Quick pickled onions are one of the best make-ahead items to keep in your fridge. Not only are they a cinch to make, but once you have a jar on hand, you’ll find you use them on almost everything. They’re naturally a great topping for tacos, but you can use them for so much more than that: pizza, sandwiches, burgers, salads, bowls, you name it.
Quick pickled onions can be used liberally, because the pickling brine takes out the harsh bite that a raw onion has. So, don’t be shy about piling them on! The hit of acid is one of the most surefire ways to liven up a dish - much like fresh lemon juice, capers or vinegar would do. And trust us: when you have pretty pink onions on hand, that’s going to seem like the best route of them all.
You can enjoy your quick pickled onions almost immediately after making them. Just be sure to let them sit in the brine for 30-45 minutes first, to soften. If you’re cooking up a dish that’ll use them, just make the pickled onions first, and let them sit out on the counter as you cook. By the time your meal is ready, so will the quick pickled onions. Otherwise, if you don’t need them right away, pop the jar in the fridge and let them sit for longer. They’ll be even better the next day!
At home, we love spice, so we usually add a couple sliced jalapeno peppers to the brine as well. It gives you a bit more bang for your buck, since you can squeeze it all into the same batch of brining liquid. The brine also works with other veggies as well, so feel free to use what you have on hand. Red onions will dye the brine pink, so if you don’t want any color transfer, double the brine and store other veggies in a separate jar.
Easy Quick Pickled Onions
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced (see note 1)
- 1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, sliced (optional)
- ⅓ cup water (more if needed)
- 2 tablespoons cane sugar (or granulated sugar)
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¾ cup apple cider vinegar
- Fill heatproof jar: Put onion and jalapenos (if using) into a 1 liter mason jar.
- Heat brine: Add water, sugar, and salt to a small pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Add apple cider vinegar.
- Combine: Pour vinegar mixture into the jar. Use a spoon or fork to pack onions down until fully submerged. (If you need more liquid, top it up with just enough water until covered). Cover and let sit on the counter to cool (about 30 minutes), then transfer to the fridge (see note 2).
- Sliced red onions: The thinner the slices of onion, the faster they'll pickle. If you have a mandolin, use it. Otherwise, just slice the onion as thinly as possible.
- How to know when pickled red onions are ready to eat: Pickled red onions are best eaten when softened and light pink. The marinating time varies based on how thin/thick the slices are. If thinly sliced on a mandolin, you can enjoy quick pickled red onions in as little as 30 minutes. But they'll get tastier as they sit.
- Storage tip: Keep refrigerated, and enjoy within a couple weeks.