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If you want a quick and easy way to add some zing to your meals, then you’ll love learning how to make pickled red onions. This tangy, colorful, and perfectly sweet condiment adds so much deliciousness to sandwiches, tacos, salads, and more. But don’t worry – making pickled red onions at home is a breeze. So grab a jar, and let’s get started!
- Quick Pickled Red Onion Recipe
- Recipe Ingredients
- Recipe Substitutions
- Recipe Variations
- How to Make Pickled Red Onions ~ Step-By-Step Instructions
- What are the Potential Health Benefits of Red Onions?
- What do Pickled Red Onions Go With?
- More Delicious Sauces and Condiments
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Detailed Recipe Instructions
- Pin for Later
Quick Pickled Red Onion Recipe
Pickled red onions – where do I even begin? These little bursts of tangy goodness are worth making for so many reasons! Firstly, they add a punch of flavor to just about any dish – from tacos and sandwiches to salads and grain bowls. Secondly, just look at that beautiful vibrant pink color. But it’s not just about aesthetics – they’re incredibly easy to make at home with just a few simple ingredients. Moreover, this quick pickled onions recipe can be customized with different spices or herbs, depending on your taste preferences.
Trust me, once you start adding these babies to your meals, you won’t want to stop! Follow me (down the page), and I’ll show you how to make pickled red onions.
Why You’ll Love This Condiment
It’s Ready in Less than 15 Minutes (Hands-on Time)
It Boosts the Flavor of Virtually Any Dish!
It’s Gluten-Free, Vegetarian & Dairy-Free
If you’re ever at my house, you can bet your bottom dollar there’s gonna be a selection of refrigerator pickles alongside the tomato sauce and mustard. Why? Because they’re such a healthful way to add a beautiful pop of color and acidity to dishes. Also, they’re effortless to make and only require a few basic ingredients.
- Red Onions: I use a chef’s knife to thinly slice the red onions. However, if you have a mandoline, now would be a great time to use it! Especially if you want wonderfully uniform thin slices of onion.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is my favorite vinegar for pickling onions because it’s slightly sweeter than most other types of vinegar. As this recipe uses much less refined sugar than most, sweetness needs to come from other ingredients to balance the acidity of the vinegar.
- Honey: I’m using a lovely local runny honey for sweetness.
- Water: Hot water and vinegar make a brine or pickling liquid – this gives the onions a milder flavor.
- Salt: Just enough salt to bring out the delicious flavors.
- Flavor Boosters (Optional): I use mixed peppercorns and fennel seeds. Mixed peppercorns add a splash of color, but each color has a different heat intensity, which makes for a more interesting flavor profile. But you can use black peppercorns if that’s what you already have in your pantry. In addition, fennel seeds have a slightly sweet and licorice-like taste which adds even more depth to the brine.
Don’t let ingredients you don’t like or can’t get hold of at your local grocery store stop you from learning how to make homemade red pickled onions. There are plenty of options to make the recipe work for you. Here are some examples:
- Red Onion Substitute: Instead of red onions, you could try white onions, yellow onions, brown onions, or shallots.
- Switch Up the Vinegar: The best vinegar is the one you like the most. So, if you’d like, swap apple cider vinegar with rice vinegar, white vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, or a mixture of vinegar for great results. Your pickle, your choice.
- Use an Alternative Sweetener: You can use any natural sugar you prefer rather than honey. Agave and maple syrup are great alternatives here. They would also make this recipe vegan.
- Swap Out the Seeds: Not a fan of fennel seeds, no problem. Give cumin seeds or mustard seeds a try. Both are a great way to add extra flavor and warmth to the pickled onions.
There are also many ways to customize this easy recipe. Here are just a few ideas:
- No Cook Pickled Red Onions: If you prefer your onions to have more crunch and bite, don’t heat the brine before pouring it into jars.
- Spicy Pickled Red Onions: Red pepper flakes, sliced jalapeño (spicy), or habañero peppers (very spicy) are a great addition, particularly if you want to take the heat up a few notches.
- Garlic Pickled Red Onions: Add one or two finely sliced garlic cloves for a punch of garlicky goodness. Yum!
- Savory Pickled Red Onions: Adding fresh herbs, like fresh dill or bay leaves, can really add fresh, herby-savory vibes.
Culinary Medicine Tip
How to Make Pickled Red Onions ~ Step-By-Step Instructions
The following step-by-step recipe instructions will show you just how quick and easy it is to make pickled red onions at home.
Add the apple cider vinegar, water, honey, and salt to a small saucepan over a medium heat. Let the salt dissolve. Then over a high heat, bring the brine to a boil, and then immediately remove from the heat.
- Onions ~ Step 1
Meanwhile, place the sliced onions, peppercorns, and fennel seeds in a glass pickling jar (such as a Mason jar or Kilner jar).
- Onions ~ Step 2
Pour the vinegar mixture into the jar over the onions until fully submerged.
