Quick pickled red onions make an amazing addition to sandwiches, salads, grain bowls and more! They add a vibrant pink pop of color to any dish. These easy to make pickled onions with apple cider vinegar only take 30 minutes to make.
Do you ever take a bite of your meal and feel like something is missing? Well it's probably a layer of acid that you're craving! These easy to make pickled red onions are the perfect toppings. Add them to cauliflower tacos, lentil sloppy joe's, summer salads and more!
Slightly sweet with a pinch of spice, these red onions will be the perfect condiment to add to your table on the regular. They are bright and tangy, encouraging laying of flavors in your meals.
Why You'll Love This Recipe:
- Homemade pickled onions are simple and easy to make! They are also naturally vegan.
- These quick refrigerator pickled red onions turn a beautiful pink hue, creating an ascetically pleasing topping.
- No jar required! Use any heat-proof container such as a Pyrex Tupperware.
- Red onions - you'll need one medium-large red onion. Feel free to use a different variety of onion if that is all you have available!
- Vinegar - I like using apple cider vinegar however any vinegar will work!
- Sugar - light brown sugar adds a touch of sweetness to these tangy onions. Feel free to use dark brown sugar or cane sugar as well.
- Spices - salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper and a bay leaf help flavor these refrigerator pickles.
See recipe card for quantities.
Substitutions and Variations
- Onions - you can absolutely use other varieties of onions such as yellow onions, vidalia, white or shallots!
- Vinegar - I typically use apple cider vinegar but you can use white vinegar (it's more affordable), rice wine vinegar, red vinegar or even balsamic vinegar!
- Spices - try adding other spices you may enjoy such as dill, sumac, celery seeds or coriander.
- Spicy - this already has a bit of heat from the crush red pepper but try adding in sliced jalapeño for an extra kick!
- Natural sweetener - use 3 tablespoons of maple syrup, honey or agave in place of the brown sugar. Want it even sweeter? Use ¼ cup of sweetener instead of 3 tablespoons.
- Without cooking - simply use hot or warm tap water and mix it with the vinegar and sugar. This will also result in a crunchier pickled onion!
- With cucumbers - add in cucumber slices with the onions. Try to slice them all evenly as you would slice the onions.
Step by Step Instructions
Thinly slice the red onions using a knife or mandolin. Slice them any way you want; I like half circles.
Add the water, vinegar, brown sugar and salt to a sauce pan. Heat over medium heat and stir together until the sugar and salt dissolve
Add the red onions, black pepper, crushed red pepper and bayleaf to a heatproof container such a a pyrex bowl. You may use multiple smaller containers if that is all you have.
Pour the vinegar mixture (brine) over the red onions. Gently stir to distribute the spices. Let the onions sit for at least 15 minutes before enjoying. The longer they sit, the more pickled they will become!
Hint: turn the vent fan on over the stove when you heat up the vinegar! The smell can be strong.
Let the quick pickled onions cool before storing them in the fridge. Store them in an airtight container such as a 4 cup pyrex bowl or a jar. These refrigerator pickles will stay good for up to 1 month.
Make sure the onions are covered in brine (the liquid) so they pickle evenly. Add a splash of water or vinegar if needed to completely cover the onions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Refrigerator pickles are make without using a canning method. Simply combine the bring (usually vinegar and water) together with the food you are pickling. Refrigerator pickles are not shelf-stable, meaning they need to stay in the refrigerator.
No, you do not need to soak the onions in water before pickling. This recipe does not require soaking. Soaking will draw out some of the intense flavor of the onion, which sometimes may be preferred.
Sure, the choice it up to you but know that the onions will NOT be sweet. They will be more tart in flavor without adding a sweetener. This is entirely up to your preference!
How to Use Refrigerator Pickled Red Onions:
Add quick pickled red onions to any of these delicious recipes for a tangy layer of flavor!
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Quick pickled red onions make an amazing addition to sandwiches, salads, grain bowls and more! They add a vibrant pink pop of color to any dish.
- 1 medium-large red onion
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar (or vinegar of choice)
- 1 cup of water
- 3 tablespoons of light brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- Thinly slice the red onion using a knife or mandolin.
- Add the vinegar, water, brown sugar and salt to a saucepan to make the brine.
- Heat over medium heat and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat.
- Add the sliced red onions, black pepper, bay leaf and crushed red pepper flakes to a heat-proof bowl or jar.
- Pour the brine over the sliced red onions until they are fully covered. If you are short on brine add a splash of water and vinegar until the onions are submerged.
- Let the onions sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse. The longer they have to marinate; the more intense the flavors will become.
- Tip: turn the vent fan on over your stove when you are heating up the vinegar.
- Tip: save the pickling bring after you finish eating the onions. You can use this brine for one more batch of pickled onions (simply add sliced red onions to the brine). Discard the brine after eating the second batch of onions.
- Substitutions - use any vinegar you like such as white vinegar, red vinegar or rice wine vinegar. You can also try this recipe with different varies of onions such as yellow, white or sweet onions!