These quick pickled red onions are super easy to make and add so much flavour to salads, sandwiches, tacos, bowls and more. All you need to make this simple recipe is vinegar and sugar!

Sealed glass jar of quick pickled red onions against a white background.

Equipment Needed

This recipe is very easy to make with just a few basic pieces of equipment. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Sharp knife or mandoline. I have a mandoline but I just use a knife to prepare the onions. They don’t need to be super thin so a sharp knife works just fine for a fairly thin, even slice.
  • Sealable storage jar. Once the onions have soaked, they get packed up in a container with vinegar and sugar. You’ll need a sealable storage container for this, preferably glass. I use a mason jar with a plastic lid or a sealable Weck jar.

Ingredients Needed

Here are the 3 main ingredients you’ll need to make these pickled onion:

  • Vinegar. Plain white vinegar works best.
  • Sugar. I use organic cane sugar. Sugar is optional.
  • Sea salt. A little pinch of sea salt helps enhance the flavour.
  • Red Onions. I would recommend red onions for this recipe but you can use white or yellow onions in a pinch. In fact, you can use this recipe for just about any vegetable. Try sliced cucumber, beet or carrot!

Optional Ingredients

I don’t usually add anything extra to my pickled red onions except maybe some garlic, however, you can play around with all kinds of flavour variations by adding ingredients such as:

  • Cloves of garlic.
  • Fresh herbs.
  • Mustard seed.
  • Pepper.
  • Cumin or other spices.
  • Red pepper flakes for spicy pickled red onions.

How to Make Quick Pickled Red Onions

Making pickled onions are home is super easy and they’re just wonderful to adding a tangy bite to your meals. Let’s get started.

1. Thinly Slice the Onion

To slice the onion for pickling, you can either use a knife or a mandoline. I just use a sharp knife. Here’s how I slice it:

  1. Cut the onion in half.
  2. Chop the ends.
  3. Peel the skin off.
  4. Thinly slice with a knife.

You can see the steps to slicing the onion in the pictures below.

Half of a red onion on a cutting board with a knife.
Chop the onion in half.
Half of a red onion with the ends sliced off on a cutting board.
Slice the ends off.
Half of a peeled red onion on a cutting board.
Peel away the onion skin.
Half of an onion being thinly sliced on a cutting board.
Thinly slice.
Half of a red onion sliced into thin pieces on a cutting board.
The onion is ready for pickling!

Once you’ve sliced the onion. Pack it into the jar you’re going to use for storing it. Make sure you use something big enough to allow for all the onion to be submerged in the vinegar mixture.

Raw red onion packed into a glass jar.

2. Make the pickling liquid.

To quick “pickle” the red onion, we’ll use a mixture of water, sugar, salt and vinegar. You can play around with the ratio based on how tangy you want the final product to be but here’s a good starting point:

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • pinch of sea salt

Add these ingredients to a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. This step serves two purposes:

  1. Boiling ensures the sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. The hot liquid helps to soften the raw onions.

Do I have to use sugar?

Technically, no, you don’t have to use sugar in this recipe so it is possible to make sugar-free pickled red onions. However, I feel the sugar really balances out the tangy vinegar and adds to the overall flavour of the pickled onions. You could try reducing it to 1-2 tsp though.

Can I use a different sweetener?

Yes. You can use coconut sugar, maple syrup or any other granulated sugar in place of the organic cane sugar.

Vinegar, water and sugar in a small saucepan.
The vinegar, water, sugar and salt before boiling to dissolve the sugar.

3. Pour the vinegar over the onions.

Once you’ve boiled the vinegar mixture, carefully pour it over the sliced onions. Now, all you have to do is let them soak!

What if there isn’t enough liquid to cover the onions?

No problem. First use a fork to push the onions down, then, if needed, pour in some extra vinegar until they’re all submerged.

A jar of pickled red onions with a spoon in it.
Pour the boiled vinegar mixture over the sliced onions.

A jar of pickled red onions with a spoon in it.
Use a fork or spoon to push the onions down, ensuring they’r all submerged.

How to Use Pickled Red Onions

Here are some delicious ways to use pickled red onions:

  • Burgers. Try them on my beet burgers.
  • Hot dogs.
  • Sandwiches.
  • Avocado toast.
  • Tacos and burritos.
  • Salads and buddha bowls.
  • Tofu scramble.
  • Curries.
  • Side or condiment to anything!

I’ve listed some recipes below that call for pickled onions.

Below you’ll find the complete recipe and how-to for quick pickled red onions. You can also make this with white or sweet onions but red onions are the best!

Enjoy this versatile, easy and delicious recipe. We just love having these on hand in our house. They add the best, tangy flavour to just about anything.

How Long Can I Store Pickled Red Onions?

You can store pickled red onions in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Recipes That Use Pickled Red Onions

Here are some recipes you can try using your pickled onions in:

Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Scroll down to the comment section to leave a star rating and review.

Sealed glass jar of quick pickled red onions against a white background.
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Quick Pickled Red Onions

Enjoy this quick pickled onions on salads, in bowls, on hot dogs, burgers and sandwiches or just about anywhere else you can think of!
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Diet: Vegan
Servings: 1 cup
Author: Deryn Macey


  • 1 medium-sized red onion thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt


  • Chop the onion into thin, even slices and add them to the jar or container you plan to store them in.
  • In a small saucepan, bring the water, vinegar, sugar and salt to boil then pour over the onions. Use a fork to make sure all the onion is submerged.
  • Let them cool before sealing and storing in the fridge. They’ll be ready to eat after about 30 minutes of soaking. 
  • Store the sealed jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.