Do you love pickled onions as much as I do? Pickling transforms raw red onions from pungent and crunchy to irresistibly tangy and crisp. I add some red pepper flakes for extra spice and a splash of maple syrup or honey to round out the other strong flavors.
These onions are the perfect condiment for tacos, burgers, salads, and more. The best part?
These quick-pickled onions are ready to serve after a brief 30-minute cooling period. Start your meal prep with these onions, and they’ll be ready to go by the time the rest of your dinner is ready.
These onions are incredibly easy to make, too. I like to keep them on hand for any meal that needs some extra oomph. Leftovers are so much more exciting with quick-pickled onions in the fridge!
Quick-Pickled Onion Tips
Slice the onions thinly
The trick to making truly quick pickled onions is to slice the onions very thin (about 1/8-inch), so they soften up and absorb the vinegar quickly. You can do this with a sharp chef’s knife or a mandoline.
You could choose to slice the onions thicker (about 1/4-inch) for more of a crunch. Beware that your onions will need a few hours, or an overnight rest, to give the vinegar time to reach all the way through the onion.
Choose your vinegars wisely
Using a combination of apple cider vinegar and regular distilled vinegar makes these pickles taste more interesting. You can use all distilled vinegar if that’s all you have at home.
Natural sweeteners for the win
Choosing maple syrup or honey instead of plain sugar offers some extra flavor and intrigue, while making these pickles naturally sweetened. I don’t recommend making these pickles without any sweetener—they’re well-balanced with it, but quite vinegary and pungent without it.
Make a pint or three
The recipe as written below yields a pint-sized jar of pickles (I used this cute Weck jar—that’s an affiliate link). You could easily double or triple the recipe for a big party or barbecue; just use several pint jars or one large jar.
This recipe will make your kitchen smell of vinegar, so you might want to run your stovetop vent while you’re making these pickles.
Uses for Quick-Pickled Onions
These onions are utterly delicious on:
- Basically anything that needs a crisp, spicy-sweet finish!
Craving more pickles? Don’t miss my classic pickled cucumbers, quick-pickled jalapeño peppers, quick-pickled vegetables and quick-pickled radishes. So good!
Watch How to Make Quick Pickled Onions
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes (plus 30 minutes cooling time)
- Yield: 2 cups 1x
- Category: Condiment
- Cuisine: Mexican
Learn how to make quick-pickled onions! This tangy and crisp pickled onion recipe is ready in 30 minutes. These onions are the perfect condiment for tacos, burritos, nachos, burgers and more. Recipe yields 2 cups.
- 1 medium red onion, very thinly sliced
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar or additional white vinegar
- 1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup or honey
- 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, for heat)
- Pack the onions into a 1-pint mason jar or similar heat-safe vessel. Place the jar in the sink, to catch any splashes of hot vinegar later.
- In a small saucepan, combine the water, both vinegars, maple syrup, salt, and pepper flakes. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over medium heat, then carefully pour the mixture into the jar over the onions.
- Use a butter knife or spoon to press the onions down into the vinegar and pop any air bubbles in the jar. Let the pickled onions cool to room temperature (about 20 to 30 minutes), at which point they should be sufficiently pickled for serving.
- Cover and refrigerate leftover pickled onions for later. Quick-pickled onions are best consumed within three days, but they keep for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Make it vegan: Be sure to use maple syrup instead of honey.
Can I can it? No. This recipe is a “refrigerator pickle” recipe. It is not designed for canning in a water bath, and it has not been tested for canning safety. Please do not attempt! Follow a recipe specifically designed for canning instead.
Love this recipe, so easy and delicious.
I’m glad you loved it, Kate! I appreciate your review.
I love this recipe! It’s my favorite way to eat red onions. I have a question, can I reuse the leftover brine after eating the pickles? Is it possible to boil it again and pour over fresh onions? I hate to waste food and that brine is delicious. Thanks again for the wonderful recipe!
Hi, I’m excited you loved this recipe! I would recommend only using once.
I have used the left over brine in salad dressings that call for vinegar.
So good!! My family loves this recipe and it’s easy too. They go so fast I just reuse the mixture For one more onion and still get the same results :)
I love this recipe and make it often. The onions are wonderful on top of salads, cold soups, and fish tacos, just to name a few ways I use them. Thanks for the inspiration!
Love this pickled onion recipe – there is no other way I want my red onions now! So easy to make and provides the convenience of having them ready for recipes (hate chopping onions more than I have to and wrapping up a leftover onion for it to only get bad later). Thank you so much for sharing :)
Should we leave the brine in with the mason jar after the 30 minutes? Or immediately toss it?
You should keep the onions in the brine the entire time, just like you do with pickles.
This pickled onion recipe is great! I have the jar full and ready for my bbq! Every one loves them on their burgers and salad!
That’s great to hear, Bob! Thank you for your review.
I made them and loved the taste.
Love them! My first time pickling onions and eating pickled onions and I now keep a jar at the ready for my avocado toast.
I love to hear that, Christine! Thank you for your review.
Wow! Just got back from NYC where a corner cafe served pickled onions on their avocado toast. So needed a recipe to duplicate the yummy-ness. And these are even better! I’m in love. And want to share with the whole world. Even the corner cafe. Thank you! Thank you!
You’re welcome, Mary! Thank you for your review.
Would using room temperature brine make them crispier? Also how long can we store them in the fridge?
Hi, this is meant to be made as written. I hope you try it!
I made this recipe, it’s delicious and my guess thoroughly enjoyed it. The red pepper flakes was a nice touch.
