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Easy Refrigerator Pickled Onions

These Easy Refrigerator Pickled Onions are quick to make and add a tasty, zingy, colorful crunch to burgers, sandwiches, salads, tacos, and lots more!

Vibrantly pink and flavored with vinegar, garlic, black peppercorns, sugar, and salt, they’ll keep in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks. But I bet they’ll be gone long before that because they’re irresistibly delicious!

I know lots of you out there love pickles because my refrigerator garlic and dill pickles, pickled carrots and pickled beets are some of the most popular recipes here on the blog.

So today I’m sharing another one of my favorites…homemade pickled red onions!

As with my other refrigerator pickle recipes, these onions are fast and super simple to make since there’s no canning involved. If you’re new to the pickled veggies game, this is a great recipe to get started with.

All you need are a few basic pantry items and about 10 minutes of hands-on prep time to slice the onions and garlic and make the pickling liquid. Then you just let them sit for a bit while the brine does the rest of the work!

You can enjoy them in as soon as an hour. Or you can put them in the refrigerator for several hours to allow the flavor and color to develop even more (highly recommended if you’re not in a hurry).

I add these pickled onions to any dish where I want some of that crisp, vinegary and oniony deliciousness.

But you know what? I also enjoy them straight-up as a snack. Yep, a forkful or two right out of the jar (garlic included) is awesome!

These quick pickled onions are so good that you’ll want to keep a batch of these on hand at all times. Give them a try and see for yourself!

sliced red onions, garlic and peppercorns in a mason jar with brine being poured into the jar from a pot

Ingredients You Need

  • Red onion
  • Garlic (optional)
  • Water
  • White Distilled Vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Peppercorns (optional)

Note: Ingredient amounts are in the recipe card at the end of the post.

Special Equipment Needed

  • One pint-sized glass jar with a tight-fitting lid (I use a wide-mouth mason jar)

How to Make Easy Refrigerator Pickled Red Onions

  1. Peel and thinly slice the onion (about ⅛ inch thick); separate the slices.
  2. Peel and thinly slice the garlic clove (I slice it thinner than the onions).
  3. Pack half of the onions into a clean pint-sized glass jar and add half of the garlic and peppercorns. Then pack the rest of the onions into the jar and top with the remaining garlic and peppercorns.
  4. Place the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar and salt have dissolved completely.
  5. Pour as much of the hot brine into the jar as is needed to completely cover the onions.
  6. Put the lid on the jar and give it a gentle shake to remove any air bubbles and evenly distribute the brine.
  7. Cool to room temperature, about 45 to 60 minutes.
  8. You can enjoy your pickled onions immediately or…
  9. Put them in the refrigerator until ready to serve. The flavor and color will continue to develop as they sit in the fridge.
3 numbered images, number 1 is of sliced red onions on a cutting board with a knife, number 2 is of garlic slices on a cutting board with a knife, and number 2 is of a mason jar filled with sliced red onions, sliced garlic and peppercorns
3 numbered images, number 4 is of pickling brine simmering in a pot on the stove, number 5 is of the brine being poured into the jar of onions, and number 6 is of a hand holding the jar of onions with a lid on it
3 numbered images, number 7 is of a jar of onions and brine with a lid on it, number 8 is of the finished pickled onions in the jar with a fork lifting out some of the onins, and number 9 is of a refrigerator

Note: This is just a brief overview of the steps. For the full printable recipe with ingredient amounts and detailed instructions, scroll down to the recipe card at the end of the post.

Recipe Tips & Tidbits

  • I love the extra flavor added by the garlic and peppercorns, but you could omit one or both of them if you prefer.
  • Be sure to pack those onions into the jar well so that they all fit. I always think I’m not going to have enough room, but I do by packing them down.
  • You can add more sugar to the brine if you want a little more sweetness to offset the vinegary bite.
  • You can heat the brine in the microwave instead of on the stove in a microwave-safe bowl or container.
  • The brine needs to completely cover the onions and garlic. If you tightly pack the onions into the jar, the amount made with this recipe should be plenty (you may even have a little left over). If you’re a little short for some reason, top off the jar with some extra vinegar or water.
  • The onions will be pickled enough to eat as soon as they cool down to room temperature. However, I think they are even better if you put them in the fridge for several hours after they cool to allow the flavor and color to develop further.
  • You can easily scale this recipe up or down depending on the quantity you want to make.
  • Friendly reminder: This recipe is for refrigerator pickled onions only and should not be used for canning.
close-up of pickled red onions in a mason jar

