Customizable Quick Pickled Red Onions

by | Jan 25, 2024

These quick pickled red onions recipe is perfect for adding a zesty kick to your meals. Featuring a blend of red onions (diced or sliced) and apple cider vinegar. They’re customizable too–use any sweetener of your choice like honey or a sugar substitute!

Top view of a jar filled with diced pickled red onions, with a spoonful beside it and a half-sliced red onion

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Why you’ll love it

At first glance, pickled onions might seem like just another condiment, but oh, how they transform a dish! Think: sweet + tangy! Their vibrant color and tangy flavor can really turn an ordinary meal into extraordinary.

Whether it’s jazzing up a simple sandwich or salad, these pickled onions always add amazing flavor. 

Quick pickled onions vs traditional pickled onions

Both methods can really shine, but in our opinion–quick pickled onions make the most sense for those with a busy schedule. Let’s talk about the main differences.

  • Time and Taste: The biggest difference lies in the time they take to pickle and the taste. Our quick pickled onions can be prepped in a matter of minutes and are ready overnight. They have a bright, tangy flavor. Traditional pickled onions, on the other hand, require several weeks to mature and have a more mellow taste.
  • Prep Method: Quick pickling involves a simple mix of vinegar, water, and flavorings heated together. Traditional pickling can include fermentation or a more complex canning process. Here’s a guide to traditional pickling!

Are pickled onions healthy?

Onions are packed with antioxidants and compounds like “quercetin” (a plant pigment and flavonoid) that research shows may help reduce inflammation.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is also a popular kitchen staple. It can be used in salad dressings, smoothies, and soups. Some research shows a modest amount of ACV may help improve fasting blood sugar levels and HbA1c levels in individuals with diabetes. But honestly, research is pretty limited here to fully support these potential benefits.

Ingredients on white counter

What ingredients do you need?

  • Red Onion: These bulbs are best when fresh and firm. You can find them in the produce section. You can use either 1 full small red onion or half of a large one.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Aim to purchase one with “the mother” which will have a weird looking cloudy substance in the bottle. Don’t worry – this indicates beneficial bacteria at work, which is great for gut health.
  • Sweetener of Your Choice: Whether it’s traditional sugar or a better-for-you alternative like monk fruit or honey, each brings a unique touch and flavor.

How to cut red onions?

For this recipe you can either dice or slice onions. We prefer using our veggie chopper and dicing them in small pieces.

If you are chopping them yourself, here’s how to do it. It may be helpful to watch this video on how to cut them too.

  • Slice: First, you’re going to cut the onion in half. Then, place the onion half face down and chop off both ends of the onion – the root and the top. Next up, peel off that outer layer. Then, make thin, even slices along the onion ridges to create half moon slices.
  • Dice: First, you’re going to cut the onion in half. Then, place the onion half face down and cut off just one end of the onion this time. Peel off the outer layer. Make vertical slices down the ridges, but here’s the key – don’t slice all the way through the root end; it holds everything together. Then, turn your knife to make opposite cuts down toward the root. Voila! You’ve got beautifully diced onion.

Need more hands-on help with your knife skills? In our “Coaching + Cooking” program, we teach these foundational skills 1:1!

How to make quick pickled red onions

  1. Prep: Start by dicing or slicing the onion. Follow the instructions above if you need help.
  2. Mix and Heat: Combine the water, vinegar, salt, peppercorns, and sweetener. Heat this mixture until everything dissolves. You can do this on the stove but we prefer microwaving to save time.
  3. Jar It Up: Place the onions in a mason jar and pour over the hot vinegar mix, ensuring the onions are fully submerged for even pickling.
  4. Cool and Store: Let it cool to room temperature, then add over the jar lid and refrigerate. Overnight you’ll start to see the liquid color change and the flavors will infuse.

Using quick pickled red onions

I always like to keep pickled red onions in the fridge for an instant flavor booster. Here’s some ways to use them:

A mason jar showcasing vibrant pickled red onions diced into small pieces, with a copper spoon and a raw red onion

Recipe tips and tricks

  • Troubleshooting Tips: If your onions aren’t fully submerged, add a bit more water. The key is to keep them covered in the pickling liquid.
  • Scaling Tips: This recipe is super scalable. Feel free to double the ingredients–this should also fit fine in a 16-ounce wide-mouth mason jar.

Customize it your way

Like all of my other recipes, this pickled onion is completely customizable. You get to choose what sweetener ingredients you want to use. 

Sweetener of your choice: Feel free to use a traditional granulated option or a liquid sweetener. Options like honey or maple syrup add a unique flavor, while sugar alternatives keep it lower calorie and lower sugar.

Homemade quick pickled red onions in a glass jar with tan lid

Can you make these pickled onions ahead of time?

Absolutely! In fact, pickled onions should ideally sit for about 30 minutes or longer before they’re ready to eat. Feel free to make them a few days in advance, and watch how their flavor and color evolves.

How long can I store pickled onions?

You can store quick pickled red onions in the jar for up to a month in the fridge. I like to label and date when I made them so I know when it’s time to finish them up or toss them.

After a month, the texture will usually be much softer and not as desirable. If you notice any type of off smell or mold growing, be sure to discard the pickled onions.

Red onions before and after sitting

Can you pickle white onions?

Absolutely! White onions can be pickled using the same method. They offer a sharper, less sweet flavor. Just know, they won’t have that beautiful pink hue like the pickled red onions.

Need more help with recipes for your busy schedule?

In my coaching + cooking program, I help busy people with beginner cooking knowledge become confident in the kitchen so that they can enjoy nourishing foods they love and stress less about mealtime. Click here to learn more about this virtual program led by a dietitian.

Quick Pickled Red Onions 7

Quick Pickled Red Onions

Mackenzie Burgess, RDN
This quick pickled red onion recipe is perfect for adding a zesty kick to your meals. Customizable too–use any sweetener of your choice like honey or a sugar substitute!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 7 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Servings 1 cup
Calories 20 kcal


  • 1 small red onion or 1/2 large red onion, diced or sliced (yields about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon sweetener of your choice (white sugar, monk fruit, honey, maple syrup, sugar alternative)


  • Prep your red onion by either dicing or slicing, depending on your preference.
  • In a 2-cup glass liquid measuring cup, mix together water, apple cider vinegar, salt, peppercorns, and sweetener.
  • Heat the mixture in the microwave on high for about 2-3 minutes or until it starts to simmer and the sweetener and salt dissolve. Be careful when removing the bowl from the microwave as it will be hot.
  • Place the onions in a 16 ounce wide-mouth mason jar. Carefully pour the hot vinegar mixture over the onions, ensuring they are completely submerged. You can gently press the onions down if necessary.
  • Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, seal the jar with its lid.
  • Store the pickled onions in the refrigerator and let sit for at least 30 minutes before eating. Store extras in the fridge for up to 1 month.


Cutting Onions: New to cutting onions? Read this guide OR watch this video to dicing or slicing your onions. This is also a skill I teach in my Coaching + Cooking program that’s 1:1 with myself, a culinary dietitian!


Serving: 8servingsCalories: 20kcalCarbohydrates: 3g
Tried this recipe?Tag us @cheerfulchoices and let us know how it was!

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Hi, I'm Mackenzie...

nice to meet you!

I’m a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and recipe developer. I create simple recipes with customizable ingredients “of your choice.” I also help busy people gain kitchen confidence through my hands-on program.

Need more hands-on help?

In my coaching + cooking program, I help busy people with beginner cooking knowledge become confident in the kitchen. Click here to learn more about this virtual program with a dietitian!

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