Easy Pickled Onions

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A little bit sweet, a little bit savory, and a whole lot tangy, my easy and quick pickled onions recipe is a Southern gem that’s going to change your life (yes, really). 

Spoonful of pinto beans and ham with pickled onions on top.

Pickled onions and cornbread is a meal fit for the hardcore Southerner. I’m going to start this post out with a disclaimer: half of you will hate even the thought of this pickled onion recipe, but the other half will take one bite and set about doing paperwork to rename all of your children after me. Pickled onions are not for the novice who is new to Southern food. These are hardcore, for old-school Southern tastebuds – but oh will they make those buds sing!

The life-changing moment

Would you believe that I had them for the FIRST TIME this past weekend? We went to a restaurant in Nashville with the kids and they brought out a bowl of pickled onions and hot cornbread, still in the cast iron skillet it was cooked in. I reached for a wedge of cornbread and put it on my plate where I topped it with a spoonful of pickled onions. Not knowing what to expect but trusting the instinct of my Alabama roots, I dug my fork in to get a bite full of hot bread and onion and tasted all that was reverent and good in the world of old-fashioned soul food.

As soon as we left the restaurant I called Mama and Grandmama and by the time I was home, I had a recipe. I ended up serving mine with a bowl of pinto beans and ham and a side of cornbread and the rest is history! These heavenly pickled onions are now on heavy rotation in my home… and my family’s. I sent a pint jar of them to my 81-year-old grandmother yesterday along with a quart jar of pintos. She called at 5 this morning. “Did you try it yet, Grandmama?” “LORD Yes! Done had me two bowls! That was the best stuff. Lord oh that was so good.”

Fortunately, my quick pickled onions recipe is so quick and easy to make. We’re just going to boil the ingredients together to make the pickle. This includes a delicious combination of sugar for sweetness, salt, pepper, and garlic powder for seasoning and flavor, and apple cider vinegar for that quintessential pickled tang. Then we toss the onions into the pickled mixture and let them marinate in the fridge. That’s it! They’re ready to serve in no time at all and the serving options are endless… but I’ve included plenty of ideas below. So let’s get pickling, hey?

Ingredients for pickled onions.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Black pepper
  • Sweet onions (preferably Vidalia)
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Sugar

How to Make Pickled Onions

Place vinegar in saucepot.

In a medium saucepot, place the apple cider vinegar…

Add sugar to saucepot.


Add salt to saucepot.


Add pepper to saucepot.

Black pepper…

Add garlic powder to saucepot.

And garlic powder.

Stir ingredients in saucepot and then bring to a boil.

Stir that up well and put over medium-high heat to bring it just to a boil while you cut up your onions.

Keep a watch on this vinegar mixture and stir it often.

Slice onions into rings.

Peel your onions and slice them into rings.

I cut my rings in half, too, to make them easier to eat.

You can even do diced onions if you want.

Once pot is boiled, remove from the heat.

Oh, look! Our pickling liquid is boiling!

Now, if you or anyone you know has their sinuses stuffed up, all ya gotta do is invite them into your kitchen and have them stir this pot! Actually, cider vinegar is an old folk remedy for many an affliction.

Remove pot from heat.

Dump onions into saucepot and stir to coat.

Dump your sliced onion in and stir them to coat.

At first, it will seem like there are way too many raw onion slices, but just let them sit for about five minutes and they will wilt a bit.

Place pickled onions in airtight container in fridge to marinate.

Until they look kinda like this. Now place all of these (raw onion and brine included) in a container and cover it to put in your fridge.

If you do not cover it, your sinuses will clear each and every time you open your fridge, which is good or bad depending on how stuffed up you are! Come to think of it, maybe this is a good springtime recipe in the south when our world is coated in that lovely yellow dust.

Bowl of pinto beans and ham with pickled onions on top and cornbread on side.

Voila! My refrigerated pickled onions are all ready to make my stomach happy!

Here I’m serving them with a big bowl of pinto beans and ham and a side of cornbread, of course.

But however you serve it, just git ya some!


When stored in an airtight container or a mason jar in the fridge, pickled onions will last up to 3 weeks.

Recipe Notes

  • These can well. For canning instructions, check out this blog post.
  • If you want to add some heat, add a 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.
  • You only need to let the homemade pickled onions marinate and cool down for about 30 minutes before serving. However, the longer you leave them in the fridge, the more pickled they become.
  • I prefer to use Vidalia onions, but many pickled onion recipes use red onion instead, which you can totally do as well.
  • Some easy substitutions include cane sugar for granulated sugar, garlic cloves for garlic powder, sea salt for kosher salt, and black pepper for about 10 whole peppercorns.
  • For added flavor, you can also purchase pickling spice in stores like Walmart, which is usually some combination of these spices: cinnamon, allspice, mustard seed, coriander, bay leaves, ginger, red pepper flakes, cardamon, black peppercorns, and dill seed.

Recipe FAQs

Can I use white vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar?

You can definitely use white vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar. Personally, I just love the extra little tang and flavor the cider vinegar gives my pickled onions. For English pickled onions, malt vinegar is actually the traditional choice, but other options include white wine vinegar.

How do you serve pickled onions?

There are so many ways to serve homemade pickled onions:

  • Mexican pickled onions are a popular topping on  tacos, burritos, nachos, and fajitas.
  • They also work as a topping for burgers, sandwiches, and salads.
  • English pickled onions are often served on baked potatoes, alongside fish and chips, on a Ploughman’s Lunch, with cream cheese dip, and as a hot dog relish.
  • Enjoy them as a side dish with barbecue meat like beef brisket or pulled pork, Southern fried catfish, salmon patties, or steak.
  • Add them to a bagel with lox and cream cheese or as a topping on avocado toast for a different kind of breakfast.

You may also enjoy these other onion-based dishes:

Delicious Hamburger Steak Recipe With Fried Onions

Cheesy Baked Onion Dip

Keto Chaffle Recipe With Onion Rings

Tomato, Onion, and Cucumber Salad

French Onion Soup Restaurant-Style

Pinto beans and ham with pickled onions on top and a side of cornbread.

Pickled Onions

A little bit sweet, a little bit savory, and a whole lot tangy, my easy pickled onions recipe is a Southern gem that'll change your life.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Chill Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: onion
Servings: 4
Calories: 6kcal


  • 4 medium-sized sweet onions like Vidalia
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder


  • Place all ingredients except the onions into a saucepot over medium-high heat. Bring just to a boil while stirring often.
    2 cups apple cider vinegar, 1 cup white sugar, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • While the pickling liquid is coming to a boil, peel onions and slice them into rings. Separate each ring.
    4 medium-sized sweet onions like Vidalia
  • When the vinegar mixture comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and add sliced onion. Stir and allow to sit for five minutes, or until the onions have wilted down into the vinegar slightly. Stir again and let sit for another five minutes.
  • Place in a container, cover, and refrigerate until well chilled and ready to serve. Serve as a side relish or as a topping on pinto beans.



Calories: 6kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @southernplate or tag #southernplate!


It requires less character to discover the faults of others

than it does to tolerate them.

~J. Petit Senn

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  1. 5 stars
    We’ve eaten a version of these for as long as I can remember. Although we never actually “pickled’ them. Mom mixed water, apple cider vinegar, and sugar and put sliced onions and cucumbers in it and kept them in the fridge. And your right, serve them with pinto beans cooked with ham and fresh baked cornbread. Pure heaven!!!

  2. OMG, thanks for the trip down memory lane with this Corelle pattern, grew up on these dishes in the 60’s! