Pickled Red Onions

Got red onions? We can pickle that! This recipe for pickled onions uses a blend of red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, mustard seed and more to create a sweet, crunchy condiment reminiscent of bread and butter pickles.

a glass jar filled with pickled onions sits on a stainless steel counter, some onions are lifted out with a fork

Taste and Texture

At first bite, you taste the acidic sweetness of the red wine and apple cider vinegars. The onions retain their crisp, and a little more flavor releases from the onions with each crunch. The ground cloves, allspice, mustard seed and red pepper flakes add a warm subtle spice, which lingers and builds on the tongue.


This recipe uses two vinegars: red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Both have a sweet, tangy, acidic flavor profile. Red wine vinegar has a robust, fruity flavor with a subtle hint of red wine. Apple cider vinegar is milder, with sweet, tangy and fruity apple undertones. Both are commonly used in pickling.

This recipe doesn’t contain any water – this is intentional. Red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar are sweeter and have less of a bite than distilled white vinegar. Since this recipe uses a combination of the two, I don’t dilute the pickling brine, which enhances the flavor and ensures these onions can still be considered a quick pickle recipe.

I also intentionally omit salt from this recipe; these onions are sweet and spicy: no salt needed. And because these are refrigerator pickled onions, and meant to be consumed quickly, stored up to 3 weeks, canning salt isn’t necessary.

The pickling spices I use in this recipe are mustard seed, red pepper flakes, allspice, ground cloves and ground turmeric.

Mustard seeds are commonly used in pickled onion recipes and add a spicy kick of flavor in addition to having preservative properties that help the onions retain their crunchiness. Red pepper flakes add some extra heat.

Allspice combines elements similar to cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to add a warm depth to the pickling brine. I add some ground cloves to bring out more of that warmth.

In pickling recipes, turmeric is used mainly for its yellow color, but it also has a mild earthy flavor and antimicrobial properties that help with preservation (with the main preservative in this recipe being vinegar, of course).

red onions and brine in a mason jar on a stainless steel counter

Making pickled onions

Thin slices

The fresher the onions, the crisper your pickled onions will be. Opt for firm onions with smooth outer layers.

When cutting the onion, aim for a thin slice – around 1/8″. You can do this with either a sharp chef’s knife or mandoline. Thinner slices allows the brine to penetrate the onion faster.

Boil the brine

Boiling the brine serves a few purposes in this recipe.

Boiling helps to dissolve the sugar – this ensures that it is evenly distributed throughout the liquid, allowing for more consistent flavoring of the pickled onions.

This recipe includes spices and aromatics such as mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, allspice, cloves and turmeric. Boiling the brine and then adding these ingredients helps to extract their flavors more effectively, thereby enriching the overall taste of the pickling liquid.

Hot brine can penetrate the onions more effectively than cold brine. This can be beneficial in softening and allowing the brine to infuse them more deeply and quickly.

Vent the room

The vinegars smell really strong as they boil. Use a fan, open some windows, or use your stovetop vent to help air out the room.

Storing and using

This recipe fits a pint (16 oz) mason jar, but can easily be doubled or tripled. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Please note: This is a “refrigerator pickle” recipe – do not use the water bath method for canning, as it hasn’t been tested in that manner and I cannot verify its safety.

Ways to Use Pickled Red Onions

  • Tacos and Burritos: Pickled red onions are a classic topping for tacos and burritos, providing a sharp contrast to the rich and savory flavors of the meat and beans.
  • Sandwiches and Burgers: Add them to your sandwiches or burgers for an extra tang and crunch. They work especially well with pulled pork, roast beef, and turkey sandwiches.
  • Salads: Their acidity and crunchiness can add a nice balance to leafy green salads, grain salads, or pasta salads.
  • Pizzas: Scatter a handful of pickled red onions on top of your pizza before baking for a tangy twist.
  • Grilled or Roasted Meats: Pickled red onions can cut through the richness of grilled or roasted meats, adding a nice balance of flavor.
  • Avocado Toast: Top your avocado toast with a few pickled red onions for a tangy contrast to the creamy avocado.
  • Cheese Boards: They can provide a tart contrast to rich, creamy cheeses on a cheese board.
  • Fish Dishes: Use them as a garnish for fish dishes, such as grilled salmon or fish tacos.

Tools you’ll need

two clear mason jars with lids against a white backdrop
two wide mouth clear mason jars with lids against a white backdrop
a black saucepan with a clear lid against a white backdrop
two stainless steel tongs, one 9 inches long and another 12 inches long

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until next time. x

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red onions and brine in a mason jar on a stainless steel counter

Pickled Red Onions

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This recipe for pickled onions uses a blend of red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, mustard seed and more to create a sweet, crunchy condiment reminiscent of bread and butter pickles.

  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 pint 1x


  • 1 medium red onion, sliced into 1/8” half moons
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves (or 2 whole cloves)
  • 1/8 tsp ground turmeric


  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar and granulated sugar to a boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Remove from heat
  3. Stir in the mustard seed, red pepper flakes, allspice, cloves and turmeric. 
  4. Add the sliced onions and stir gently to coat.
  5. Cool to room temperature, then transfer to a 1 pint (16 oz) mason jar or other food-safe, airtight container that can handle acidic foods.
  6. Ready to eat when chilled thoroughly. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.*


*Refrigerator pickled red onions, which are quick-pickled in vinegar and stored in the fridge without a full canning process, should ideally be consumed within three weeks for optimal flavor and texture. However, they may still be safe to eat for up to 1-2 months, as long as they’ve been kept refrigerated and there’s no signs of spoilage such as a foul smell, change in texture, or mold.

  • Author: Cori (Sarah) Dyer
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Category: Condiment
  • Method: Stove
  • Diet: Vegan

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