How to Make Pickled Red Onions

CondimentHow ToOnionPickle

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.

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 25 Comments / Reviews

  • Colleen

    Hi Elise,
    I am new to pickling. Do you have to put the jars in boiling water with every recipe? Or are there pickling recipes that don’t call for it?

  • Sarah

    Hi Elise! I’ve been using your site forever and have had great success with your recipes for many years. Thank you! Two questions… would a distilled vinegar be ok for this recipe or would you recommend something nicer like a white wine vinegar? Also, how long should we wait before eating to maximize deliciousness? I imagine we should wait a few days at least.

  • Ian

    Looks great, I’ll try this tomorrow. I have a question: what is the purpose of blanching the onions? My guess is that it cuts out the bite of the onions while also making it easier for the brine to penetrate. Also, can I skip that step or is it necessary?

  • 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.

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Pickled Red OnionsHow to Make Pickled Red Onions