in mind the flavor may be very different.
- Cinnamon and star anise | If desired, add a single cinnamon stick and star anise to the jar along with the red onions and brine. This will give your pickled onions a hint of warm spice. These two ingredients are entirely optional. Continue reading to discover other ways to boost the red onion’s flavor.
- Apple cider vinegar | I like to use apple cider vinegar to pickle red onions because of the sweet and tangy notes it gives them. You may also pickle red onions with rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, or white vinegar.
- Salt | Sprinkle in some fine sea salt and allow it to dissolve in the brine. This will add flavor to the red onions and help draw out the juices, allowing the slices to absorb more of the brine.
- Sugar | Add a few tablespoons of cane sugar to lend sweeter notes to the onions.
How to make Quick Pickled Red Onions
After making your easy and quick pickled onions, you won’t choose the store-bought option again. This recipe is super simple and absolutely delish!
STEP 1 | Slice the onions and pack the jar
Start by thinly slicing your red onion and separating the pieces into rings. Next, pack the sliced onions into a mason jar and drop in a cinnamon stick and star anise with the onions if you want to add more flavor.
STEP 2 | Boil the pickling brine
Now, set a saucepan over medium-high heat and add water, apple cider vinegar, salt, and sugar. Heat the ingredients until they come to a boil, continuously stirring to help the sugar and salt dissolve.
STEP 3 | Add the brine to the jar
Once all the ingredients are dissolved, carefully pour the vinegar mixture over the sliced red onions, covering them completely. Let the onions and brine sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes.
STEP 4 | Serve or store for later
Then, serve your delicious pickled red onions or cover them with the mason jar lid and refrigerate for later.
One of my favorite parts of making homemade pickled red onions, or any other pickled food, is how you can customize the flavor however you’d like.
For this recipe, I suggest adding a cinnamon stick and star anise for a warm spice taste. However, there are so many other ways to flavor your pickled onions.
For spicy red onions, add sliced jalapeño peppers or crushed red pepper flakes. You can also add a garlic clove for garlicky notes or fresh herbs like bay leaves.
Frequently asked questions
Store-bought pickled red onions will keep in a cool, dry place, like the kitchen pantry, for at least a year! However, storing the freshly made red onions in the refrigerator is safer for this recipe. As long as the jar is sealed, the pickled onions will last for about three weeks in the fridge. A mason jar is perfect for storing your homemade pickled red onions.
If you’re new to the world of tangy and tasty pickled red onions, here are some ideas of how to serve them! Pickled onions are great on fresh green salads, as well as potato salads. They’re also delicious on sandwiches and burgers. And they work beautifully on just about any Mexican dish, including tacos, burritos, and more.
If you like your pickled red onions to have a nice crunch, slice thicker pieces of the onion. For thicker slices, remember to extend their time to sit in the brine before serving.
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Wondering how to enjoy your freshly made pickled red onions?
Well, I have some delicious suggestions for you! Top this saucy Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken with tangy and sweet pickled red onions, or use them to dress your Smoky Chicken Street Tacos or this Chopped Mediterranean Salad with Arugula — YUM!
Behind the recipe: Pickled Red Onions
It’s been a few years now that pickled red onions have been growing in popularity here in the US. But they certainly are not a new invention!
Pickling red onions has been around for thousands of years, starting as a method for preserving food, and became more popular in England in the 18th century.
So, if you’ve noticed more and more restaurants adding pickled red onions to their dishes, give them a shot! These tangy onions have a unique way of boosting the flavors of an ordinary recipe.
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Pickled Red Onions
- 1 large red onion thinly sliced and separated into rings
- 1 stick cinnamon optional
- 1 star anise optional
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 – 3 tablespoons cane sugar
- Pack sliced onions into a mason jar. If using, insert a cinnamon stick and 1 star anise with the onions.
- Combine the water, apple cider vinegar, salt, and sugar. Heat in a saucepan over medium high until boiling, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt.
- Pour the brine mixture into the jar with the onions, being sure to completely cover. Let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes.
- Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 3 weeks.
- If you like your pickled red onions to have a nice crunch, slice thicker pieces of the onion. For thicker slices, remember to extend their time to sit in the brine before serving.
Life Love and Good Food does not claim to be a registered dietician or nutritionist. Nutritional information shared on this site is only an estimate. We recommend running the ingredients through an online nutritional calculator if you need to verify any information.
About Sheila Thigpen
Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer
Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.