Learn how to make quick pickled red onions in just 30 minutes with just 4 easy ingredients!
Ever made homemade pickled red onions before?
Good news — it’s so easy! Also, super speedy.
All you need is one red onion, a few easy ingredients (vinegar, salt, and some kind of sweetener) to make your pickling base, plus any extra seasonings that you would like to add. Then after just 5 minutes of prep time, plus another 30 minutes to let the recipe rest and work it’s quick-pickling magic, a fabulous batch of these fresh, crispy, zippy pickled red onions can be yours to enjoy in a snap!
Pickled red onions of course taste fabulous with just about any traditional Mexican dishes, from tacos to burritos, soups, salads, nachos, chilaquiles, and more. (Yum. ♡) But beyond Mexican food, pickled red onions can also liven up everything from burgers to curries, pizza to falafel, eggs to potato salad, and so much more. Basically anytime you need an extra pop of crispy, colorful, tangy goodness to balance out your dish, these quick pickled red onions are here for you, friends.
Let’s make a quick batch!
Quick Pickled Red Onions Ingredients:
To make this pickled onions recipe, you will need the following base ingredients:
- Red Onion: One large red onion or two small red onions.
- Vinegar: I like the sweeter taste of apple cider vinegar when pickling onions. But white vinegar, white wine vinegar, or even red wine vinegar work well too.
- Salt: A teaspoon of fine sea salt, to bring out all of those flavors.
- Sweetener: White (granulated) sugar is traditionally used to make pickled red onions in Mexico, but feel free to naturally sweeten yours with maple syrup, honey, or agave instead.
Plus, see notes below for additional seasonings that you are welcome to add in too.
How To Pickle Red Onions:
Super quick and easy! Simply…
- Simmer the pickling mixture. Stir together the vinegar, water, salt, sweetener, and any seasonings that you would like to add. Then either on the stovetop (in a small saucepan) or in the microwave (in a bowl or mason jar), heat the vinegar mixture until it comes to a simmer.
- Thinly slice the onion. Meanwhile, as the vinegar mixture is heating, slice your onion. I usually just thinly slice mine by hand with a chef’s knife. But feel free to use a mandoline to get your onions extra thin.
- Combine. Transfer the onion to a pint-sized mason jar or small heat-proof bowl. Then pour the hot vinegar mixture over the onion, and stir or shake until combined.
- Pickle. Let the onions rest for about 30 minutes.
- Serve or store. Then voila — your pickled onions are ready to go! Serve immediately, or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.
Possible Recipe Variations:
There are so many ways to customize your own quick pickled onion recipe. For example, you can…
- Make it spicy. Sliced habañero peppers are often added to pickled red onions in Mexico to kick them up a (very) spicy notch. But for a more mild dose of heat, feel free to add in a slice or two of jalapeño peppers, or even just a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
- Make it garlicky. Add in a clove or two of garlic, thinly sliced if you would like to release those garlicky flavors more quickly.
- Make it peppery. Add a few whole peppercorns to the mix. Or for more immediate flavor, a few twists of freshly-ground black pepper.
- Make it herby. A pinch of ground cumin, dried oregano, allspice, and/or bay leaf are all traditional Mexican seasoning options. But feel free to add whatever fresh or dried herbs match the type of cuisine you are cooking!
- Use a citrus base (instead of vinegar). In the Yucatan, it’s traditional to use Seville (sour) orange juice in place of vinegar. So if your local market happens to carry Seville oranges, just add 3/4 cup freshly-squeezed Seville orange juice in place of the vinegar. Or if your market does not carry Seville oranges, you can substitute 1/2 cup freshly-squeezed naval (regular) orange juice + 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice.
- Use a different color of onions. Feel free to use white or yellow onions instead of red onions for a different twist.
How To Use Pickled Onions:
Ooooh, so many delicious options. These pickled red onions would taste great served with…
- Mexican classics: tacos, tostadas, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, fajitas, chimichangas, flautas, nachos, sopes and more
- Breakfast foods: scrambled or fried eggs, chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, breakfast sandwiches, breakfast casseroles and more
- Sandwiches: any kinds of burgers, wraps, or other kinds of sandwiches
- Meat and seafood: chicken, pork, steak, fish, shrimp or shellfish (esp any kind of bbq!)
- Side dishes: refried beans, rice, elote, potato salads, roasted veggies and more
- Other faves: soups, salads, curries, falafel, pizza…and so much more
This quick pickled red onions recipe is easy to make in just 30 minutes with just 4 main ingredients! See notes above for extra seasonings that you are welcome to add in too.
- 1 large red onion*, peeled and very thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1–2 tablespoons sweetener (such as maple syrup, honey, sugar, etc.)
- In a small saucepan*, stir together the vinegar, salt and your desired amount of sweetener. Cook over medium-high heat until the mixture reaches a simmer.
- Place the thinly-sliced onions in a small bowl or pint-sized mason jar. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the onions. Stir until combined. (Or if using a mason jar, place the lid on top and give the jar a quick shake.) Let the onions marinate for 30 minutes.
- Serve immediately. Or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.
*Onions: Or two small red onions.
*Microwave option: Feel free to also heat the vinegar mixture in the microwave until it reaches a simmer. Then add it to the onions, as directed.