Our favorite recipe for quick and easy pickled red onions. They're beautiful, delicious and will magically transform ordinary food to extraordinary!
I discovered the magic of pickled red onions quite a few years ago and they've been a consistent mainstay here at The Café ever since. There are a zillion ways to use them and I love that they have the ability to pizzaz up everything you put them on.
Although this delicious condiment is super easy to make, I've tweaked and refined the ingredients and technique over the years and thought I'd share our favorite rendition. After making countless jars, there are a few tips and tricks I've learned to simplify the process.
When I first started making pickled red onions, most recipes included instructions to blanch the red onions with boiling water and to make a brine on the stove top. I've learned that neither of these steps is necessary. Now I simply slice my onions, pack them in a jar, add a vinegar/water solution in addition to sugar and a bit of salt. I seal the jar, give it a couple of good shakes and the magic begins.
If you google pickled red onions, you'll find a myriad of recipes made with all kinds of vinegar, as well as with lemon and lime juice. There are also lots of different additives such as peppercorns, red pepper flakes, coriander, limes slices, etc. I've tried them all but honestly, I feel that simple is better when it comes to pickled red onions.
A little trick I've discovered along this pickled red onion path is that these beauties last longer if you drain the brine after an overnight in the fridge. Scott looked in the refrigerator one day and exclaimed: "it looks like you've got a science experiment going on in here"! It was true. I was testing several variations of pickled red onions to discover the best technique for storing.
In the end, it turned out that the onions that were drained after an overnight in the brine retained a beautiful hue and a crisp texture. If left in the brine, the onions became soft, limp and much darker in color. I actually have a jar in the "laboratory" (refrigerator) right now that has not lost it's pretty color and nice texture after a week!
Ways to use pickled red onions
Wondering what to do with these guys? Here are a few delicious ideas:
- in sandwiches
- on tacos
- in salads
- on top of pinto beans, black beans, blacked eyed peas...
- in tuna or chicken salad
- with ribs and other barbecued meat
- on bagels with cream cheese and lox
- on chili
- as a topping for brats
- in wraps
- on burgers
- in guacamole
- in carnitas
- they pair nicely with just about any Mexican dish
- as a topping for Asian lettuce wraps
- on hot dogs
- on avocado toast
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Pickled red onions are super, super versatile and so... delicious!
Café Tips for making these Easy Pickled Red Onions
- This recipe makes a quart-size jar which is a fairly large batch. Feel free to cut it in half.
- I like to halve my onions and then slice into thin wedges, but you can cut them any shape or thickness you like.
- This recipe is super variable. We like pickled red onions made with rice vinegar, but you can also use white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or even plain old white vinegar.
- Pickled red onions will last for a week to 10 days in the refrigerator.
- Don't throw out the brine. Strain it and make another batch of onions.
- Feel free to use more or less sugar, depending on your taste.
- This is a fun project to do with kids. You can call it a "little epicurean magic show"!
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear other’s results and ideas for variations.
- 4 medium-size red onions
- 1 ⅓ cups of rice vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
Cut a thin slice off of the top and bottom of each onion. Cut onions in half from top to bottom and remove skin.
Lay each half, cut side down and slice thinly.
Pack onions into a quart-size jar with a wide opening.
Add vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Cover tightly and shake well.
Allow mixture to sit at room temp for 1-2 hours. Shake the jar every now and then to distribute brine.
Refrigerate for 8-12 hours or until onions turn a bright pink color. Drain well and return to jar.
See Café Tips above for more detailed instructions and tips.
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