Spicy Pickled Onions

These quick pickled red onions are the best way to add a punch of flavour to burgers, tacos, salads, and more. I love making homemade spicy pickled onions. It takes only a handful of ingredients, a few minutes of hands-on time, and is an easy low sugar recipe you’ll make again and again. 

a jar of pickled red onions on a grey surface with red onions in the background

Friends, let me ask you a question? Do onions make you cry?

Because let me tell you, these spicy pickled onions will make you weep with joy.

Weep. With. Joy.

They will take your burger topping game to the next level. They’ll make your tacos punch you in the mouth with flavour.  Meal prep bowls? Yup. They want spicy pickled onions up in them too.

But let’s back up a bit… why pickle onions?

Unless you hand me a Walla Walla onion, which is so sweet and delicious you can eat it like a dang apple, I am 100% not into raw onions. I will pick them out of my salads, gingerly remove them from my burgers, and say a polite but firm no thank you when asked if I’d like onions in my sandwich.

But pickling your onions mellows them out. It removes that sharp bite, takes away that B.O. smell that red onions have (I know you know what I mean) and softens them into delectable little onion strings that I will pile onto everything and anything I can think of.

And since these are quick pickled red onions, you can whip ’em up the same day as you need them and they’ll be ready in under an hour.

That’s right, under an hour.

three red onions, vinegar, a red chili pepper, sugar, black pepper, and salt on a grey background

Do you need any special equipment to make spicy pickled onions?


You’ll need something to put the onions in, like a jar (I used these wide-mouthed mason jars for the pickling process) or a bowl. You’ll need a pot to heat up the pickling liquid, and you’ll need a sharp knife (this is my favourite knife) or mandoline to slice the onions with.

And you’ll need something to store the quick pickled red onions in when they’re done. I use these Weck jars to keep them in the fridge.

What ingredients do you need for spicy pickled onions?

The ingredients list is short and sweet, and I’m willing to bet it’s mostly stuff you keep in your pantry anyways. You’ll need to grab some:

  • Onions –> I use red onions because they’re beautiful and delicious.
  • Chili pepper –> Use a lot or a little!
  • Vinegar –> I used apple cider vinegar, but we’ll discuss vinegar options below.
  • Water –> From the tap is just fine.
  • Sugar –> Yes, you really need this. We’ll discuss alternative sweetener options below.
  • Salt and pepper –> I use whole black peppercorns because they’re great pickled too!

photo collage with sliced red onions and a pan of vinegar and sugar

How do you make quick pickled onions?

The process is simple. Let’s walk through it together!

Step 1: Put on your onion goggles and slice your onions nice and thin. The thinner you slice them the quicker they’ll be pickled, but please watch your fingers and slice very carefully!

While you’re slicing, slice up your chili pepper nice and thin as well. You may or may not want to remove the seeds, depending on how spicy your pepper is.

Step 2: Combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a small sauce pan and gently heat until the sugar is dissolved.

photo collage of sliced red onions in a mason jar and vinegar being poured into the jar

Step 3: Pack your sliced onions, chili peppers, and peppercorns into a jar.

Step 4: Carefully pour the hot pickling liquid over the top.

photo collage of a mason jar with pickled onions and a glass holding the onions below the liquid

Step 5: Pack the onions down so they’re fully submerged under the liquid.

I find that adding another glass to keep the onions down is helpful, although this isn’t strictly necessary.

Step 6: Set the onions aside and wait at least 30 minutes for them to pickle.

That’s it! You’re done!

overhead photo of a jar of spicy pickled onions on a grey surface with red onions, chili pepper, and black peppercorns

How long do quick pickled onions last for?

Kept in the fridge in a covered container, they will last indefinitely. As in, forever.

But I’m confident you’ll go through them much sooner than the end of time.

Note: It’s best to keep enough liquid in the container to cover the onions to ensure they keep well.

Can I use a different kind of vinegar?

You sure can. I used apple cider vinegar here because I like the flavour, but you can use regular white distilled vinegar or white wine vinegar instead if you like.

I do not recommend using balsamic vinegar (white or red) or red wine vinegar.

Do I need to use the sugar?

You need to use some sort of sweetener to balance out the acid in the vinegar, otherwise your spicy pickled onions will taste gross and vinegary.

We’re only using a very small amount of sugar compared to many pickled onion recipes, but if you’d prefer to use another sweetener you can use honey or maple syrup instead.

No time to wait for pickling?

Make them anyways so you’ve got them ready for next time, and then try these Crispy Fried Onions in the meantime.

a jar of spicy pickled onions on a grey surface with red onions, peppercorns, and a chili pepper in the background

Other recipes you might enjoy:

Quick Pickled Red Cabbage
Chickpea Fries
Crispy Potato Wedges
Baked Zucchini Fries
Roasted Cauliflower Hummus Bowls

a jar of pickled red onions on a grey surface with red onions in the background
Print Pin
4.89 from 9 votes

Spicy Pickled Onions

These quick pickled red onions are the best way to add a punch of flavour to burgers, tacos, salads, and more. I love making homemade spicy pickled onions. It takes only a handful of ingredients, a few minutes of hands-on time, and is an easy low sugar recipe you'll make again and again.
Course condiment
Cuisine American
Keyword pickled onions, quick pickled
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 23kcal
Author Katie Trant


  • 2 cups red onion thinly sliced
  • 1/2 medium red chili thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt


  • Thinly slice your red onions using a sharp knife or mandoline. Thinly slice the chili pepper.
  • Pack 2 cups thinly sliced red onion, 1/2 - 1 a thinly sliced chili pepper, and 2 tsp of black peppercorns into a wide-mouthed mason jar.
  • In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 tsp sea salt, and 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  • Heat the vinegar mixture over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  • Carefully pour the hot vinegar mixture over the onions.
  • Press the onions down using a glass so they are fully submerged.
  • Set aside on the counter top to cool for 30-60 minutes.
  • Transfer the pickled onions and liquid into a container with a lid and keep in the fridge.


  • Nutrition values are an estimate only and is based on 12 servings.
  • Pickled red onion will last indefinitely in your fridge in an airtight container so long as the onion is submerged in liquid. 


Calories: 23kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 51mg | Potassium: 62mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 20IU | Vitamin C: 4.7mg | Calcium: 9mg | Iron: 0.2mg
Quick Pickled Red Cabbage
Quick and easy quick pickled red cabbage. Perfect as a side dish or topping on salads, bowls, tacos, and more! 
Check out this recipe
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    • Katie Trant says

      The trick is slicing them super thin and then using a smaller glass or something to keep them submerged. They’re not meant to be swimming in liquid, just touched by it.

  1. J says

    I cooked(?) these tonight too, and they’ve turned out lovely.

    I’ve just realised I didn’t add the salt though. Is it too late/should I add it now?

  2. alice k mynett says

    Same star rating AGAIN! I can’t stop making these tasty zingers! Going to Bowen Island this week for a day of Bridge with good friends. This is my contribution to the lunch – it will go with ANYTHING. So good! and the recipe always turns out – never fails!

  3. Anna says

    I’ve made pickled onions tons of times before, but this recipe is by far the most delicious — love the extra little zing that the red chili gives to the taste!

  4. alice k mynett says

    We have a busy week of company, so I’ve just made these tasty onions. It was SO EASY. I can’t wait to include them in my next grilled cheese sandwich! Easy, tasty and fast – my kind of condiment! Thanks, Katie.

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