A PWWB Fridge Staple – The Ultimate Flavor Bomb
If you peeked into my fridge at any given moment, I can almost guarantee that you’d spot a jar of these quick pickled red onions. I like to call them the ultimate flavor bomb because they add so much flavor, brightness, & the perfect pop of color to just about any meal.
While there are lots of ways to pickle onions, this recipe is by far the quickest & easiest I’ve come across. More than anything else, the method was born out of laziness on a day when boiling water for pickled red onions just felt like too much (who doesn’t love a good lazy girl recipe?!). The secret? The pickling solution is made with warm water, liquid sweetener (maple syrup FTW!), & just a little bit of salt, so no boiling water is necessary.
These Quick AF Quick Pickled Red Onions are the kind of thing I like to toss together on Sunday night or when I do my mise en place meal prep for the week. They take just 5 minutes of active prep, & they’re ready & waiting in my fridge by the time I want to use them during the week.
Hot pink food is the best food, I swear. ♡ Read on to learn more about these Quick AF Quick Pickled Red Onions, or jump straight to the recipe & get prepping!
Ingredients for Easy Pickled Onions:
Other than taking no time at all to whip up a batch, the best part about these quick & easy homemade pickled onions is the fact that you only need 5 simple ingredients to make them. A major bonus? They’re all pantry staples that you probably already have on hand!
You will need…
- Red onion – Raw red onions are pungent & a little bit spicy, but once they’re pickled they take on a delicious tangy bite. (& that gorgeous pop of neon pink doesn’t hurt, either!)
- Pure maple syrup – My go-to vegan sweetener! Just a little bit adds the perfect amount of sweetness to contrast the zippiness of the vinegar.
- Kosher salt – Remember osmosis? A little bit of salt helps draw out the onion’s natural moisture & replaces it with the flavorful pickling liquid.
- Rice vinegar – Its naturally mild & sweet flavor creates just the right amount of zippiness!
- Hot water – Helps the pickling solution come together & accelerates the pickling process. No stovetop or boiling required!
Tips for the best quick pickled red onions:
The best onions ⇢ Look for a healthy & firm red onion. If you’d like you can use another type of onion, you certainly can. Other types of onions will give a slightly different flavor profile (ie. white, sweet or pearl onions).
Best vinegar to use ⇢ You can use any number of vinegars to make quick pickled red onions, I love the mild flavor of rice vinegar. This rice vinegar is my favorite; I always have a bottle or two in my pantry!
Best sweetener to use ⇢ Rather than using a granulated sweetener, I like to use liquid sweetener to add just the right amount of sweetness to offset the bite of the vinegar. Pure maple syrup is forever my go-to, but honey & agave both work just as well.
How to Make Quick Homemade Pickled Red Onions:
These quick pickled red onions take less than 5 minutes to prep, & they couldn’t be any easier to throw together!
Here’s what you’ll do…
- Thinly slice your red onion. Slice the red onion into half moons or circular. Both work perfectly, as long as you make sure they are very thinly sliced. Why ⇢ The thinner you slice the onions, the faster they will pickle! Do it by hand or (carefully!) break out your mandolin for a more uniform slice.
- Mix up the vinegar solution. Simply combine the remaining ingredients to prep the vinegar pickling solution. Why ⇢ By simply using hot tap water, you can completely bypass any boiling that many pickled onion recipes require. Whisk to dissolve the salt & ensure everything is thoroughly mixed & your pickling solution is ready to go.
- Combine the onions & pickling solution. Pour the pickling mixture over the onions to completely submerge the onion in the liquid.
- Store & enjoy! Let the onions pickle for 2-4 hours until they develop their bright pink, jewel-toned color. Top ’em on your favorite dishes & enjoy!
Make-ahead: Since this recipe only requires a quick 5 minutes of prep, it’s the perfect recipe to make ahead of time. They are such an easy mise en place meal prep bonus & &you can enjoy them all week long with any of your weeknight meals!
- Make them herby ⇢ Add dill, fresh rosemary, or whatever fresh herbs you have on hand directly to the pickling solution to change up the flavors a bit.
- For a peppery kick ⇢ Add 1 heaping teaspoon of whole black peppercorns to the pickling liquid for a punch of peppery flavor.
- Include garlic ⇢ Throw in a few cloves of smashed garlic to the vinegar solution for a hint of garlicky goodness.
- Add some heat ⇢ Take things up a notch by adding thinly sliced jalapenos for a kick of heat!
How to use your Quick Pickled Onions:
Once you have a jar of quick pickled onions in your fridge, it’s not difficult to find an excuse to toss them on top of all of your favorite dishes!
A few of my favorite ways to use these easy pickled red onions:
- Added to your favorite tacos, burritos, & enchiladas. Pickled onions are especially good with Mexican or Tex-Mex inspired dishes – Chorizo Sweet Potato Tacos, Crispy Chicken Carnitas, Black Bean Quinoa Tacos, & so on. Make a batch for your next Taco Tuesday!
- On top of a leafy green salad, hummus or grain bowl. One of my favorite uses for these Quick AF Pickled Red Onions is to sprinkle them on top of a Mediterranean-inspired dishes (ahem, Sheet-Pan Veggie Shawarma or Chicken Shawarma Hummus Bowls!). You can also sub them for raw diced red onion in any of your favorite salad recipes (like this Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad or this Grilled Panzanella Salad) for a slightly tangy variation – yum!
- As a burger or sandwich topper. Once grilling season rolls around, I love topping burgers & sausages with quick pickled red onions. They add just the right amount of zest to any type of burger – our classic House Burgers, plant-based Black Bean Burgers, or juicy Turkey Burgers!
Add these Quick AF Quick Pickled Onions to your meal prep list ASAP…future you will be so grateful! If you do give them a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations!Print
These easy pickled onions are completely no-cook, made with 5 simple ingredients, & prepped in just 5-minutes of active time. Quick pickled red onions add the perfect amount of tangy zip to just about anything (& their neon pink pop of color is a fun bonus!). Naturally dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, & vegetarian.
- 1 medium red onion, peeled & thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup (or agave, or honey)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar (or another mild vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar)
- 1/2 cup hot water
- Prep: Peel & very thinly slice the red onion. The more thinly you slice the onion, the quicker they’ll pickle. Transfer to a small bowl, jar, or airtight container & set aside.
- Whisk together the pickling liquid: Add the syrup, kosher salt, vinegar, & water to a liquid measuring cup or small bowl. Whisk to combine, dissolving the salt into the pickling liquid.
- Make the quick pickled onions: Pour the pickling liquid over the prepared onions from Step 1. Use a fork, as needed, to mix & submerge all the onions in the liquid. Transfer to the refrigerator & allow the onions to pickle for 2-4 hours until they develop their bright pink, jewel-toned color. Garnish your favorite dishes with them throughout the week & enjoy!
- Storage: Quick pickled red onions will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.
Keywords: quick pickled red onions, easy pickled onions, sauces & condiments, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free
Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Eat Love Eat