An overhead view of slices of pickeld red onions which are magenta in color. Visible black pepper corns are scattered among the onions.

Easy Pickled Red Onions

Pickled Red Onions are a simple and delicious recipe that are great any time of the year as a topping or add in to a variety of dishes. They are something friends kept asking me to make, but I kept procrastinating. I already make a pickled vegetable relish that contains onions, so I couldn’t understand what was the big deal about pickled onions. I thought they were pretty, but I wasn’t sure why I needed them. I should say that I wasn’t sure why I needed them until I tasted pickled red onions at someone else’s house. They were included in the toppings for tacos. One taste, and I was hooked. They were sweet, sour, salty, and garlicky. I may have even eaten some of the pickled red onions by themselves as a side dish. They were that good. So what if people stared? I was doing research for a future recipe. Totally justified behavior, right?

It took me a while to reverse engineer them, and create just the right balance of sweet, salty, and sour, but now that I’ve perfected them, creating a pint sized jar of pickled red onions has become a monthly task. I have to do this to ensure we always have them on hand. Sandwiches and tacos just aren’t the same without them.

What you will need to prepare pickled red onions

From the Pantry:

  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Pepper Corns
  • White Vinegar

From the Root Cellar:

  • Garlic
  • Red Onion

Pickled red onions are made from things that we always have on hand in our pantry. I admit that we don’t always have red onions on hand because we don’t use them as much as we use yellow, brown, or white onions, but it’s a simple matter to pick up a red onion, or two, during my weekly trip to the grocery store. I’m sure I could also make this recipe from brown, yellow, or white onions if I don’t have a red onion, but the red onions are so pretty.

How do you make pickled red onions?

This is really a simple process. The most time consuming part of making the onions is slicing the onions and peeling the garlic.

1. Slice the red onions and peel the garlic.

A Pyrex glass measuring cup filled with sliced Red Onions with three garlic cloves sitting on top of them.  One garlic clove is larger than the other two.  One of the smaller ones is very small.

2. Put them in a glass bowl or other non reactive container.

Once the onions are sliced and the garlic peeled, place them into a glass bowel. I like to do this in my two cup glass measuring cup because it has a nice spout for pouring later in the process.

Looking down into a pot that is filled with a cloudy brine and black pepper corns.  The brine ins being poured over the sliced onions and peeled garlic which are in a pyrex measuring cup.

3. Mix together the brine ingredients and bring them to a boil.

The next step is to mix up the brine by bringing the vinegar, salt, sugar and black pepper corns to a boil on the stove, stirring frequently to ensure the sugar and salt are dissolved.

A close up view of the sliced red onions, garlic, and pepper corns.  The onion slices are brighter and a more vibrant magenta color and are wet from the brine being poured over the top.

4. Pour the brine over the sliced onions and garlic.

Once the brine has boiled, Pour it over the onions and garlic in the bowl. I love this part because the warm brine intensifies the color of the onions.

A spoon is being used to push down on the purple/red onions to ensure they are submerged in the brine.

5. Ensure the onions are submerged under the brine.

The next step is to use a spoon to ensure that the onions are all submerged in the brine, the you need to set a timer for ten to fifteen minutes and walk away. (I put a saucer over the top of the measuring cup to make sure that nothing fell or flew into the brine.) The spoon and pan that you use for this need to be non-reactive. I use stainless steel pans, but a glass pot works well, too.

Looking down into the pyrex measuring cup which is full of the bright magenta slices of the pickled rec onions which have visibly shrunk since being covered with the brine.

6. Allow the onions and garlic to marinate in the brine for several minutes.

After the onions have set in the brine for about 10 minutes, they begin to shrink, and the color intensifies. I think they’re so pretty at this stage.

A mason jar packed full of the pickled red onions.  Through the sides of the jar, pieces of onion in a magenta colored brine are visible along with small round black pepper corns.

7. Store the onions in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

The next step is to pour them into a jar. Actually, I use a non-reactive fork to scoop them into the jar and pack them down, then I pour the brine over the top. You should allow the onions to cool to room temperature before storing them in the refrigerator.

Looking down into a bowl of pickled red onions.  The pink onions pieces are interspersed with a few black pepper corns.

You can begin to use the onions right away, but they have better flavor if they’re allowed to sit in the brine in the refrigerator for a few days. The longer they sit, the more pronounced the garlic flavor becomes, and we love the taste of garlic.

