Pickled red onions are a classic condiment in Mexican culture. They’re quick and easy and pretty and can be draped atop tacos, flung onto roast chicken or pork, or, natch, slipped into this epic grilled cheese sandwich. There are about as many versions of pickled red onions as there are home cooks in Mexico. Some pickled red onions are spare and simple in both taste and execution whereas others, such as the recipe that follows, have something of a flourish thanks to spices, herbs, and chiles. Up to you.–Renee Schettler

A jar full of pickled red onions sitting on a counter

Quick Pickled Red Onions

5 / 2 votes
These tangy and bright quick pickled red onions will add zip to nearly anything you can think of. A staple in Mexican dining, you'll find that they work especially well with spicy food.
David Leite
Servings8 servings (makes about 2 cups)
Calories18 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time4 hours
Total Time4 hours 10 minutes


  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced


  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the vinegar, sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves, bay leaf, star anise, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and then promptly remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan and let the spices steep for 5 minutes.
  • Toss the onion slices in the saucepan and toss to coat. Pour the mixture into a 1-quart (960-milliliter) glass jar and cover tightly. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. The quick pickled red onions will keep for up to a few weeks in the fridge.
Grilled Cheese Kitchen Cookbook

Adapted From

Grilled Cheese Kitchen

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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 18 kcalCarbohydrates: 3 gProtein: 0.2 gFat: 0.1 gSaturated Fat: 0.03 gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.02 gTrans Fat: 0.001 gSodium: 3 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 2 g

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

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2016 Heidi Gibson | Nate Pollak. Photo © 2016 DepositPhotos. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

With minimal effort and ingredients, you can have a delightful condiment for any occasion with this quick pickled red onions recipe. The hardest part is waiting the 4 hours before you try them. The pickled red onions were tangy and mellow with a warm heat and a nice hint of spice. Since you are using this as a condiment, only a little is used at a time. A medium red onion yielded 1 cup thin slices. After a week we have a little less than half left and the taste and texture is as good as the day I made them. So far we’ve used them on a ham and cheese sandwich, in a turkey and avocado wrap, on sausage scrambled eggs for breakfast, with cheese and crackers, and on a salad for lunch at work. I am already planning to make a double batch as no fridge should be without these pickled onions. I’m also already planning what I can have them on next.

This is one of the easiest and tastiest pickled red onion recipes I have made. It comes together very easily and quickly and the flavors deepen as the pickles age. The texture remained fairly crunchy even after 3 days. (Alas, I cannot comment on longer as the pickles were all gone in 3 days!) I used the pickled red onions in sandwiches and pita wraps as well as on spicy Singapore noodles and a simple chicken curry and rice. The uses are endless, limited only by our imagination. I call them the Miracle Condiment. I will be making another batch tomorrow, this time I will double or triple the recipe so we don’t run out so quickly. These were a cinch to make and a lovely condiment with a variety of uses. They will be a staple in my fridge.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Delicious and so simple! Have tried other recipes but this is my go to one. I typically double the recipe so I am never without them. Love them on burgers (especially salmon and veggie burgers), wraps and salads and many more recipes along the way. They are that good! Thank you LC for another winner!

    1. Wow, Deb! We’re thrilled this is a staple in your house. Thank you for taking the time to comment.