How to Make Pickled Red Onions

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How to make pickled red onions, it's EASY! Thinly sliced red onions pickled in vinegar with spices.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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.

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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 pound 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 the onions: Blanch red onions in a saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain in colander.

2 Boil vinegar with sugar and spices: 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

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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38 Comments / Reviews

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  1. Dawn

    Just made this recipe. I had a healthy but wrinkled jalapeño in the fridge, so I sliced that into thin rings and added it. I also added some caraway seeds (German twist, and Germans love pickled onions), some celery seeds and kosher salt. Just a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of each. Great pickles thank you! They will be adorning our salads, tacos and burgers for a while!


  2. Kathleen

    Why are the onions blanched? Doesn’t it take some of the color out? I don’t blanch them, and they have a very intense color. And they are quite sweet without sugar.

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  3. Eric

    Great guidance here! I have also done it with whole turmeric and Italian herbs. Is the sugar really necessary? Perhaps for for fermentation? I haven’t used it yet and it’s still delicious.

    Show Replies (1)
  4. Val Atkinson

    Oh, I always think I know better… so I used 50:50 balsamic and white this time. Turned out a bit too heavy! Best to go with all white vinegar, although I seem to remember using red wine vinegar last time with good results? The original recipe is a definite winner!!
    We put them on homemade pizza (with pesto sauce). I’m making some tonight and looking forward to it.


  5. Max Schoenholtz

    This sounds delicious! I recently made refrigerator bread-&-butter pickles, and this is now going into my arsenal!

    If I want to use garlic and mustard seeds, how much of each should I try?

    Show Replies (1)
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Pickled Red OnionsHow to Make Pickled Red Onions