A turnkey sandwich on an onion roll sits in the forefront of the picture.  The top is askew showing that the meat is topped with pieced of pickled red onion.  In the background is the jar of pickled red onion.  To the right and behind the sandwich is the jar lid with a fork resting on top of it.  To the left of the fork, is the pint jar filled with the magenta pink pickled red onions.

How do I use picked red onions?

Pickled red onions are delicious as an addition to nachos, hot dogs, salads, wraps, tacos, sandwiches, burgers. and even Asian inspired bowls. (I have used them in all of these places.) They add a tangy, pickled, taste that always leaves me wanting more. These easy pickled red onions are really amazing.

Looking down into the jar of pickled red onions, the pink onions are visible in the magenta brine.  A garlic clover is on the top of the jar.  Above the jar is the lid which holds the fork that had been used to serve the onions.   To the right of the jar is a turkey sandwich on an onion roll.  The top bun is not properly aligned with the bottom bun allowing the viewer to see that several pieces of pickled red onion have been placed atop the turkey meat.

I love that simply adding pickled red onions to a sandwich can make even a simple sandwich, just meat and bread, taste amazing. They really are a must have condiment to have in your refrigerator, and they will keep for about a month if properly stored in the refrigerator. (Of course, they don’t always last a month in my house, but if they did...)

A view looking down on a turkey sandwich on an onion roll.  The top bun is  off to the side and not aligned with the bottom bun allowing the viewer to see that several pieces of pickled red onion have been placed atop the turkey meat.

The only down side to these onions, is that the longer they sit in the brine, the more of the color leaches from the onions. It doesn’t affect their taste. In fact, the flavor intensifies the longer they’re in the brine. They just aren’t as pretty.

This is a collage with two photos.  The top photo shows a white bowl with magenta colored pickled Red onions in it along with a few black pepper corns.  The bottom photo is of a pint sized mason jar filled with the same sliced onions in a brine.  The jar is sitting on a mutli colored wooden surface with a bright blue background.  Between the two photos is a banner that has a burgundy colored background.  The writing on the banner is a pale yellow or cream color and says "Easy Pickled Red Onions."

Have you ever tasted pickled red onions? How do you like to use them? Let us know by leaving a comment below. If you make these, let us know how your recipe differs from ours, too. A traditional pickling brine could contain no sugar, and sometimes, pickle recipes contain whole allspice, mustard seeds, and bay leaves, too. The variations could be endless. Leave a comment to let us know your favorite version.

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Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

Easy Pickled Red Onions

This recipe is a fast, refrigerator type, pickle recipe. These red onions are delicious and keep for about a month in the refrigerator, if they last that long. This recipe fills a pint sized jar very full which is pretty amazing considering that it only costs $0.79 for the entire recipe. Pickled red onions are delicious on hot dogs, hamburgers, salads, sandwiches, wraps, tacos, and even on top of Asian inspired bowls.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Marinating Time 30 mins
Course Condiment
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings (2 Tbl)
Calories 30 kcal


  • 1½ – 2 cups red onion (This was about one medium red onion for me.) sliced about 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick. ($0.44)
  • 1 large clove garlic ($0.09)
  • 1 cup white vinegar ($0.17)
  • 3 Tbl white sugar ($0.03)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt ($0.01)
  • ½ tsp black pepper corns ($0.05)


We don’t like things very salty in our house. If you love salt, you might want to increase the amount of salt in this recipe to one tablespoon.
You can add more garlic to the recipe if you choose.  I didn’t have large garlic cloves and used three smaller ones. 
Keyword black pepper corns, garlic, red onion, salt, sugar, white vinegar

The following nutrition information is calculated for a two tablespoon serving of pickled onions (one-eighth of the jar) prepared according to the recipe above.

Disclaimer:  Nutritional information is calculated using online tools such as those available at or  We make every attempt to ensure that the information is calculated correctly, but this information should be considered estimates.   Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe.  In addition, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition-fact sources, databases, and the algorithms used.   You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.  Under no circumstances will be responsible for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information provided. 

7 thoughts on “Easy Pickled Red Onions

  1. I tossed some of these pickled red onions on a burger last night and boy was it delicious. I love simple recipes like this that totally elevate a dish. Will definitely be making again!

    1. Jessica, I am so glad that you liked these onions, and I thank you for taking the time to leave a comment to let us know. I love to put those onions on everything, and you’re right, they definitely elevate a dish.

    1. Liz, I was the same way. I didn’t know why I should pickle them. I hope you’ll give it a try. It will become something you always want to keep on hand.

  2. 5 stars
    Such delicious pickles onions!! Seriously so easy to make and they are great on tacos, breakfast omelettes and sandwiches!

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