Spiced Pickled Red Onions

The Recipe: Something so simple, just slivers of red onion pickled in a refrigerator jar (no canning!) with a few herbs and a little garlic. But if you want to spice up your taco game (and so much more), start here, with quick and easy Spiced Pickled Red Onions.
Now lots of times, something this good starts with butter and cream. Not pickled onions, they're basically calorie free, carb free, sugar free, vegan not to mention totally cheap. All this? And still a game changer!
Spiced Pickled Red Onions ♥ KitchenParade.com, a game changer for tacos, salads, eggs and more.

Pulling This & That from the Fridge

My dear Auntie Gloria was a "meal prep" queen, way way back before meal prep was the thing that it is now. I'd have been no more than six or eight but remember helping her pull this and that from the fridge, a sort of culinary sorcery that put lunch on the table – no slap-dash peanut butter sandwich, mind you, but a plateful of homemade breads and spreads and side bites and savory relishes.

Auntie Gloria's fridge dives made an impression, even then. Fast forward some fifty years, I channel her as I spend a few minutes each week making "simple small things" that somehow elevate our meals from the mundane to the magical. I even keep a special section in my old-fashioned 3x5 recipe box for Extras and you may well want to poke around that part of Kitchen Parade's Recipe Box too, it showcases all the Little Extras That Make a Big Difference. Next up for me? Homemade Ricotta, so summery, somehow.

Sliced onions for Spiced Pickled Red Onions ♥ KitchenParade.com, a game changer for tacos, salads, eggs and more.

A Meal Prep Standby

But back to pickled onions.

I've been making Spiced Pickled Red Onions every so often for a couple of years, they're definitely one of my meal-prep standbys. But I really came to appreciate them when we launched that month-long project we called Deep Mexico: Ingredient-Driven Mexican Meal Prep.

Because, wow, pickled red onions make a taco. One night, I pulled a whole taco bar from the fridge in a matter of minutes while a niece from California was visiting. Those tacos were so-so-SO good. "Wow!" she exclaimed. "I'd have never thought to put pickled onions in a taco."

I grinned. Auntie Gloria would be proud.

Spiced Pickled Red Onions ♥ KitchenParade.com, a game changer for tacos, salads, eggs and more.

Why Does Garlic Turn Blue or Green in Vinegar?

See that garlic clove, all pristine and pretty? That's Day One.

By Day Two, some times the garlic clove turns color into a muddy green, even a sickly blue. Not appetizing! Supposedly, it's a reaction between enzymes in the garlic and the acid in the vinegar. And it doesn't happen all the time. And older garlic may be more prone to discoloration.

But the good news is, it's still safe to eat and it doesn't affect the taste of the Spiced Pickled Red Onions. Source: Epicurious.

Me, I pull out any discolored garlic clove. No way do I want to distract from the pretty pink onions!

Spiced Pickled Red Onions ♥ KitchenParade.com, a game changer for tacos, salads, eggs and more.

You'll Love My Spiced Pickled Onions to ...

  • slip into tacos or onto an open-faced sandwich
  • scatter across the top of a supper salad
  • chop fine for a quick salad
  • mound beside an omelet or scrambled eggs
  • garnish bite-size appetizers

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Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Time to table: 24 hours
Makes 1 pint jar (2 cups)
  • Two or three small (preferably) or one or two medium red onions
  • A sprig of something fresh: oregano, tarragon, rosemary
  • A garlic clove
  • A bay leaf
  • A few whole spices: a few peppercorns, a couple of whole allspice, a star anise, etc.
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Find a small jar with a wide mouth and a tight lid that holds about two cups.

ONIONS Slice off and discard the ends of the onion, then peel off the outer skin. (That outer skin is called the "tunic", isn't that cool?) Cut the onion in half lengthwise. Place one half cut-side down and use a sharp knife to cut very thin lengthwise pieces about 1 – 1.5 inches long. Pack the jar tight with onion about halfway, separating the slices with your fingers and really packing them in. Tuck the sprig of fresh herbs, garlic and bay leaf along the glass, then drop in the peppercorns and other whole spices. Finish packing the jar with additional onion slices.

PICKLING LIQUID In a two-cup microwave-safe liquid measuring cup with a spout, combine the water, vinegar, honey and salt and bring to a boil in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds or so. (Or if you prefer, bring the same ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan on the stove.) Pour the hot liquid over the onions, covering the slices completely, pressing to immerse the top pieces if need be.

NOW WAIT! Cover the jar and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate the onions for at least 24 hours before serving. Use up the pickles within a week to ten days.

MAKE-AHEAD TIPS I like Spiced Pickled Red Onions best on the second or third day. After that, the next week or so, the onions lose a bit of their onion-y essence (that's a word, right?) and become more pickle-y. They're still awesome to have on hand but just not quite as fresh and firm. But knowing this might affect the timing of when you make them, say, if you're planning a taco party.

ALANNA's TIPS These are "refrigerator pickles" – store them in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks, not unrefrigerated for the long-term. Any size jar will do, just scale the Pickling Liquid up or down. But a pint jar is perfect for our household of three, where we cook pretty much three meals a day. Pick a pretty jar, you can put it right on the table with a tiny fork for spearing the onions. Or pick a tall slim jar that fits the fridge door, that's where I've taken to putting all the meal prep things in one easy-to-see place. Watch for small red onions, in my groceries, that's by the bag. Small onions work best because their scales (hey Word Dancers, that's the technical name for the onion parts we chop for cooking) are naturally thinner. And when you slice thin the already thin scales, you end up with elegant moon-shaped curls that're perfect for quick refrigerator pickles. Do cut the red onions lengthwise, that's pole to pole, stem end to root end. Rings get all tangled up and messy and even a small onion's rings are more onion than anybody probably wants to eat. Some times I pull out the mandoline (aka Japanese benriner) to slice the onions evenly. But a mandoline is a fair amount of trouble for what's really quick knife work if you have a sharp knife, I use my favorite serrated tomato knife for jobs like this all the time. (You should have heard me this week when this knife went missing for a few hours!) If you don't have a liquid measuring cup, a funnel works too, just put the small end right into the jar and carefully pour the hot liquid into the wide end.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Tablespoon: 4 Calories; 0g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 2mg Sodium; 1g Carb; 0g Fiber; 1g Sugar; 0g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 0 & PointsPlus 0 & SmartPoints 0

More Little Extras That Make All the Difference

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make my Spiced Pickled Red Onions, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.
Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Debbie2/08/2021

    I keep a jar of the pickled red onions on hand at all times, so useful!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna