I’m here to tell you about the easiest homemade condiment YOU NEED to keep in your fridge at all times. I love vinegar, and I love fermentation. But I’ll be damned if anyone can convince me that any other pickled ingredient is as versatile and flavor-boosting as these simple ol’ Quick & Easy Red Onion Pickles.
People, I can tell you without shame that I love all things pickled. Sure, I love me a good dill spear. Hit me with sauerkraut on that sausage. Kimchi is one of my favorite workhorses in the kitchen. Pickled soft-boiled eggs? Yes, please. Well, these pickled red onions are are just one more item in the long list of briny, flavorful things I love.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
Red onion pickles are a kitchen powerhouse. They add flavor, color, and crunch to anything they touch. I literally get mad if I don’t have them on hand. They go on or in just about anything I make, from chili to sandwiches, burgers to brats, quesadillas to tacos, grain bowls to savory oatmeal, shrimp and grits to salads.
These quick pickled red onions are a key component on my Harissa Roasted Carrot Salad and my Mediterranean Chicken Tostadas. They go beautifully on my Sesame Peanut Noodle Bowls. You'd honestly be hard-pressed to find a savory dish that they don't elevate.
They’re briny, spicy, and somehow a bit sweet (thanks to rice vinegar). They’re crunchy, and they have a gorgeous purple hue. They take less than 5 minutes to make, and they’ll keep in your fridge for weeks at a time (though, if you’re like me, that will never happen).
In short, they are glorious. Go ahead and do yourself a favor by making these red onion pickles right this very second. I promise you won’t regret it.
Ingredients & Substitutions
These quick and easy red onion pickles require just a handful of ingredients and a few minutes of your time to make. Here's what you'll need:
- Red Onion - Technically speaking, you can make onion pickles out of any kind of onion, but the red ones are my favorite. They're beautiful on the plate, and their flavor is my personal favorite for eating raw. Feel free to swap in whatever you've got on hand.
- Kosher Salt - Kosher salt is the gold standard in most restaurant kitchens because the larger flakes make it easier to season without oversalting. If you are using table salt or fine sea salt, be sure to adjust your pinches accordingly.
- Black Peppercorns - Whole black peppercorns are tiny little flavor explosions. Just a few are enough to flavor your whole jar of red onion pickles.
- Allspice Berries - Allspice has a flavor that is reminiscent of a mix of other warming spices like cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. If you don't have any on hand, don't worry about it. If you do, a little will go a long, nuanced way.
- Fresh Chili - Joe and I love spicy things, pickles included. Feel free to omit this ingredient if heat isn't part of your food love language. Any type of chili will work here - jalapeño, serrano, habanero... it all just depends on how spicy you want to get.
- Garlic - Everybody likes to play with their family, alliums included. Fresh garlic cloves give these red onion pickles a pungent boost of almost spicy flavor.
- Bay Leaves - The fresh menthol scent of dried bay leaves tempers after a bit of time in the vinegar, giving the onion pickles a subtle infusion of tea-like flavor.
- Granulated Sugar - You don't need a bunch of sweet here, just enough to balance out the acidic tang of vinegar. Feel free to swap in your favorite sweetener – maple syrup, agave, brown sugar, jaggery, or coconut sugar will all do the trick.
- Rice Wine Vinegar - I love the light, floral, borderline sweet flavor of rice wine vinegar for my pickled red onions. Feel free to swap in red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar if you prefer, though you may want to increase the sugar content just a smidge.
How to Make Red Onion Pickles
Making red onion pickles is a snap; it only takes 5 minutes of active time! Here's how it's done:
Step 1: Slice Onions. Thinly slice 1 large red onion and place in an appropriately sized mason jar or delitainer. Be sure to slice the onion vertically – the texture and flavor is far superior to onions sliced horizontally, as kitchen science guru J. Kenji Lopez-Alt explains.
Step 2: Add Flavors. Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt, cover and shake. Let rest while you assemble other ingredients. You should see the onions begin to sweat a bit.
Add in black peppercorns, allspice berries, dried chili, garlic, bay leaves, and granulated sugar.
Step 3: Add Vinegar. Cover onion slices with rice wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar works here too, as will plain white vinegar, but add in an extra ½ teaspoon or so of sugar to compensate for the extra acidity.)
Step 4: Mix & Wait. Cover, shake a few times to disperse the flavorings and pop in your fridge for at least two hours for the flavors to develop.
Step 5: Enjoy! These delightfully fast and easy red onion pickles will pep up any meal you add them to, so go nuts!
I feel a bit like Ron Swanson with his bacon and eggs when I talk about these red onion pickles. I am not lying or exaggerating when I say they make just about EVERY savory dish taste better. Here are a few ways I love to use them:
- In sandwiches, pitas, or wraps
- On tacos or in quesadillas or burritos
- On burgers, hot dogs, or any other grilled items
- In salads, grain bowls, or my BBQ Chicken & Sweet Potato bowls
- With tuna salad or deli meat on a Wasa cracker
- On chili or chowder
- With eggs like a scramble, omelette, or huevos rancheros
Honestly, you'd be hard pressed to find any savory meal that these delicious purple beauties don't play nicely with!
Did you come up with a genius way to use these red onion pickles? Let me know in the comments below or tag me in your social media posts so I can cheer you on!
Frequently Asked Questions
If you're anything like me, not long at all! All jokes aside, though, they should easily last for a month if stored in the fridge.
Sure! As your stash inevitably becomes depleted (because you’re gonna want these puppies on EVERYTHING), you can very easily replenish your stores by pouring out your brining liquid and pulling out whatever onions you have left. Simply slice another onion, put it in the jar and sprinkle with salt. Cover and shake, then let rest 2-3 minutes. Add your remaining pickled onions on top (because FIFO), then pour the brining liquid back in. If your onions aren’t covered, simply add a bit more vinegar to the jar to cover them up. Voila!
You can either dump it, or feel free to use it to make a simple oniony vinaigrette. For the vinaigrette, I suggest using roughly 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil plus a smidge of mustard to help emulsify.
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Pickled Red Onions
- Thinly slice 1 large red onion and place in an appropriately sized mason jar or delitainer.
- Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt, cover and shake. Let rest while you assemble other ingredients.
- Add in black peppercorn, allspice berries, dried chili, garlic, bay leaves, ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
- Cover onion slices with rice wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar works here too, as will plain white vinegar, but to make up for some of the sweetness add in an extra ½ teaspoon of sugar if you do)
- Cover, shake a few times to disperse the flavorings and pop in your fridge.