Busy Cooks

Easy Pickled Onions

Easy Pickled Onions

Turn pungent raw onions into bright tangy garnish with an addicting crunch. All you need is 10 minutes of your time and a well-balanced sweet vinegar pickling liquid!

These are fantastic garnish for just about any grilled meats, or burritos, or tacos, well, basically anything your heart desires! And this’s just a basic version, feel free to customize it with additional flavors. (Read flavor suggestions in the post below.)


  • 1 medium red onion (1.5 cups sliced)
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar* (Note 1)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar (Note 2)
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced, optional
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt


  1. Slice the onion into ¼-inch rings, or half rings.
  2. Place the onion rings and jalapeños, if using, in a non-reactive heat-resistant bowl, or mason jar.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine water, vinegar, sugar and salt and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently to dissolve sugar, about 2 minutes. Then increase the heat to medium high and bring it to a boil.
  4. Pour the boiling vinegar mixture over onion slices. Cover and cool at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate for at least 8 hours for best result. Drain before serving.
  5. Pickled onions can be stored in its liquid in the fridge for up to 1 month.

Recipe Notes:

Note 1: You can substitute rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar for red wine vinegar.

Note 2: Sugar is a must for balanced pickling liquid.

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Scroll down to read more tips and story behind the recipe

Aren’t these pickled onions just beautiful? And they’re so, SO good!

Even though I’m not a huge onion eater, I absolutely love pickled onions. They add tangy bright flavor and crunchy texture to everything, from burgers to egg salad wraps.

So how to make these pickled onions?

It’s so embarrassingly easy to prepare pickled onions. It literally takes 10 minutes or less to put everything together, and then you just cool it down and refrigerate overnight.

You’ll need just handful of ingredients: onion (duh!), vinegar, sugar and salt.

To pickle the onions, we’ll mix water, vinegar, sugar and salt and slowly bring it to a boil, stirring frequently to dissolve sugar and salt. And then we’ll pour the hot liquid over thinly sliced onions rings.

TIP: Use non-reactive bowl for pickling onions. I love to use these glass bowls, because they don’t absorb flavor like plastic containers do. And stay away from metal bowls, as they’ll react with vinegar, give off taste to your dish and ruin your bowl.

What type of onion is best for pickling?

Remember there are 6 common varieties of onion on the market? While you can use yellow or white onions, in my opinion, red onion is the best type of onion for pickling! Red onions are less pungent and have milder taste, making it perfect to serve raw on salads. But I’d say they’re even better pickled! Plus, they’re retain that gorgeous purple color!

What type of vinegar to use to pickle onions?

I’ve tried a few different types of vinegars for pickling onions. And my verdict: milder = better. You don’t want lip-puckering tartness in your pickled onions. 

My favorites are rice vinegar or red wine vinegar.

Can I use apple cider vinegar instead of red wine vinegar?

Yes, apple cider vinegar can be used too, but it’s not as good as rice or red wine vinegar. 

But whatever you do, do NOT use distilled white vinegar for pickled onions. It’s way too strong for this application!

How long should I pickle onions?

Ok, if you’re in a hurry, you can pickle the onions for as little as 30 minutes. But make sure to slice those onions super thin, that way vinegar can infuse the onions all the way much quicker.

However, I recommend to pickle the onions for at least 8 hours, or even 24 hours. It gives plenty of time for all the flavors get together and each onion slice will be thoroughly pickled. YUM!

Can I add additional flavors to pickling onions?

Yes, absolutely! Once you try this basic version, definitely try adding different flavors. Possibilities are endless!

Here are some fun flavor ideas for you:

  • Jalapeno slices
  • Garlic
  • Fresh ginger
  • Fresh herbs, like thyme, rosemary, oregano
  • Bay leaf
  • Star anise, cumin seeds, or red pepper flakes
  • All spice berries, variety of peppercorns

How to serve pickled onions?

Drain the onions before serving. 

Pickled onions are a great garnish for just about anything. Any kind of grilled meats, burgers and sandwiches, tacos and burritos, avocado toasts and egg salad wraps…

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