Spicy Pickled Onions
These spicy pickled onions are easy to make and provide the perfect bit of heat and crunch to your favorite tacos and sandwiches. Once you make them once, you’ll be adding these pretty pink pickled onions to anything and everything!
About refrigerator pickles
Refrigerator pickles are the broad category of pickles that haven’t gone through the canning process and therefore need to refrigerated. You can pickle any number of fruits and vegetables with different vinegar, herbs, and spices to create infinite variations.
You can make refrigerator pickles with either a cold or heated brine. Use a heated brine when you want to do a very quick pickle or you want to briefly cook your pickle to soften it. Using a cold brine here helps preserve the color and makes crunchy pickled onions.
You want your spicy pickled onions to have some crunch, yes?
Tips and tricks
How to make spicy pickled onions
The best way to chop onions for these pickled red onions is to cut the ends off of the onion (Panel #1, below). Then cut the red onion in half (Panel #2).
Peel the onion halves (Panel #3), and then slice the onion into thin (about one-quarter inch) half-circles (Panel #4).
Tip from the wise quacker: when slicing chili peppers, wear a kitchen glove or hold the pepper using a clear grocery bag so that you don’t get the chili on your hands. If you cut chili peppers with your bare hands, don’t touch your eyes or sensitive bits until after you’ve given your hands a good scrubbing!
You can read more about how to treat your eyes if you get chili oil in them (and also about lime juice sunburns) in this piece: Surprising hazards in the kitchen.
Place the sliced onions and chili pepper in a bowl. Add the salt and sugar, and pour the vinegar to cover. Don’t worry if the onions stick up a little bit out of the vinegar. They’ll compact a bit as they pickle.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. You can start to eat the pickled onions after a few hours, but they are best after 24 hours.
What to serve with spicy pickled onions
The number one use for pickled onions in our house is sandwiches, but you can use these spicy pickled onions in other ways:
- on veggie burgers like this Southwestern black bean burger, BBQ pinto bean burger, or cauliflower burgers.
- with tacos or taco meatloaf.
- with pulled pork.
- alongside Mediterranean-inspired lamb meatballs or vegetarian quinoa balls.
- stuffed into a pita pocket.
Substitutions and variations
- You can pickle sweet onions and other onions using this method, but they won’t have that pretty pink color.
The spiciness of these onions can vary depending on 1) the type of chili pepper you use 2) how much of the pepper you use and whether you include the seeds, and 3) how long you leave the chili pepper with the onions as they pickle. You can see how the heat levels of different chili peppers vary in my spicy margarita post. If you want red hot pickled onions, pick a super spicy hot pepper like a habanero!
If you’re worried that these onions might be too spicy, you can use less than a whole pepper, and don’t include the seeds. That way it’ll be easier to remove the source of heat when it gets to the perfect level for you.
Serve these spicy pickled onions with my favorite taco meatloaf. Just don’t forget the mango pico de gallo and your 4 ingredient guacamole!
If you just can’t get enough of the heat, check out some spicy cocktails: a spicy margarita with jalapeño simple syrup, a lower calorie spicy skinny margarita, and my jalapeño raspberry Bramble.
Spicy Pickled Onions
- 1 red onion, sliced into ¼ inch half moons
- 1 jalapeño, sliced see notes about how to make these spicy pickled onions even spicier
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 bottle (16.75 fluid ounces or 500 milliliters) white wine vinegar see notes about substitutions
- Slice the onion and jalapeño and put them in a lidded bowl.1 red onion, sliced into ¼ inch half moons, 1 jalapeño, sliced
- Add the salt and sugar. Then pour the vinegar over top of the onions until the onions are mostly covered. Don't worry if the onions are sticking out a little bit.1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, 1 bottle (16.75 fluid ounces or 500 milliliters) white wine vinegar
- Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours and ideally overnight.
- These spicy pickled onions will keep in the refrigerator for a couple weeks.
This spicy pickled red onion recipe was first posted July 13, 2022. It was last updated January 14, 2023.
If you make this easy spicy pickled onions recipe and love those pink pickled onions as much as we do, please leave a comment and rating. Pretty please.
Looking to learn?
Sign up to get recipes full of kitchen tips and tricks.