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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Step 3: Pack your sliced onions, chili peppers, and peppercorns into a jar.
Step 4: Carefully pour the hot pickling liquid over the top.
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!
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.
Other recipes you might enjoy:
Spicy Pickled Onions
- 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.
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