Substitutions & Variations

  • Although they’re usually made with red onions (I think that’s probably because of the pretty pink color), you can use any type of onion to make pickled onions, such as yellow, white, sweet onions like Vidalia or Walla Walla, or even shallots.
  • I use good-old white distilled vinegar because I always have a big jug of it on hand. It’s inexpensive and perfect for pickling. You could try others, such as apple cider vinegar, red or white wine vinegar, rice or rice wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, etc. Skip the balsamic, though, because of the dark color.
  • Pure maple syrup or honey could be used instead of sugar. I use maple syrup often and love it.
  • If you like heat, add some crushed red pepper flakes or some sliced jalapenos or other hot peppers.
  • You can add other spices like whole mustard seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, or cumin seeds. You can also add fresh herbs like bay leaf, dill, thyme, oregano, or rosemary.

How to Store Refrigerator Pickled Onions

  • Store your homemade pickled onions in the refrigerator in the same glass jar or container you made them in or another airtight container. They should last for up to 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Freezing is not recommended, as the texture of the onions will significantly change (they’ll become very mushy).
a mason jar filled with pickled red onions with a forkful of onions being lifted out

What to Serve With Easy Refrigerator Pickled Onions

There are lots of options for what to serve with pickled onions. Basically, you can pair them with anything that you think they would complement. Here are some of my favorite ideas:

  • Mexican foods of all kind: tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and more
  • Sandwiches and wraps
  • Burgers
  • Hot dogs
  • Buddha/grain bowls
  • Pizza
  • Salads (green or tossed salads, pasta salads, potato salads)
  • Chili
  • Deviled eggs (either in the filling or as a garnish on top)
  • Avocado toast (I love this one; I top the mashed avocado with chopped or sliced hard-boiled egg, salt, pepper, and some pickled onions. And thanks to my sister for sharing this yummy idea with me!)

I hope you try this Easy Refrigerator Pickled Onions recipe and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

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More Refrigerator Pickle Recipes to Try

If you make this recipe, I’d love to know how it went! Please leave a comment and star rating below. Thanks!

pickled red onions in a mason jar

Easy Refrigerator Pickled Onions

These Easy Refrigerator Pickled Onions are quick to make and add a tasty, zingy, colorful crunch to burgers, sandwiches, salads, tacos, and lots more!
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Author: Michelle / Now Cook This!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Cooling Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 8 (about ½ cup each; recipe makes about 2 cups total)
Estimated Calories: 26

Ingredients

  • 1 large red onion, about 12 to 13 ounces
  • 1 clove garlic, optional
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, optional
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup white distilled vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, I use kosher salt

Special Equipment

  • One pint-sized glass jar with a tight-fitting lid (I use a wide-mouth mason jar)

Instructions

  • Peel and thinly slice the red onion (about ⅛-inch thick slices); separate the slices.
    To slice my onion, I first cut it in half from top to bottom. Then I lay each half flat on my cutting board and make thin slices vertically from top to bottom (with the grain of the onion). You can slice the onion any way you prefer.
  • Peel and thinly slice the garlic clove (I slice mine thinner than the onions).
  • Tightly pack half of the sliced onions into a clean pint-sized glass jar; top with half of the sliced garlic and half of the peppercorns.
  • Tightly pack the second half of the sliced onions into the jar; top with the remaining sliced garlic and peppercorns. The onion mixture should be almost to the top of the jar.
  • Place the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat (I use a 1-quart saucepan); bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar and salt completely dissolve.
    Alternately, you can heat the brine in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl or container.
  • Pour as much of the hot brine into the jar as is needed to completely cover the onion mixture (you may have a little brine left over).
    If needed, gently press down the onion mixture with a spoon so everything is submerged.
  • Put the lid on the jar and give it a gentle shake to release any air bubbles and evenly distribute the brine.
  • Allow to cool to room temperature, about 45 to 60 minutes.
  • You can enjoy your pickled onions immediately, or you can put them in the refrigerator until ready to serve (the flavor and color will continue to develop; I think they taste even better after several hours in the fridge).

Notes

  • Although red onions are most often used for pickling, you can use white or yellow onions as well.
  • You can also use other types of vinegar (such as apple cider vinegar, red or white wine vinegar, rice or rice wine vinegar, etc.) or a combination of vinegars. 
  • Pure maple syrup or honey can be used in place of sugar.
  • Keep pickled onions stored in the refrigerator in the lidded jar you made them in (or another airtight container). They should last for up to 2 to 3 weeks.
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