How to Make Pickled Onions, Because They Taste Good on Everything

How to Make Pickled Onions, Because They Taste Good on Everything

A pop of acidity goes a long way in any savory dish—a squirt of lemon over grilled salmon, lime on steak tacos, capers in chicken piccata. But our favorite way to fill that brine-thirsty hole in our heart? Pickled red onions. They’re delicious, easy to prepare and instantly make any plate look prettier and more gourmet. Plus, they’re hot pink. We have to stan. Here’s how to make pickled onions at home (and don’t worry, it’s actually pretty easy).

How to Make Pickled Onions

When we say pickled onions, we think of the beloved red variety first. A few hours in brine transforms them into neon rings of crunchy, acidic splendor. We love them on gyros, burgers, salads and honestly, straight out of the jar. But these aren’t the only pickled onions you can find at the supermarket. Pickled pearl onions, aka cocktail onions, are also popular and great for kabobs, antipasto trays, stews and yes, your gin Gibson or vodka martini.

Red onions, which taste mild and sweet raw, turn tangy, refreshing and crisp after being pickled. Pearl onions, which are soft and tiny, are sweet when eaten fresh. But post-pickling, they turn briny and bring mellow umami to the plate.

While this simple pickling recipe is *technically* for red onions, it’s general enough that you can use it on tons of other veggies. Think radishes, carrots, jalapeños and, of course, cucumbers. You can also use pretty much any pale vinegar—rice, white wine, you name it. Just know that it’ll change the intensity of your brine. (For instance, white vinegar will be pretty strong, so you may need to add more water.) Then again, if you’re all about the pucker, you may prefer these with less water in the brine, or no water at all.

There are also lots of alternative sweeteners to consider, like maple syrup or honey, not to mention flavor enhancers like garlic, peppercorns, dill or coriander. It really comes down to personal preference and is super customizable, which makes this recipe even more awesome. Your overall brine should be somewhere close to the ratio of 2/3 vinegar and 1/3 water no matter how you tweak it. Just don’t skimp too much on the vinegar; that’s what preserves the veggies and makes them nice and acidic. Whatever recipe you decide on, use a heat-safe glass jar.

Ingredients

  • 1 large red onion
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons salt

Step 1: Peel the onion. Slice it thinly into strips or rings.

Step 2: Add the water, vinegar, salt and sugar to a saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Stir for about 2 minutes while it simmers. Once the salt and sugar are dissolved, turn off the heat and let it cool.

Step 3: Tightly pack the onions into the jar. Add any additional flavoring ingredients to the jar. Pour the mixture over the onions and stir to make sure they’re all submerged. Close the jar and shake to fully combine.

Step 4: Let the mixture sit for at least one hour before storing in the refrigerator for two to three weeks.

How to Quick-Pickle Onions

Leaving your DIY veggies in the brine for a few hours will maximize their flavor, but you can still make and eat these in the same hour if you don’t have time to let them marinate. To get red onions from cutting board to mason jar in minutes, follow this quick-pickling recipe that will hit the spot in a pinch. If you don’t have a jar, a heat-safe bowl works too.

When the onions are dumped in the hot brine pot, they get soft and tender more quickly. If you prefer them extra crunchy, feel free to pour the brine over the onions instead so they’re closer to raw when you eat them.

Use the same ingredients with these speedy adjustments:

Step 1: Peel the onion. Slice it thinly into strips or rings.

Step 2: Add the water, vinegar, salt and sugar to a saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Add the onion and any additional flavoring. Stir for about 2 minutes while it simmers. Once the salt and sugar are dissolved, turn off the heat and let it cool.

Step 3: Pour the onion mixture into the jar. Tightly pack the onions and make sure they’re all submerged. Close the jar and shake to fully combine.

Step 4: Let them marinate for as long as you can, whether that’s 15 minutes or 1 hour.