Pickled Red Onions Recipe - Budget Bytes (2024)

I love red onions because even just a few slivers of fresh red onion can truly transform a recipe (see Thai Curry Vegetable Soup and Slow Cooker Coconut Curry Lentils) and there’s no substitution that is really quite like it. BUT I can rarely find a red onion that is smaller than a softball and I usually only need 1/4 or less of it for a recipe. Because I hate to waste the rest of the onions, I always use the leftovers to make a batch of these Pickled Red Onions

Pickled Red Onions Recipe - Budget Bytes (1)

What Are “Quick” Pickles?

There are two methods for pickling vegetables: through fermentation or by using a vinegar-based brine. Both methods use a salty and acidic liquid to prohibit the growth of dangerous bacteria. With fermentation, the acid is created by microorganisms, but this can take days or even weeks to accomplish. Store-bought vinegar creates this brine almost instantly, hence the name quick pickle.

The trade-off for this quick process is that quick pickles do not contain probiotics, like fermented pickles, and the flavor can be a little more one-dimensional. Fermented pickles are a bit more of an exact science and can take some practice to get right (here’s a recipe for Fermented Sour Pickles, if you’re interested), whereas quick pickles are pretty hard to mess up.

How to Use Pickled Red Onions

Pickled red onions are AWESOME on tacos, sandwiches, salads, pizza, nachos, flatbread, avocado toast, and lots of other things (practically any Mexican dish). Instead of thinking of these pickled red onions as a substitute for fresh red onions, think of them as a non-spicy alternative to pickled jalapeño. That tangy pickled flavor tastes great anywhere you’d normally use a pickled jalapeño.

How long do They Last?

Keep your pickled red onions refrigerated and in the brine and they’ll last 3-4 weeks in the refrigerator! The flavor gets better over time as the onions marinate in the brine. Just make sure to keep your pickled red onions refrigerated in a non-reactive, air-tight container, like a mason jar or other food-safe storage container.

Customize Your Onions

There are a million different ways to make pickled red onions, so I’ve provided a very basic version below. As you begin to make them more often, you can start to tweak the flavors to match your preferences. Experiment with the seasonings and spices by adding ingredients like bay leaf, star anise, sliced jalapeño, or red pepper flakes.

What Kind of Vinegar to Use for Pickled Red Onions

The recipe below uses white vinegar, but you can use different kinds of vinegar in your pickled red onion recipe to change the flavor. I suggest not using vinegar with strong flavors so they don’t overpower the onions or the other ingredients. Try using rice vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar in your pickled red onions!

Pickled Red Onions Recipe - Budget Bytes (2)

(Tacos made with Chili Rubbed Pulled Pork, fresh jalapeño, pickled red onion, and cotija.)

Pickled Red Onions

4.80 from 67 votes

Pickled Red Onions are a great way to use leftover red onion and are a great topping for tacos, sandwiches, pizza, and more.

Author: Beth – Budget Bytes

Pickled Red Onions Recipe - Budget Bytes (3)

Prep 10 minutes mins

Cook 5 minutes mins

Soak Time 30 minutes mins

Total 45 minutes mins

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  • 1.5 cups sliced red onion ($0.32)
  • 1 clove garlic ($0.08)
  • 3 Tbsp white sugar ($0.06)
  • 1.5 Tbsp salt ($0.15)
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorns ($0.05)
  • 1 cup white vinegar ($0.06)


  • Thinly slice the red onion into 1/8-inch slices. Peel the garlic. Place the onion and garlic in a large glass or ceramic bowl.

  • Add the sugar, salt, and peppercorns to a small sauce pot. Add the vinegar and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Place a lid on the pot and bring the mixture up to a boil over medium-high heat.

  • When it reaches a boil, pour the vinegar over the sliced onion and garlic.* Press the onion down so all the pieces are submerged, then let the mixture cool to room temperature. I sometimes place a piece of plastic wrap over the onions to help push and hold them below the surface of the brine (see step by step photos below).

  • Once cool, use the onions immediately or transfer the onions and all the brine to a covered non-reactive container (glass, ceramic, or plastic) for storage in the refrigerator. The onions can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


*For onions that remain crunchy, pour the boiling vinegar over the onions in the bowl. If you prefer soft onions, add the onion and garlic to the sauce pot and allow them to boil in the vinegar for 1-2 minutes before transferring to a non-metal bowl to cool.


Serving: 1recipeCalories: 214.6kcalCarbohydrates: 53.4gProtein: 2.1gFat: 0.3gSodium: 3547.8mgFiber: 3.5g

Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.

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How to Make Pickled Red Onions – Step by Step Photos

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This recipe works for up to about 2 cups of sliced red onion, but you can use less if you have less. It’s great for using up a leftover half onion, but I’ve used a whole onion for demonstration purposes here. Slice the onion into ⅛-inch slices.

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Place the sliced onions and one clove of peeled garlic in a large ceramic or glass bowl.

