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Quick Pickled Red Onions

Quick Pickled Red Onions

Colorful, crunchy, and convenient, these Quick Pickled Red Onions take about ten minutes to prepare, and last for a month in the refrigerator. They are a piquant accompaniment to pork, a brilliant sandwich topping, or just the thing to brighten up a simple plate of scrambled eggs. Because they are so versatile, they are the second recipe in our series, Brilliant Basics.

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I am a fan of pickles from all parts of the world, and an avid collector of pickle recipes. (Visit my “Pickles from Around the World” board on Pinterest to check out some of my favorites!)

There’s nothing quite like the salty-sour (or spicy, or sweet) crunch of a homemade pickle. They make a great palate cleanser and condiment. My favorite Mexican restaurant in town serves a small side of pickled cauliflower, carrots, and jalapeños with their delicious tacos. I always order extra pickled daikon and carrots next to my banh mi sandwich. When I order a burger, it’s usually with extra pickles. And my mom still cans homemade pickles every year – mostly pickled red beets, and old-fashioned, bright green, sweet cinnamon pickles that we refer to as “green oil pickles.” (Has anyone else heard of Green Oil Pickles? I can’t find a recipe on the web for them anywhere. Leave me a comment if you have seen them around.)

I don’t can pickles myself (yet!) but I LOVE making refrigerator pickles. These Quick Pickled Red Onions couldn’t be easier. We serve them with tacos, pulled pork, and Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas. I like to make them right in a wide-mouth quart mason jar. If you don’t have access to a jar, any non-reactive container will do. They should marinate for at least an hour for best flavor, and will keep well in the refrigerator for about a month.

This recipe is based on a recipe from Rick Bayless, one of our favorite chefs, and comes from his book entitled, “Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico.”

Quick Pickled Red Onions

This recipe makes one quart of pickled red onions. They keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator, and are even better the next day.

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 16 1/4 cup servings


  • 1 large red onion
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp light amber agave nectar


  1. Slice onion into thin half-moons, about 1/8 inch thick. Pack into a quart-sized Mason jar or other non-reactive container with a tight-fitting lid.

  2. In a glass measuring cup, combine remaining ingredients. Microwave on high for 3 minutes.

  3. Pour brine over onions in jar. Close the lid, and gently shake the jar to distribute the brine with the onions. If necessary, pack onions down with a spoon so they are submerged in brine. 

  4. Refrigerate for a minimum of one hour, or overnight, before serving. Store for about a month in the refrigerator.

Recipe Notes

Based on a recipe by Rick Bayless that originally appeared in "Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico."