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How to Make Quick Pickled Onions (and Five Creative Uses for Them)

Fresh onions and sliced pickled onions in a bail-top jar, sitting on a counter.
Barbro Bergfeldt/Shutterstock

Imagine a condiment that adds tang to salads, zing to sandwiches, and takes less than five minutes to make. Who wouldn’t want some? Here’s why quick pickled onions should take up permanent residence in your fridge.

Most condiments are store-bought. Few of us take the time to make our own mayonnaise, even less would attempt ketchup or BBQ sauce, and when it comes to canning olives or jarring pickles, some tools and a bit of culinary expertise are in order.

Pickled onions, though, are a condiment of a different sort. They take less than five minutes of hands-on time, they last for weeks in the fridge, and they add a pop of bright color and flavor to every dish. Whether they are tucked in a brisket sandwich or thrown over a classic Greek salad, they’re sure to become one of your favorite toppings.

How to Make Quick Pickled Onions

Making them is simple. Grab a wide-mouth jar with a lid. Once you have that, thinly slice one red onion, either using a sharp knife or a mandolin. Put the sliced onion in the jar and cover with the following mixture:

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Let the jar sit at room temperature for two hours. After that, they’re ready to use. They can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Five Out-Of-The-Box Ways to Use Them

A halloumi burger with lettuce, tomato, pickled red onion and beet sprouts.
Barbro Bergfeldt/Shutterstock

Now that you have them made, the question becomes what to do with them. Although, maybe a better question would be what not to do with pickled onions. They work well with most dishes. Keep them off your ice cream, but if the plate is savory, we suggest liberal use. Of course, if you lack ideas, we’ve put together a few above-average applications below.

On Your Scramble

A less obvious use for pickled onions is on eggs. The richness of scrambled eggs pairs beautifully with the punch of pickled onions. Don’t stop there. Throw those scrambled eggs in a tortilla, then add the pickled onions on top. You’ll have breakfast tacos that everyone wants a bite of.

Epic Toast and Loaded Bagels

Whether it be avocado toast or a bagel and lox, pickled red onions are an essential topping. Their peppy flavor cuts through the buttery richness found in ingredients like smoked salmon, while adding a bright pop of pink to the plate.

Tangy Salad Dressings

Pickled onions deserve a place on salads of any type. Don’t limit yourself, though. The vinegar that the onions have been marinating in will make an excellent base for your next salad dressing as well. For any dressing, we recommend one part oil to three parts vinegar but feel free to adjust that to your taste.

An Inspired Bloody Mary

Yes, you can throw a few pickled onions on top of your bloody mary, but we’ll do you one better. Use the onion’s pickling juice as a new Bloody Mary add-in. Just a dash or two in each cocktail will take a typical tomato-based beverage to a whole new level. Serve these with the breakfast tacos we mentioned above, and you just created a Sunday brunch we’re dying to attend.

Over a Stir Fry

The tang of pickled onions enhances beef, chicken, or pork stir-fries of any nature. The vinegar kick that these onions provide plays well with Asian flavors. Just add them right before serving, and enjoy!

These fuschia flavor boosters will make your sandwiches sing, your salads pop, and your stir-fries sizzle. They’re easy to make and easy to use. Whether you’re hooked on the way they complement eggs, or you just love the way their pink hue contrasts an avocado, we’re sure they’ll be a staple in your kitchen soon!

Lauren Sakiyama Lauren Sakiyama
Lauren Sakiyama is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry. She has managed restaurants, country clubs, and large-scale event operations, but her passion has always been about the food. Read Full Bio »
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