Quick Pickled Red Onions Without Sugar Recipe

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by Maggie Turansky

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Making pickled red onions without using sugar is easy and, once you realise just how delicious they are, you likely will never be short of a jar of them in your refrigerator.

Pickled onions are delicious on pretty much anything and are an absolute breeze to make. And while many recipes out there call for a bit of sugar to be added, this isn’t a necessary ingredient and, honestly, I prefer a punch of vinegar to be a bit more pronounced, anyway.

They only use three ingredients (plus salt and pepper) and they are so incredibly easy that you’re going to be surprised. I only just recently started making these regularly and now I feel like I can’t live without them – as soon as my jar is running low, I quickly whip up another batch!

Pickled Onions Without Sugar
Pickled Red Onions Without Sugar

How to Make Pickled Onions Without Using Sugar

The very first step you need to do when making quick pickled red onions is to get your vinegar sorted.

Because we’re not using sugar in this recipe, I like to use apple cider vinegar to add a little bit of fruitiness that you don’t get in, say, red or white wine vinegar.

Key ingredients for this pickled onions recipe
Key ingredients for this recipe

In a small saucepan, combine equal parts vinegar and water. It is important to dilute the vinegar or it will be too strong – and I say this as someone who loves sour foods.

Season the vinegar mixture generously with salt and pepper – and by generously, I mean a few good pinches of salt and a number of grinds of freshly ground black pepper – and set the pan over medium heat. Bring the mixture up to a gentle simmer.

Vinegar mixture for pickling
Diluted vinegar mixture for pickling

While you’re waiting for the vinegar to simmer, it’s time to prep your onions. This is super easy – plenty of recipes out there recommend using a mandoline to slice your onions, but this is really not necessary if you have just basic knife skills.

Cut the flower end of your onion off and discard. Place the flat, cut end of the onion on your cutting board and cut the onion in half through the root. Now it will be super easy to remove the peels from the onions.

Then, place one onion half down (flat side) on the cutting board and slice it thin until you reach the root. Repeat this with your remaining onions and then add the onion slices to a large, heatproof jar.

Adding the sliced onions to a jar
Adding the sliced onions to a jar

Once the vinegar is simmering, carefully pour it over the onions in the jar. Seal the jar with the lid and shake it to ensure that all the onions are covered in the vinegar. Let the onions come to room temperature.

You can technically eat them as soon as they’re at room temperature, however, I think they taste best after a few hours in the fridge. They will keep indefinitely, but I doubt they will be around long enough for you to really test it out.

Covering the onions with vinegar
Covering the onions with vinegar

These are great served with just about anything but can be good on top of fish (like my marinated salmon) or on tacos (along with some homemade salsa!).

If you haven’t noticed, this is exactly the same process I use in my pickled jalapeños recipe and you could technically use it for an array of assorted quick pickled vegetables!

Pickled Onions Without Sugar

Pickled Red Onions Without Sugar

These pickled onions are a breeze to make and are a fantastic addition to countless meals!
4.7 from 3 votes
Servings 20
Prep Time 5 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes



  • In a small saucepan, add the vinegar along with 250ml (1 cup) of water. Season with a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Set over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
    Vinegar mixture for pickling
  • Add the onion slices to a large, heatproof jar. Carefully pour the hot vinegar mixture over the onions. Seal the jar and shake to ensure all is evenly incorporated.
    Covering the onions with vinegar
  • Allow the onions to sit in the vinegar until it has cooled to room temperature. Serve then or refrigerate indefinitely. The onions do get better the longer they sit in the vinegar.



Calories: 7kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 0.1g | Fat: 0.01g | Saturated Fat: 0.004g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.002g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.002g | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 25mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 0.2IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 0.05mg

Disclaimer: Nutritional information is automatically generated and provided as guidance only. Accuracy is not guaranteed.

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Making pickled onions is super easy and quick that you’re sure to have found a new favourite condiment to keep on your refrigerator’s shelves!

Are you wondering how to make pickled red onions? Have any questions about this recipe? Let me know in the comments!

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Maggie is the creator behind No Frills Kitchen. She is a world traveller, home cook and recipe developer who loves to experiment with new cuisines and techniques at every chance she gets. No stranger to improvising and making do with the equipment and ingredients she has available, she is passionate about sharing her knowledge with others. Read More


    • I’ve not tested this with balsamic vinegar, however, I wouldn’t recommend it as I believe the flavour will be a bit too overpowering.

4.67 from 3 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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