Spicy Pickled Onions

These spicy pickled onions are easy to make and provide the perfect bit of heat and crunch to whatever you choose. Add them to tacos, sandwiches, or to scrambled eggs. There’s just no limit to the number of delicious ways you can enjoy these pickled onions.

Tips and tricks for this recipe

About refrigerator pickles

Refrigerator pickles are the broad category of pickles that haven’t gone through the canning process and therefore need to be stored in the refrigerator. You can pickle any number of fruits and vegetables with different vinegars, herbs, and spices to create infinite variations.

For refrigerator pickles, you can use 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. Using a cold brine helps preserve the color of your vegetables and helps keep your pickle crunchy.

a bowl of spicy pickled onions next to a cutting board with onion half, knife, and vinegar bottle.

You want your spicy pickled onions to have some texture, yes?

Making the spicy pickled onions

I find the best way to chop onions for these pickled onions is to cut the ends off of the onion (Panel #1, below). Then cut the onion in half (Panel #2).

Four panels showing the steps in slicing onions for spicy onion pickles.

Peel the onion halves (Panel #3), and then slice the onion into thin half-circles (Panel #4).

ProTip: 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 don’t do this, don’t touch your eyes or sensitive bits until after you’ve given your hands a good scrubbing! 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.

sliced red onion and jalapeno in a glass bowl.

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 tacos or stuffed into pita.

two pita stuffed with turkey, cheese, avocado, and spicy pickled onions.

I also recently made the sweet potato shakshuka from the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen Shelf Love cookbook which calls for regular pickled onions. These spicy pickled onions provided a fabulous crunchy counterpart to the soft sweetness of the dish.

pan of sweet potato shakshuka garnished with spicy pickled onions, potato skins, and cilantro.

FAQs about this spicy pickled onions recipe

How do I make these onions spicier?

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. To get your spicy pickled onions even spicier, pick a red hot pepper like a habanero!

How can I make these onions less spicy?

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.

Related recipes

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 these two spicy cocktails: a spicy margarita with jalapeño simple syrup and my jalapeño raspberry Bramble.

Spicy Pickled Onions

5 from 1 vote
Category: Side Dish
Cuisine: Unspecified
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Pickling time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 10 minutes
Servings: 10
Calories: 6kcal
These spicy pickled onions are easy to make and provide heat and crunch to your favorite tacos and sandwiches. Or to anything and everything!
Print Recipe


  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 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 substiutions


  • Slice the onion and jalapeño and put them in a bowl large enough to comfortably fit.
    1 red onion, sliced, 1 jalapeño, sliced
  • Add the salt and sugar. Then pour the vinegar over top of the onions until the onion is 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.


To make these pickled onions spicier, use a red hot chili pepper like a habanero.
To make these onions less spicy, use less than a whole pepper and do not include the seeds. You can taste the onions as they pickle and remove the pepper when they are spicy enough for your taste.
You can substitute another vinegar for the white wine vinegar, but this is a mild pickle and I find that apple cider vinegar overwhelms the flavor of the onions.


Calories: 6kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 0.1g | Fat: 0.02g | Saturated Fat: 0.01g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.004g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.001g | Sodium: 233mg | Potassium: 20mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 15IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 0.03mg
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