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Easy Quick Pickled Red Onions

If you’ve harvested a bumper crop of red onions and you aren’t sure what to do with them, no need to despair, that’s where quick pickled red onions come into play. They take mere minutes to make and can delight your taste buds for several weeks.

Then you can easily start another batch when the pickled red onions are all gone. You can even start another jarful before you run out. It all depends on how much you love them.

Just to change the topic for one quick second. I love pickles just as much as anyone, but I have to tell you that I never ate a raw clove of garlic until I was 23 years old. And I have to rave about Tracey’s quick pickled garlic – it is truly amazing. My younger self would’ve definitely questioned so many garlic cloves in one jar, but now, bring it on.

Back to the topic of onions.

I liked onions as a child, so long as they were breaded, or finely chopped as a hamburger topping.

They were also an essential ingredient in my mom’s taco meat, but until I became a homesteader, I never gave much thought to canning or quick pickling vegetables.

If you are stuck somewhere between those two worlds (a carefree childhood and becoming a responsible homesteader/homemaker), let me share an easy recipe with you. A quick pickled red onion recipe with only five ingredients that will have you eating your onions in no time at all.

What’s the Difference Between Quick Pickled Onions and Canned Pickled Onions?

It goes like this. Homemade fridge pickles have been gaining popularity in recent years, simply because they are so easy to make. They cater to the overworked caretaker of the home and family, by making good food affordable and efficient to make. Plus, they taste pretty darn nice.

But, quick pickled onions have a much shorter shelf life (2-3 weeks) and they must be stored in the refrigerator.

In the world of preserving food, you can’t have it all.

If you have a lot of onions to preserve, consider making canned pickled onions as well. This way they will last up to a year on your unrefrigerated shelf.

So long as you have a sharp knife, an empty jar and some fresh ingredients, there’s nothing that could stop you from making your best ever jar of pickled red onions.

The Best Onions for Quick Pickling

If you want to go the fancy route, pearl onions make the best appearance in a jar.

Unless you’ve grown them yourself, your chances of finding them at the market or store, are pretty slim. Or maybe you’ll get lucky and find a bag just waiting for you. In that case, do a pinch test to be sure they are still firm and healthy.

When pearl onions aren’t anywhere to be found, regular bulb onions will get the job done nicely.

The thing you want to watch out for, is that you slice them thinly. And use those smaller bulbs. It’s a great way to use up the less developed onions from your garden. Save those largest onions for winter storage.

More importantly, make pickled red onions with the freshest onions you can find. Best is straight from the garden, or from a farmers market. Store-bought onions are also good, but again, be sure they are sufficiently heavy in your hand with no blemishes, mold or mushy spots. One bad onion will spoil the whole jar and you’ll have to start over again. You’ll know a rotten onion the moment you smell it.

How To Cut Onions Without Crying

I usually leave the onion chopping to my husband if it’s more than one bulb that needs taken care of at a time. He doesn’t seem to mind the tear-inducing chemicals called syn-propanethial-S-oxide, that make most of us weep. Not even my glasses can protect me from that. Let’s not even mention horseradish here. That’s a real tearjerker.

How to not cry while cutting onions?

Well, top chefs may have a secret up their sleeves. They always use an extra-sharp knife, and you should too. Dull knives tend to smash, rather than slice, which has the potential to damage the onions’ cells. The end result is more tear inducing compounds being released into the air.

Another tip is to chill your onions first. Cut them in half and place them in a bowl in the fridge for thirty minutes or so before chopping. You could also try putting them in a bowl of ice water to inhibit the potential tears.

This takes some extra work and I’m not convinced it’s worth it, but it’s definitely worth a try if you are sensitive.

Otherwise, you can skip the trials and head straight to the chopping, tears and all. Just think of it as part of the process.

5-Ingredient Quick Pickled Red Onions

This recipe makes a standard pint jar of pickled red onions. Adjust the ingredients to more or less, depending on how many onions you have on hand.

If you are making a larger batch for a picnic, party or barbecue, use several pint-sized jars for the convenience of fitting them in the fridge. Or opt for a large jar which is easy to serve from.


  • one large red onion or two to three small onions, sliced very thinly
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, or a 50:50 mix of ACV and distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1-2 tablespoons natural sweetener (honey, maple syrup, organic cane sugar, etc.)
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • spices (add a couple slices of jalapeño peppers, a pinch of red pepper flakes, crushed whole peppercorns, thinly sliced garlic, dill, mustard seeds or any of your favorite pickling spices, fresh or dry, from the garden)


  • sterilized jars, as many as you are going to fill
  • the sharpest knife you have
  • saucepan
  • stirring spoon
  • ladle


  1. Cut the onions. Using a sharp knife or mandoline, slice the onions about 1/8-inch thin. This will help them to soften up quicker. If you’d like a crunchier pickle, slice them a bit thicker. After cutting, pack the onions in jars.
  2. Make the brine. Pour vinegar, water, salt and sweetener in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until it reaches a simmer.
  3. Cover onions with brine. Carefully ladle hot brine over the onions, tighten the lid and shake them until they are coated. Remove lid and allow the jars to come to room temperature. Use the back of a spoon to remove any air bubbles.
  4. Marinate. Refrigerate jars of pickled red onions for a least an hour before serving. Best consumed within three days, though they will keep for 2-3 weeks in the fridge.

How Can I Use Up A Peck of Pickled Red Onions?

With so many mouthwatering ways to use up a jar of pickled red onions, you’ll be right back to making a new jar of the same thing, the second you get a chance.

Try topping the following dishes with pickled red onions for an extra flavorful bite:

  • Scrambled eggs
  • Breakfast sandwiches
  • Huevos rancheros
  • Hamburgers, hot dogs and brats
  • Paninis
  • Tacos
  • Burritos
  • Enchiladas
  • Nachos
  • Refried beans
  • Rice dishes
  • Potato salads
  • BBQ’d meats
  • Fresh green salads
  • Curries
  • Pizza and more

The bottom of the jar is the limit.

Quick pickled onions are also a fantastic way to lift your leftovers to new heights.

As long as you have a love for onions, you’ll keep coming back to this recipe time and time again.

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Cheryl Magyar

Well, hello, szia and bună ziua!

My name is Cheryl Magyar and I am a homesteader, organic no-dig gardener and preserver of fruits, vegetables, herbs and life in general. I'm also a forager and a rewilder, rewilding myself and our land in Breb, Romania, along with my husband and our teenage daughter.

Since 2001 I have been living a simple life, going on 15+ years without running water inside our home, heating with firewood cut with a two-wo/man crosscut saw and enjoying the quiet solitude of the countryside where haystacks outnumber the people.

What you wouldn't guess about me, is that I was born and raised in a suburb of Chicago. If I can do this, you can too! It's a life you get to choose, so choose wisely. Because I know you're curious, I've spent 8 years homesteading (raising mangalica pigs, goats and ducks) and gardening on our tanya in Ópusztaszer, Hungary. This lifestyle is going on 8 years in Romania. I wouldn't change it for the world.

To discover more about me, and about us:

you can follow on Instagram
read into our website at Forest Creek Meadows
stop by for a visit and/or a (re)workshop
or shop our growing Etsy store Earth Gratitude Studio

Hope to see you around!