These easy pickled red onions take just a few minutes to make and are bursting with tangy, sweet and salty flavour.  Make a big batch and add a pop of vibrant pink colour to everything from scrambled eggs to tacos!

A dish of bright pink pickled red onions is seen from above with a fork

What do you need for Pickled Red Onions?

This amazing condiment, with its remarkably short list of pantry ingredients, delivers a delightful burst of flavour to so many different dishes.  To make these pickled red onions, you will need:

  • Red onion: The proportions of this recipe are scaled for an average, medium red onion and the recipe produces about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of finished pickled onion, or one large mason jar full.  This amount is usually enough for a burger or taco dinner for my family, with lots left over for piling on sandwiches over the coming week.  The recipe can easily be doubled  if you’re serving a big crowd.  Simply buy 2 medium red onions and double up on the brine to make 2 jars.
  • Warm water:  No need to boil water for this recipe.  The water needs to be just warm enough to easily dissolve the sugar and salt, but shouldn’t be so hot that it cooks the onion.  If you use boiling water, the onion will soften and lose its delicious crunch.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: You can use other vinegars in this recipe (white wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar are good choices), but apple cider vinegar delivers delicious, flavourful tang, so its my first choice for this quick pickle.
  • Sugar:  These pickled red onions taste so good because of the careful balance of flavours.  The vinegar delivers just the right amount of sour, but the pickled onions don’t taste too acidic because of the balancing effect of the sugar.  I often get asked about reducing or eliminating sugar from recipes.  Could you leave the sugar out of these pickled onions?  The answer is yes, but you may find the result to be too acidic and harsh.  Unless you need to, I wouldn’t recommend altering the sugar content of this recipe.
  • Salt: I use Diamond Crystal Kosher salt in my recipes.  If you use table salt, start with half the amount and adjust it to taste.  Like sugar, salt balances and enhances other flavours and is an essential ingredient in a pickle.

These pickled onions are delicious just the way they are, but you can adjust the flavour by adding any of the following to the jar:

    • Red pepper flakes
    • Fresh herbs such as thyme or rosemary
    • Whole peppercorns
    • Whole cloves (cloves are powerful, so you’ll just need 2 or 3)
    • Sliced fresh jalapeño
    • Bay leaf


These pickled red onions, with their delicious crunch and eye-catching colour are the perfect enhancement for so many different dishes so you’ll want to keep a jar of this versatile condiment handy in the fridge.  Delicious on just about any savoury sandwich, they are particularly good with pulled pork or on an egg salad sandwich.  They’re a natural fit for tacos and quesadillas, and so very good piled high on a burger or grilled fish sandwich.  They add a bright pop of flavour and satisfying texture to a sour cream-topped baked potato or as a garnish for soup.  Add them to a cheese board featuring aged cheddar and crisp crackers or include them in a Ploughman’s Lunch.  Pickled red onions add an extra layer of tangy goodness to avocado toast, and are the perfect counterpoint to rich smoked salmon.

Avocado toast with smoked salmon and pickled red onions sits on a white plate.  A large bite has been taken out of the avocado toast
A trio of pulled chicken tacos are topped with guacamole and pickled red onions
A dish of homemade bright pink pickled red onions tangled in the tines of a fork is seen from above on a white marble counter

Sweet and Tangy Pickled Red Onions

Style and Grace
Author: Sarah Gallienne
These sweet and tangy pickled red onions are the perfect accent for pulled pork, smoked salmon or tacos!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Resting time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Condiments
Cuisine North American


  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt


  • Pack the sliced red onion into a large jar with a tight fitting lid.
  • Whisk together the hot water, apple cider vinegar, sugar and salt until well combined and sugar and salt have dissolved.
  • Pour the liquid over the sliced onions in the jar, making sure the onions are completely submerged. Set the jar aside to cool for 30 minutes. Use immediately, or cover the jar and store in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.
Keyword onion, Pickled


  • Make ahead:  These quick pickled onions are ready after about 30 minutes, but they’re at their best after about 24 hours.  Store them in a covered, non-reactive container (a large glass jar is perfect) in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.  Make sure the onions remain completely submerged in the pickling liquid.  
  • Be sure that the jar and lid are very clean, but since this is a quick pickle, and the pickled red onions will be stored in the fridge, you don’t need to sterilize the jar.
  • The onion can be sliced paper thin on a mandolin, but I prefer to slice the onion by hand with a knife to get a slightly thicker cut.  Onion cut paper thin will pickle more quickly, but a slightly thicker cut onion will retain more crunch.  
  • This recipe also works beautifully with sweet onions, such as Videlia or Walla Walla.  Keep in mind that since Videlia and Walla Walla onions are white, the resulting pickle will of course be missing the bright pink colour of pickled red onions.  While they might be a little less eye-catching, pickled onions made with sweet white onions are every bit as delicious. 
  • For an even brighter, eye-popping pink colour (think, magenta!), add a slice or two of red beet to the jar.
A forkful of tangled bright pink pickled red onions sits on a white marble table

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