Excellent recipe. Simple yet delicious. Only thing that I did different. To extend the shelf life was used a glass fermenting weight to keep the onions submerged.
This recipe Is my go to pickled onion recipe. So fast and so useful for the entire week.
I made exactly as written (with maple syrup) and love it.
Thank you for your review, Jill! I’m glad you enjoyed it.
I make these constantly now, so yummy and brighten up many dishes
That’s great to hear, Emma! I appreciate your review.
Stacy Aynn Lawson
Delicious! Thanks you for this easy onion pickle recipe. I’d love to know how long they last in the refrigerator.
Just made a double batch. Half of the vinegar liquid went over the onions. The other half over red and Savoy cabbage in layers. Quick easy and yummy. I used apple cider and white vinegars. I also used fresh ground black pepper instead of red pepper flakes. Good for a low carb snack. I’m going to try you pickled veggies next with carrots, Nikons and cauliflower.
Delicious, simple, easy recipe. I used a mixture of balsamic and apple cider vinegars. The onions are perfectly crunchy and not too sweet. We had them on salad and on sandwiches. We love them. I also made a jar of pickled cabbage using this recipe, turned out great. Thanks.
You’re welcome, Fran!
I made this tonight. They were very good. I’ll use this recipe again. Thanks!!
With regards to refrigerator pickling, this is 100% safe. A 1:1 ratio of water to vinegar will preserve the onions for a very long time.
Ensure that you clean the jar with soap and water, then sterilise in a 280°F oven for 10 minutes.
amaxing! Love that you use a different sweetener than granulated sugar
This recipe was delicious.. I ate the first jar by myself. Having to make a 2nd batch to share….
Love this recipe! I use a mandolin to thinly slice onion. Makes for super quick prep. I use white onion instead as red is a little too pungent for my liking. I add all ingredients in a mason jar, shake gently and leave in the fridge for a few hours and it turns out delicious. I sometimes toss my salad with 1:1 brine and olive oil. Such an easy, versatile recipe!
As a lover of ‘traditional’ pickled onions I was curious to try this recipe. I am delighted with the results and my partner loves them also- he can’t get enough of them! Lol!
I was just curious about two things; would this recipe work with brown onions and I make my own vinegar (pineapple, blueberry, raisin etc) would homemade vinegar work in place of cider vinegar?
Thanks again for an awesome recipe!
I recommend this recipe best as written. If you try it with your suggestions, I’m not sure without trying it. But if you do, I would be curious!
Fab recipe thank you. I have also made with 1/2 white wine vinegar and 1/2 blackcurrant flavoured vinegar and absolutely wonderful.
These came out PERFECT! Want to eat them on pretty much everything!!
These are delicious and even better when they sit overnight in the frig! So easy and quick to make
Great to hear, Mary! I appreciate your review.
Love these! Super quick and taste great. I keep them on hand in the refrigerator and adding to just about everything. I add like to add a whole garlic clove and 1/8 tsp whole pepper corns 1/8 red pepper flake. Thank you for a wonderful staple recipe!
Great to hear, Carter! Thank you for sharing.
If you have onion lovers, double this recipe, as is, it was perfect for 2.
Easy to follow, this recipe is spot on for flavor. I believe strongly in use what is on hand… I used some red wine vinegar and dried slices of jalapeño.
Thank you for sharing how you made it, Barbara!
I’ve made this as written, and it was fantastic. I’ve also made it with red wine vinegar as opposed to distilled because I don’t have any! It came out fantastic too and with a little added depth to the flavor. Thank you!
You’re welcome, Kelly!
Hi there! This sounds amazing, I’m a first timer for refrigerator pickling! Curious if the same recipe can be used for cucumbers also?! Thank you in advance
Hi Molly! Try my Easy Homemade Pickles. I hope you enjoy it.
INSANELY DELICIOUS!!!!! I used the honey option. Super easy to put together. Within 30 minutes, I had the best sub sandwich topping ever! Thanks for sharing the recipe… definately a keeper!
I’m glad you loved it, Bethany!
So tasty! Had to make some last minuite pickle and used onions, carrots, cucumbers and jalepenos, oh boy did it taste good! Thanks!
Fantastic recipe! Great when you’re in a rush, and can have them edible ready and cooled in a couple of hours. Thank you!
I’m glad you loved it, Caroline!
Hi! I was wondering, when I let the onions cool, do I close the jar or leave it open?
Hi! As they cool, will want to leave the lid off.
I’ve never actually reviewed a recipe, but after making these pickled onions consistently for the last year, I figure it’s time. They are absolutely the best, and a huge bonus because no sugar is used.
Thank you for your review, Renee! I’m glad you finally did.
I was wondering what I could use to get them to last longer as I live in BATHURST NSW AUSTRALIA and I also live by myself and I will be making them on Monday 10th April 2023, if I can reach my mandolin seeing as my ladder broke I’m only 5’1” and the tops of my kitchen cabinets are over 7’ high
Can I use sugar free maple syrup? Will that affect it
I recommend this recipe as is. You could try it. Let me know what you think!
do you store the pickles in the original jar or remove them to a separate jar without the liquid?
You will store it in the liquid.
Make and extra amount because once you sample the onions you won’t want to share …
I’m glad you loved them, Greg!
Thanks for this easy and tasty recipe! I poured the vinegar into the jar with the onions through a small mesh colander to catch some of the red pepper flakes, but next time I think I’ll let the red pepper flakes soak into the brine and onions more. I wasn’t sure how spicy it would make the onions to leave them in. Very delicious, in any case!
This recipe was exactly what I needed–quick, simple, and tasty! Thank you!!
You’re welcome, Sara!