Quick Pickled Onions are the ultimate topping, garnish, secret ingredient, and kitchen staple. They add a zesty finish to any dish the way a favorite accessory can instantly elevate an outfit. This is a 1-2-3 recipe you can make the week before, the night before, or an hour ahead.
Pickled Onions - Texture, Flavor, and Color
Pickled red onion slices have an addicting texture—tender, with a fresh crunchy bite. They are juicy with brine, adding bright acidity, subtle sweetness, and a brilliant splash of color to any dish. Pickled onions will add a flavor burst to anything from burgers to biryanis, daals, tacos, sandwiches, wraps, and salads. That deep magenta pink looks so pretty on the plate!
Do you like traditional Indian pickles? Do try Mom's Mango Pickle Recipe.
Why we love Quick Pickles
✔️ A healthy and delicious way to add more veggies to your diet
✔️ Simple and clean recipe. We like knowing what's in our food and what isn’t–there are no chemical preservatives, additives, or dyes
✔️ The added benefit of vinegar in the diet: vinegar is known to help regulate blood sugar and curb cravings
✔️ So quick and easy to make, unlike the traditional canning method which requires specific techniques and equipment
✔️ Brighten up any dish with a burst of flavor and stunning pink color
✔️ Take toppings to the next level
✔️ Guests are always impressed by homemade pickles and they look so fancy stocked in your fridge
✔️ They make a great snack
Pantry Friendly Recipe
Only a few pantry staples are needed for this recipe to make multiple batches and the ingredients themselves are inexpensive. Once you try these pickled onions, you’ll never want to go without them! While I wouldn’t recommend using leftover brine to make a new batch, you can use it where you would regular vinegar. Keep it refrigerated and try using it the next time you make a vinaigrette for salad! And if you love homemade pickles do try my Pickled Jalapeño Recipe!
- Red Onion - Red onion naturally adds a gorgeous magenta color to the pickles. In India, beets are also added for color but find the red onions available in US grocery stores to be just perfect for this recipe.
- Vinegar - White vinegar brings out the beautiful magenta color of the onions but you can also use apple cider vinegar if you like
- Spices - coriander seeds and black peppercorn add a hint of warm flavor to the pickles without overpowering the taste.
- Sugar and Salt- I highly recommend using Kosher salt for pickling as does not contain iodine. It is pure salt without any chemicals or anti-caking ingredients. sugar is optional but I highly recommend it to balance and enhance the tangy flavors
How to Make Pickled Onions
- Start by making the quick brine. Add water, vinegar, sugar, and salt to a small saucepan along with the whole spices and cook just until the sugar dissolves.
- Next, thinly slice onions and place them in a glass mason jar
- Pour the brine over the onions and allow it to come to room temperature before refrigerating
- Once the pickles are at room temperature close the jar and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
What to Serve With
These crunchy-tangy pickled onions can be paired with SO many dishes. Here are some ideas:
Indian Dishes: Butter Chicken, Paneer Butter Masala, Tandoori Chicken, Roasted Tandoori Cauliflower, Tandoori Salmon, Dal Makhani, or Biryani
Tacos: Chicken Tinga Tacos, Roasted Cauliflower Tacos, or Blackened Fish Tacos
Burgers: Masala Chickpea Burgers, Spicy Salmon Burgers, Black Bean Sweet Potato Burgers, Chicken Masala Burgers
Wraps and Sandwiches: Spicy Tofu Wraps, Tandoori Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Pulled Butter Chicken Sandwich, Paneer Kathi Rolls, Chicken Kathi Rolls, or Bombay Sandwich
This is the most unfussy recipe with the biggest payoff. Simply make the brine, slice the onions, add to a jar, cool, close, and refrigerate. Using a mandoline to slice the onions makes this process even faster! There’s no need to pre-boil the onions and there is no canning involved. Quick pickles are ready to enjoy in an hour and can last for up to 3 weeks in the fridge.
Storing Pickled Onions
Store the pickled onions refrigerated in an airtight glass jar for 2 to 3 weeks.
Using a mandolin helps ensure the onion slices are thin and consistent in size. I find it makes the slicing very fast and easy. Remember to always use the slicing guard that comes with the mandolin to protect your fingers. If you don't have a mandolin, simply cut the peeled red onion in half and proceed to slice lengthwise into thin half-moons. This is a very forgiving recipe so don't sweat it!
Glass Jars are the way to go! They can handle the hot brine, do not stain, and do not permanently absorb the flavors or odors of the contents.
While I wouldn’t recommend using leftover brine to make a new batch as it will not have the same level of acidity, you can use it wherever you would use regular vinegar. Try it the next time you make a vinaigrette for salad!
Picking salt is often used for canning and pickling recipes. I like to use Kosher salt, as I always have it in my kitchen. Just like pickling salt, kosher salt does not have additives or anticaking agents that help make the brine clear. You can also use sea salt or pickling salt if you have it. Since Kosher salt is less salty you need more of it, the good ratio is 1 teaspoon sea salt to 1.25 teaspoon kosher salt.
- 1 large red onion
- Add the brine ingredients to a small saucepan and cook just until the sugar dissolves
- Thinly slice red onion using a mandolin
- Add the onions to a glass jar
- Pour the brine over sliced onions
- Cool to room temperature. Then close and refrigerate the jar for an hour before serving. Store the pickled onions refrigerated in an airtight glass jar for 2 to 3 weeks.