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Pickled Onions

February 27, 2024

Quick-pickled in a bath of seasoned vinegar, these tart pickled red onions add a punch of flavor to just about anything! Add them to salads, sandwiches, tacos, burgers—they make any meal even better.


homemade pickled onions in a bowl

Our Best Quick-Pickled Red Onion Recipe Is Ready in Just One Hour

How do you make pickled onions from scratch? We’re betting it’s a lot easier and faster than you’d imagine! Quick pickles are just that—quick! They last and last in the fridge and they’re the ideal addition to so many meals. Add them to sandwiches, top salads with pickled onions, tacos of course and the list goes on and on. A light, pink-ish hue also means that these slightly crisp, powerfully tart quick pickled red onions are the perfect way to dress up a cheese plate—they’re a nice pop of color and bring the ideal contrast to all that cheesy richness.

white vinegar, red onions, bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, salt and sugar
boiling water being poured over red onions in a strainer

Which Vinegar Is Best for Pickling?

For this classic pickled red onion recipe, we wanted to keep things really simple and let the pickling spices do the talking. That means that we’re calling for the absolute most straightforward vinegar—distilled white vinegar! It is as neutral as can be, while packing the most serious tangy vinegar punch of all! We like that it doesn’t impart any flavor of its own (other than tartness) and so it lets the flavor of the red onion come through.

brine for pickled onions with cinnamon, bay leaf, cloves, garlic and white vinegar
quick pickled onions in a jar

Our Very Favorite Blend of Pickling Spices

Red onions have their own beautiful sharpness, and distilled white vinegar—plus a little salt and sugar—alone would be enough to pickle them if you really want the most simple, basic quick-pickled red onions ever. But we like to add a few seasonings to lift and add some complexity to these irresistible pickles. Once you’ve got the hang of the pickling process, you could certainly play around with the herbs and spices that flavor the pickles, but our favorite combo is this simple foursome:

  • Whole cloves

  • Fresh garlic

  • Bay leaf

  • Cinnamon sticks

homemade pickled red onions in a jar

How to Pickle Red Onions

Making pickled onions from scratch is such a handy thing to know, and it’s easy to learn. Once you’ve got the hang of our recipe, we’re certain you’ll be making it all the time from memory—it really is so basic. And after a week or so of having pickled onions in the fridge at all times, well, you’ll find that you’re spoiled! You’ll be making them on the regular and adding them to everything because they’re just so snackable and fabulous. Here’s how to make quick-pickled onions:

  1. Make the brine: stir together the vinegar, cloves, garlic, sugar, salt, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick in a glass jar until the sugar dissolves.

  2. Prep the onions: place the sliced red onions in a mesh strainer and slowly pour boiling water over the onions.

  3. Onions, meet brine: use tongs to move the hot onions to the brine. Gently press the onions down to fully submerge.

  4. Cool! Pop a lid on the jar and put it in the fridge for at least one hour before eating.

homemade pickled red onions in a jar with bay leaf, cinnamon
pickled onion recipe in a bowl with tongs

Uses for Pickled Onions

We really do use these on everything, and we also just snack on them on their own (but we’re real pickle lovers). They dress up almost anything and there’s no wrong way to use them. Here are a few ideas for serving, just to get you started:

Tools You’ll Need

homemade pickled onions in a bowl

You Can Pickle That!

You can pickle that red onion! No really, you can do it! It’s crazy easy to do! And when you make this pickled red onion recipe, we want to hear about it! Tell us how easy it was, and what you’ve been eating them on—we always love to hear of new ways to use them and you’re all full of great ideas. Bring it on! Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

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Pickled Onions

  • Serves: 12
  • Yields: 2 cups
  • Prep Time:  10 min


  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 cups boiling water


  1. In a 1-quart glass jar, stir together the vinegar, cloves, garlic, sugar, salt, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick until the sugar dissolves.

  2. Place the onion slices in a mesh strainer set over the sink. Slowly pour the boiling water over the onions. Using tongs, immediately transfer the hot onions to the vinegar mixture. Gently press the onions down to fully submerge.

  3. Seal the jar and let the onions pickle, refrigerated, for at least 1 hour before using, preferably overnight. Store refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories7
  • Protein0 g
  • Carbohydrates2 g
  • Total Fat0 g
  • Dietary Fiber0 g
  • Cholesterol0 mg
  • sodium99 mg
  • Total Sugars1 g

Pickled Onions

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • David

    How long does the brine keep in anticipation of future pickling? How long do the pickled onions keep (refrigerated)?

    You can store the pickled onions for up to 3 weeks in the fridge. We don't recommend making the brine until you are ready to pickle. Hope you enjoy David!

  • jan

    Would stevia work instead of sugar? Also could 1/2 the salt be used with similar results?

    We haven't tried either of these substitutions.

  • Anna

    I know you have another pickled veggies recipe, but I'm wondering if I could do the same thing with this recipe, but with carrots instead? Maybe when I'm done with the onions in the jar, or at the same time?!

    Hi Anna, sure! Should work fine with carrots. Let us know how it goes!

  • Jenn

    Love these! I make them on the regular and especially love them on burgers and salads.

    Thank you Jenn, this is so great to hear!