Sweet pickled onions are basically the ultimate condiment. Add them to salads, tacos, chili, or sandwiches. Pretty much any savory dish is better with pickled onion!
These sweet pickled onions are adapted from my basic refrigerator pickles recipe. You can seriously use that recipe to pickle almost anything, and it works like a charm with red or white onions!
What are refrigerator pickles?
Refrigerator pickles -- also called quick pickles -- are different from canned pickles. Let's go through the pros and cons.
Refrigerator pickles are quick and easy to make. Since you're not putting these up for months in the pantry, you don't need to sanitize any jars or worry about your brine's acidity. There's no hot water bath at the end to seal your jars.
That means you have more room to experiment with refrigerator pickles! It also means they're a lot less of a project to make.
Because you don't sanitize the jars or seal them, their shelf life is much shorter. Pickles that you can in a hot water bath will last for months or even years.
With refrigerator pickles, like these pickled onions, you're looking at a shelf life of one to two weeks.
Pickling onions: the basics
Pickling is a process where you soak vegetables (and sometimes fruit) in a seasoned, acidic liquid to extend their shelf life and make them tart and extra delicious.
To pickle your onions, start by slicing them thinly, then transferring the sliced onion to a pint jar.
Now, it's time to make that brine! Brine is just the acidic mixture that you're using to marinate your onions. In most pickle recipes, the acidity comes from vinegar, and this recipe is no exception.
To make the brine for these sweet pickled onions, combine apple cider vinegar, water, sea salt, and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat it up on medium-high, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.
Then, it's time to pour the brine into your jar. Make sure you totally cover the onions with brine.
Now, loosely cover the jar until it's cool enough to handle. When you can pick them up comfortably, tighten the lid, and transfer the pickled onions to the refrigerator.
You can eat these right away, but they're even better if you can wait a few hours or even overnight. The flavor deepens with time.
How long do pickled onions last?
Like I mentioned above, these are refrigerator pickles, so their shelf life is shorter than hot water canned pickles. Refrigerator pickles, including these pickled onions, have a shelf life of approximately one to two weeks.
What can I use pickled onions for?
Not sure what to do with these beautiful, pickled onions that you just made? I have some suggestions!
- Spoon some on top of your next bowl of 3-bean chili.
- Use them as a topping for sandwiches.
- Sprinkle them onto any salad to up the oomph.
- Pile them on top of Plantain Tacos.
- Top your next grain bowl with some red onions for a big flavor boost.
They're so versatile! Once you start using them, you'll find yourself reaching for sweet pickled onions at every meal.
More quick pickles
Sweet pickled onions recipe
- 1 sliced onion - Red or white is fine. You'll end up with about 2 cups, sliced.
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- Stuff the onions into a pint-size mason jar.
- Combine the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan, and heat them until they boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. This should only take a few minutes. Turn off the stove, and pour the hot brine into your jar. The heat from the brine will soften the onions.
- Screw the lid onto your jar loosely, and set it on the counter to cool. Once it’s cool enough to handle, you can tighten the lid and stick the jar into the fridge.
- You can eat these as soon as they're cool enough to handle, but they're even better if you can wait about 24 hours, to give the onions time to soak in that beautiful brine!
- Your pickle onions will keep for 1-2 weeks. I recommend writing the date on the jar, because I hate playing, “When Did I Make These, Again?”