Quick pickled red onions pair with any food that comes off the grill or smoker.
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Quick Pickled Red Onions

Just about any dish can be elevated with some Pickled Red Onions. Their tangy, zesty bite adds a burst of flavor that not only tastes delicious but works to enhance the other flavors of the meal itself. Quick and simple to prepare, these are always in our fridge and pair with anything that comes off the grill.

Quick pickled red onions are simple to make, prepared by simply warming up a brine and pouring it over the sliced red onions and aromatics. Mix and match the flavors with different ingredients to make spicy pickled red onions, or throw in garlic and herbs to change it up.

Pair these with a jar of Chipotle Salsa or Fire Roasted Santa Maria Salsa to make the best tacos!

Use pickled red onions to spice up your grilled meats, tacos, or sandwiches.

How to Make Pickled Red Onions

To make these quick pickled onions, you’ll need 5 foundational ingredients: red onions, water, vinegar, sugar, and salt.

There are quite a few variations and combinations with the flavors, from swapping out (or combining) different types of vinegar and sugars to adding aromatics such as garlic or peppercorns.

Step 1: Slice the Red Onions

Remove the top of the onion and the skin. Use a sharp chef’s knife or mandoline slicer (pictured below) to cut the red onion into thin slices. There are a few options here to consider.

  • Thick or thinner slices. Slicing them thicker will create slightly crispier onions, and also provide a more prominent onion flavor.
  • Onion rings, or halves. The red onion can be sliced in half, and then cut into slices (see below) or you can simply cut the onion into rings. Consider how you’ll use them, and how much onion flavor you’re seeking.
Cut the red onion in half, and then use a mandoline to slice it thin.

Step 2: Prepare the Brine

This simple recipe doesn’t need many ingredients to add a punch of flavor. Here are the measurements for this quick brine, which works for 1 single red onion:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt

Warm the brine by adding all of the ingredients to a small pan on the stove, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Take it off the heat and allow it to cool to a lukewarm temperature. Using a slightly warm temperature is what creates the quick pickle.

Do You Want Crispier Pickled Red Onions?

There are a couple of things to change if you’re going for crispy pickled red onions. Just realize, it’s not nearly as quick!

First, you’ll want to use a cold brine, instead of this quick pickling warm brine. Dissolve the salt and sugar with the liquids and then pour the brine over the onions. The red onions will need much more time to brine, but because of the lack of heat, they will remain crispier.

Slicing the red onions thicker will also aid with a crispier pickle. Refer to the section above for advice and options on how to slice them.

Pour the lukewarm pickle brine over the sliced red onions and aromatics.

Step 3: Add the Brine

Pour in the lukewarm brine over the sliced red onions and allow them to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

The warm brine will slightly soften the onions while quickly pickling them, injecting all of that flavor right inside. Colors with transform over a few minutes, turning the red onions into a bright pink and purple jar. Transfer them to the fridge after about 30 minutes.

How Long Do Quick Pickled Onions Last?

They will stay fresh when stored in the fridge for 2-3 weeks, lasting longer if they are sliced thicker. You’ll find they are crispier during the first week, and start to soften after that.

These quick pickled onions are ready in 30 minutes.

Variations for Flavor

Swap out the base ingredients or add aromatics. The combinations are endless. Here are some of our recommendations to get your started:

VINEGARS. Experiment with different kinds of vinegar to customize the depth of the brine, adding different levels of tang or sweetness. White vinegar is a clean slate, so I’d recommend swapping out a little bit at a time until you find the best balance.

  • Apple cider vinegar is the most common, which is used commonly in a 50/50 blend with white vinegar. This adds a nice fruity tangy.
  • Balsamic vinegar creates a fruity, smoky profile that pairs well with meat. Use a few teaspoons with the white vinegar and you’ll notice the boost of flavor quickly.

AROMATICS. Brine the red onions with a variety of spices, herbs, and chiles to completely transform the flavors.

  • Peppercorns have many varieties, including pink peppercorns and even Szechuan. They pair very well with a variety of dried chiles.
  • Chile de Arbol is quite common, adding a nice boost of heat without completely overwhelming the flavors. Fresh habanero sliced very thin is one of my favorites, adding heat and fruity flavor.
  • Garlic and herbs give a savory, pungent flavor to the pickled red onions which pairs well with grilled foods.
These pickled red onions take a few minutes to prepare using a warm brine.

How to Use Pickled Red Onions

There are so many delicious ways to use these, it’s hard to decide! Here are some recommendations to get you started:

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Quick pickled red onions pair with any food that comes off the grill or smoker.

Quick Pickled Red Onions

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Just about any dish can be elevated with some Pickled Red Onions. Their tangy, zesty bite adds a burst of flavor that not only tastes delicious but works to enhance the other flavors of the meal itself. Quick and simple to prepare, these are always in our fridge and pair with anything that comes off the grill.

  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: About 2 cups 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

Instructions

  1. Slice the onion. Using a sharp knife, slice off the top and remove the skin. Cut the onion in half, and then cut thin slices. You may also use a mandoline slicer to speed up the process and create consistent slices.
  2. Warm up the brine. Add the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a small saucepot over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar in the warm brine and remove from the heat, cooling to a lukewarm temperature.
  3. Pour the brine over the onions. Add the peppercorns, oregano, and red onion slices to a glass mason jar. Add the brine to the jar, making sure that everything is submerged. If there’s not quite enough brine, you can add a few tablespoons of water. Allow the onions to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  4. Store the onions in the fridge. They will be ready to eat after 30 minutes and will last in the fridge for 2-3 weeks depending on how thick they were sliced.

Notes

  • Make sure the brine has cooled to a lukewarm temperature, do not pour boiling or hot water over the onions. They get still pickle but will lose their crunch.
  • Slice the onions thicker if you want them to have more crunch.
  • Experiment with different spices and kinds of vinegar to change the flavor profile.
  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Sauces & Salsas
  • Method: Pickling
  • Cuisine: Condiment
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