- Onions ~ Step 3
Place the lid securely on the jar, then shake it so the onions and spices are surrounded by pickling liquid.
- Pickled Red Onions
Let the onions marinate in the brine for at least 30 minutes to an hour, if you can! For the best results, let your onions marinate overnight.
Tips for Learning How to Make Picked Red Onions
Use a sharp knife.
A dull knife will make slicing onions thinly more difficult and can be more dangerous.
Submerge the onions.
Always fully submerge the thin onion slices in the pickling solution so they pickle properly and stay fresher for longer.
Let them sit.
For the best flavor, put the lid on tight and let the pickled onions sit in the fridge overnight before enjoying them on sandwiches, tacos, salads, or whatever else strikes your fancy.
What are the Potential Health Benefits of Red Onions?
Red onions are so versatile in cooking, and they also offer numerous health benefits.
1Red Onions are Loaded with Antioxidants
Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that give red onions their purple-red color. These anthocyanins are well known for their medicinal benefits, including their anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anti-obesity effects. 
2Red Onions Contain Heart Protective Properties
Another beneficial compound in red onions is quercetin, a flavonoid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin has been linked to improved heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 
3Red Onions Support the Function and Maintenance of the Gut Microbiome
Red onions are particularly rich in inulin, a prebiotic fiber that feeds and increases the good bacteria in the gut. A diverse community of gut bacteria is essential for regulating the immune system and providing a natural defense against infection. 
What do Pickled Red Onions Go With?
What don’t they go with!! But seriously, if you want to put your perfect pickled onions to good use, there is no best way. There are SO MANY delicious ways they can take your meals to the next level…
- For breakfast, add them on top of some delicious scrambled eggs and bagels. And my personal favorite, loaded onto avocado toast!
- They are the perfect addition to Mexican food dishes like fish tacos, burrito bowls, enchiladas, and carnitas.
- How about adding a generous spoonful to jacket potatoes, salads, bruschetta, and sandwiches for an irresistible extra dimension of flavor?
- They also go great with spiced lamb lettuce wraps, chicken tikka strips, my slow-cooker vegan chili, and pan-fried salmon.
- Add a little pink sparkle to my healthy crab appetizers and baked brie tarts.
- Chop them up into a delicious potato salad or salad dressings.
- They are also fantastic on BBQ pulled pork, shawarma, gyros, and stews.
- And finally, they’re a delicious addition to soup instead of croutons – try adding them to my vegan cauliflower soup.
More Delicious Sauces and Condiments
- Spicy Mango Salsa
- Healthy Green Goddess Dressing
- Easy 3-Ingredient Stir Fry Sauce
- Cranberry Sauce
- Super-Green Pesto
Frequently Asked Questions
Detailed Recipe Instructions
How to Make Pickled Red Onions
- 16 fl oz (450ml) Glass Jar with an airtight lid
- Saucepan (Small)
- Wooden Spoon / Spatula
- ¾ cup (180 ml) apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup (120 ml) water
- 3 tbsp honey
- 1½ tsp sea salt flakes
- ½ tsp mixed peppercorns
- ¼ tsp fennel seeds
- 1 medium red onion Roughly sliced (for more bite) or thin slices (for less bite).
- Prepare: Gather and prepare your ingredients.
- Brine: In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the apple cider vinegar, water, honey, and salt. Let the salt dissolve. Then over a high heat, bring the brine to a boil, and then immediately remove from the heat.
- Onions: Meanwhile, place the sliced red onion, peppercorns, and fennel seeds in a glass pickling jar (such as a Mason jar or Kilner jar). Pour the vinegar solution into the jar over the onions until fully submerged. Place the lid securely on the jar, and then give it a shake so the liquid surrounds the onions. Let the liquid cool to room temperature, then pop on the lid and refrigerate.
- Marinate: Let the red pickled onions sit in the brine for at least 30 minutes to an hour if you can wait! For the best flavor, let your onions marinate overnight.
Thanks for stopping by!
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- Yagnik D, et al. Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. Sci Rep. 2018 Jan 29;8(1):1732. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-18618-x. PMID: 29379012; PMCID: PMC5788933. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5788933/
- Khoo HE, et al. Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits. Food Nutr Res. 2017 Aug 13;61(1):1361779. doi: 10.1080/16546628.2017.1361779. PMID: 28970777; PMCID: PMC5613902. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5613902/
- Anand David AV, et al. Overviews of Biological Importance of Quercetin: A Bioactive Flavonoid. Pharmacogn Rev. 2016 Jul-Dec;10(20):84-89. doi: 10.4103/0973-7847.194044. PMID: 28082789; PMCID: PMC5214562. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5214562/
- Al Bander Z, Nitert MD, Mousa A, Naderpoor N. The Gut Microbiota and Inflammation: An Overview. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Oct 19;17(20):7618. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17207618. PMID: 33086688; PMCID: PMC7589951. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33086688/