How to Make Pickled Red Onions

I keep on making things that when I think about it, would be enhanced with some pickled red onions. Bean soup, liverwurst, salmon, and especially hot dogs and hamburgers would all be terrific with some pickled onions on the side.

All you really need to make pickled red onions is some sliced red onion, vinegar and sugar. There’s lots of leeway with the spices and herbs used.

For this batch I used cinnamon, cloves, star anise, bay leaf and red pepper flakes. You could easily thrown in some ginger, swap out the chile flakes for some cumin, or allspice for the cloves.

Pickled Red Onions

How to Make Pickled Red Onions

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 1 1/2 pints


  • 1 lb red onions (about 2 med or 1 large), thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar


  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 star anise
  • Dash red pepper flakes

More spices (optional): Fresh ginger slices, allspice berries, oregano, garlic, cumin seeds, mustard seeds


1 Blanch red onions in a saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain in colander.

2 While the water is heating in step 1, in a separate saucepan combine the vinegar, sugar and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

3 Add blanched, drained onions to the vinegar mixture. Simmer for 1 minute.

4 Transfer to a glass jar. Allow to stand until cooled. Will keep several weeks refrigerated.

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Pickled Red Onions

Showing 4 of 31 Comments

  • Karolina

    Wonderful recipe!!! I made a red onion tart a while ago and I’ve just fallen in love with the mixture of red onions, vinegar (I used balsamic one), and sugar.

  • Pille

    I love the pink colour, and would like to try this recipe, Elise! However, could you please tell me what’s the strength of the white vinegar in the US? We cannot buy it here in Estonia (we use a 30% vinegar that must be diluted, or then wine vinegars), and I want to be sure I mix the right strength for the brine..

  • Rachel

    This is similar to a Vietnamese version of pickled red onions which is served with hot beef noodle soup. (Pho)

    You cut onions into large square chunks and soak in white vinegar for a couple of hours. I think there is a bit of white sugar added, but I can’t remember!

    This condiment is served alongside the soup, dipped in a mixture of hoisin sauce and Shark brand hot sauce.

  • Julie

    My mother would love this, I think onions are her favorite food she even eats onion sandwiches.

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