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Add 1.5 Tbsp salt, 3 Tbsp sugar, ½ tsp whole peppercorns, and 1 cup white vinegar to a saucepot. Stir to dissolve as much of the salt and sugar as possible. Place a lid on the pot and bring it up to a boil over medium-high heat.

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Carefully pour the boiling vinegar brine over the sliced onions and garlic in the bowl. Stir to combine and press the onions below the brine. Allow the mixture to come to room temperature. I like to take a piece of plastic wrap and press it down onto the onions to help them stay below the brine just as soon as it’s cool enough to touch.

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As the onions soak in the brine they’ll begin to turn an incredibly vibrant shade of pink. The pigment in red onions and red cabbage is a natural pH indicator. Don’t you just love food science??

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Once the onions have come to room temperature and are a vibrant pink color, transfer them to an air-tight food storage container and refrigerate until ready to eat, or up to 4 weeks. The flavor gets even better after a few days!

Pickled Red Onions Recipe - Budget Bytes (12)

(Tacos made with Chili Rubbed Pulled Pork, fresh jalapeño, pickled red onion, and cotija.)

Pickled Red Onions Recipe - Budget Bytes (2024)


How long does pickled red onion last? ›

Your pickled onions will be ready to eat once they're bright pink and tender - about 1 hour for very thinly sliced onions, or overnight for thicker sliced onions. They will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Can I reuse my pickled red onion brine? ›

Pro tip, if you eat the onions quickly, you can reuse the brine. Add more sliced red onions to the mixture and start again. You can also try pickling other sturdy vegetables like sliced radishes, carrots, or small cauliflower florets. If the brine is cloudy or has a bad odor, discard and start with a fresh batch.

Do onions lose nutrients when pickled? ›

Pickled onions, for example, can be a beneficial part of a healthy diet. The pickling process does use a large amount of salt and sugar, but when eaten in moderation and considering the fact that pickled vegetables retain their nutritional values, they can be included in your diet.

Do homemade pickled red onions go bad? ›

TO STORE: Pickled onions can last in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. I like them best during the first week because they are the most crisp, but they're still yummy later on.

Do pickled red onions go bad? ›

The first sign that your pickled red onions have gone bad is a noticeable change in their smell. If they give off an off-putting or sour smell, it's best to discard them. Additionally, if you spot any signs of mold, it's time to say goodbye.

Is it OK to drink pickled onion juice? ›

Drinking pickle juice might sound gross, but there are several reasons to consider it. It is hydrating and may help with muscle cramps, blood sugar, and gut health, among other benefits. Athletes have been sipping this briny beverage for years. Experts didn't know why pickle juice was good to drink after exercising.

Can I use store bought pickle juice to make more pickles? ›


Leftover pickle juice is usually full of flavour, and includes all the flavourings that went into creating the original jar. The recycled pickle brine provides an opportunity to save vegetable odds and ends for up to a week, crisping them up and giving them a new lease of life.

Can you eat too many pickled onions? ›

While salted onions can be a delicious expansion to dinners, it's critical to be aware of piece sizes and control. Eating too many pickled onions can be harmful in some cases. Pickled onions are high in sodium, which can cause health problems if consumed in excess.

Why are pickled red onions so good? ›

Red onions are ideal for pickling because of their mild flavor and vibrant color. They also add a sweet and tangy taste. Both apple cider vinegar and white vinegar work well for pickling. Apple cider vinegar tastes fruity, while white vinegar is more neutral in flavor.

Can I use leftover pickle juice to pickle red onions? ›

To Pickle Other Things

If you have vegetables that would be good pickled, like onions, garlic, carrots or green beans, toss them in the jar of leftover pickle juice, and see what happens.

Do pickled onions raise blood pressure? ›

Pickles are very high in sodium because it's an important part of the brining process. Consuming too much salt in your daily diet can contribute to high blood pressure. Anyone who is on blood pressure medication or looking to reduce their sodium intake should eat pickles in moderation or look for low sodium options.

Are pickled onions good for gut bacteria? ›

Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut or pickled red onions contain high amounts of good probiotics and digestive enzymes. Maintaining a healthy gut flora can aid your digestion and overall energy levels.

What is the shelf life of homemade pickled onions? ›

If using the quick method, pickled onions will last up to one month in the fridge. If you have used the slow method, store the onions in the fridge for up to two months.

Have my pickled onions gone bad? ›

Additionally, any canned food that smells or appears questionable should be thrown out immediately without tasting. Although some hissing is normal when opening goods canned under pressure, always toss a jar that spurts or hisses excessively.

How long do pickling onions last? ›

How long do pickled onions last? These pickled onions willdevelop flavour over time, during which the acidity will also mellow. You can make and store them for a few weeks, or up to six months before opening. Once opened, they need to be chilled and used within two weeks.

How long do fermented red onions last in the fridge? ›

Return lid and airlock and continue to let ferment at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 5-7 days. Transfer finished pickled red onions to jars and move to the refrigerator. Fermented onions will keep refrigerated for at least 2 months.

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