Pickled Red Onions

5 reviews

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These pickled red onions are little bites of tangy heaven. Even the biggest onion critics will find themselves reaching for serving after serving of these addictive onions. They are THE side to serve with your platter of BBQ and are a perfect complement to pork, beef, sausage, or chicken.

Pickled red onions on a pulled pork sandwich with text overlay - Pickled Red Onions.

Pickled Red Onions

I love to pickle vegetables. They help the veggies keep longer in the fridge and completely transform them into delicious additions to your BBQ recipes.

“But I don’t like onions!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this when I mention pickled onions. This is definitely one of those situations where you shouldn’t knock it until you’ve tried it. By pickling the red onions, you rid the onion of that sharp bitterness that many people dislike. Similar to how sautéing onions changes the flavor and gets rid of that onion “bite,” the same thing happens when you pickle the onions.

Plus, did I mention how delicious pickled red onions are with a pile of pulled pork? I personally love them with my BBQ Brisket Burnt Ends. They complement the richness of the meat and give you a crunchy, tart bite. The acidity in the onions is the secret trick to BBQ. If you have something tart to eat with your meat, you cleanse your palate and are able to enjoy more meat! Score!

Ingredients for pickled red onions on a cutting board.

Quick Pickled Red Onions

Pickling red onions is easy, FAST, and extremely straightforward. You only need 4 ingredients to get the perfect pickled onions: red onion, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, and salt. That’s it! No need to fancy it up with additional ingredients.

I prefer to have my onions prepped and in the fridge the day before I plan on using them so they’re off my mind and ready to go. Pickled red onions can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed glass jar for up to 1 week (assuming they last that long!).

Honestly, if you open my fridge at any point during the week, you’re guaranteed to find a jar of these onions. They’re that good, and delicious with many different foods (think tacos, salads, burgers, sandwiches, and of course, grilled and smoked meat).

Ingredients for Pickled Red Onions

This recipe only calls for 4 ingredients, many of them you might already have on hand. Here’s what you’ll need to make these quick pickled red onions:

  • 1 red onion
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt

Bam! That’s it! Once you have all these ingredients assembled, you’re ready to get this good stuff going!

How to Pickle Red Onions

Once you have your ingredients assembled, you’re ready to get those onions pickled! Here’s how to pickle red onions (quickly!)

  1. Cut the onions. Begin by slicing the onion into nice, thin slices. I recommend using a Kamikoto Kanpeki knife to make quick work of slicing or chopping your vegetables. 
  2. Make the pickling juice. Cook the apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over low heat until the brown sugar and salt have dissolved (approximately 2-3 minutes).
  3. Pickle. Place your sliced onions in a wide-mouth mason jar and pour the juice over the onions, making sure they are fully submerged. Let everything cool, then refrigerate the jar for at least 2 hours before serving. 
  4. Enjoy. These taste best when allowed to chill for a bit, so I always recommend planning ahead before serving these with some Beef Brisket or Burnt Ends.

Jar of pickled red onions.

Tips for Pickled Red Onions

Now that you know the basics to making this pickled red onion recipe, here are a few tips to help you make these the best of the best.

  • Try to cut the onions as thin as you can. While you don’t need them paper thin, you want them thin enough to fit easily in your jar and give you a good bite as you add them to your favorite meats.
  • Use RED onion. White and yellow onions tend to be more potent with a sharp onion flavor. Red onions are better consumed raw and make for a more delicious pickled onion.
  • Use the right container! Make sure to use an appropriate container for these onions – one that is approved for pickling, canning, or fermentation. I prefer to stick these in a wide-mouth, glass mason jar with a canning lid. This ensures that no flavors leach from your container, and your onions stay fresh and flavorful in your fridge.
  • Get creative with flavor. You can always get creative when pickling red onions. Adding herbs and spices changes the flavor of the onions and brings a new punch to your BBQ. Add a couple of sprigs of fresh cilantro, rosemary, or thyme, or 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns to the jar if you’re feeling adventurous.

Pickled red onions on a pulled pork sandwich.

Recipes for Pickled Red Onions

Have a jar of these red onions in your fridge? Try them on some of these delicious Hey Grill Hey recipes:

Pickled Red Onion Recipe

Follow the recipe, and I’ll teach you the simple steps to making your own pickled red onions at home. If you’re looking for the ultimate way to help you make better BBQ, feed the people you love, and become a backyard BBQ hero, join my members-only group The Grill Squad for full access to all my meat, rubs, sauces, and meat buying masterclasses, podcasts, and so much more.

This post was originally published in May 2019. We recently updated it with more information and helpful tips. The recipe remains the same.

Pickled Red Onions

By: Susie Bulloch (heygrillhey.com)
3.8 from 5 votes
These pickled red onions are little bites of tangy heaven. They are THE side to serve with your platter of BBQ and are a perfect compliment to pork, beef, sausage, or chicken.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time10 minutes


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  • 1 red onion
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup salt


  • Cut the onion. Using a sharp knife, cut the onion into very thin slices.
  • Make the pickling juice. Heat the apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until all ingredients have dissolved. Remove from heat and cool.
  • Add the onions. Add the sliced onions to a wide-mouth mason jar. Pour the pickling juice over the onions until they are fully submerged in the liquid.
  • Pickle the onions. Tightly screw a lid on the jar. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
  • Use and store. Onions can be stored in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.


Calories: 15kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 2mg | Potassium: 32mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin C: 0.5mg | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 0.1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Susie is the BBQ Brain behind the Hey Grill Hey website. Her passion for smoked meats and developing fun, new recipes have landed her on the Food Network, cooking turkeys with Shaq, and on a couple of Guinness World Records. When she’s not grilling, she is hanging out with Todd and their three kids, preferably outdoors!

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Recipe Rating

Reader Reviews

15 Reviews

  1. Julie Head says:

    The apple vinegar was really strong for me. I’m hoping to try this with white vinegar and sugar.

  2. Guy Chaney says:

    Just want to say, that I’m going to try these, look super easy JUST LIKE EVERYTHING THAT I GET FROM YOU IT’S ALWAYS PERFECT AND FULL OF FLAVOR…THANK YOU