This is my favorite way to make pickled red onions! Takes 5 minutes and no heating needed.
It’s a fact: pickled red onions make everything better. A little extra bite, a little extra flavor and those lovely ribbony bits of purple and pink. It’s one of my favorite quick and easy ways to make any meal a little (a lot) more exciting.
In this article: All You Need for Pickled Red Onions
My go-to method for pickled red onions
Step 1: Cut a piece of the onion.
I cut just down the side of the stem, going straight down. Remove the skin.
Step 2: Slice on a mandolin.
This is where the magic happens.
I put my Mandolin OXO (affiliate link) on setting #1 – the finest setting.
I turn the onion on its side and pass it over the mandoline to obtain very thin C-shaped small onions.
In my opinion, cutting the onion is very important to achieve a fine, ribbony and beautiful end result. It’s also important to maximize the surface area of the absorbent onion flesh (not the skin) so that the onions are truly saturated with all of those vinegary goodness.
Step 3: Add vinegar, water and salt.
Transfer your onions to a jar. Add a pinch of salt and sugar.
Fill the jar 1/3 to 1/2 full with white vinegar. And fill the rest of the way with water.
Step 4: Rest!
Give these guys some rest: 30 minutes minimum and (personal preference) 5-7 days in the fridge.
I don’t heat my liquids, that’s why I don’t keep them for more than 5-7 days. (I also prefer the taste and texture in days!) This method is considered fast stripping: just put slices of raw onions in a brine and refrigerate them. It works like a charm!
But – hot take – I don’t like adding a whole bunch of extra steps to a recipe just for something being added at the end as a topping. Bringing out a full fledged pan for my toppings is a line I don’t like to cross.
This is my solution to both: a super quick and easy pot of beautifully ribboned pickled red onions that can be whipped up in about five minutes flat.
Two key things I do that might be different from other methods:
- The cup: I use a mandolin to slice the onions very, very thinly. This helps to get maximum onion surface area to absorb the brine, and it also helps to create nice, thin, twisted little ribbons that can be piled into a nice little tangle on your bowls, sandwiches, etc.
- The no-heat method: I add the water and vinegar directly to the jar. No boiling, no extras. Just pure white vinegar, water, sugar and salt. This is considered a quick pickle and works great if you’re just making one jar to use in recipes throughout the week (as opposed to double boiler and canning).
After my five minutes of prep, they hang out in the fridge while I cook the rest of dinner. And they’re ready to eat by the time I’m done cooking! Yay for pickled red onions.
Watch how to make pickled red onions
These pickled red onions are super quick, super easy, and add a nice tangle of zesty onion flavor to just about any recipe!
- Thinly slice your onion pieces in a C shape using a mandolin on the thinnest setting. (This is my favorite – if you want the onions larger, adjust as needed.)
- Place the onions in a jar and add vinegar – I just watch until the jar is about a third full.
- Fill the rest of the jar with water. Add salt and sugar; shake a few times to combine.
- Let them rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour, then they are ready to use! They can stay in the fridge for up to 5-7 days.
Keywords: pickled onions, red onions, pickled red onions
Frequently Asked Questions About Pickled Red Onions
Some people prefer to use red wine vinegar! I love white vinegar here (and in many recipes) because it’s just extra punchy.
These will last 5-7 days in the refrigerator. You could probably keep them longer; however, I don’t like keeping them any longer because 1) I don’t boil my liquid first, and 2) I prefer the taste of the first few days.
I don’t boil the liquid, and I think my pickled onions are outstanding! *smiles* So I’m living proof that you don’t have to boil the liquid. That said, the two main reasons people boil their liquid for pickled onions are:
1) for canning purposes or to make them last longer.
2) to help the liquid to be absorbed faster by the onions.
In my opinion and experience, a very thin and strategic slice of your onions can accomplish the same thing and provides super fast absorption of liquid in the same way as boiling.
Yes to both!
I use the Mandolin OXO (affiliate link) and I like it. I use it on the #1 setting for these onions so they get thin and thin.
I always use red onions (hence this recipe: pickled red onions). Their bite and color make them great to add to so many things.
I mainly use them as a garnish. They’re great in a little tangled pile on tostadas, tacos, sandwiches, wraps, bowls, pizzas, all of the above, and more. They add zest, color and onion bite – like a raw onion, but less offensive and more nuanced.
Red onions contain plenty of health-boosting vitamins and minerals, but the most notable health benefits here might come from the pickling process itself. This produces probiotics which can help with digestion – you can read more about this here.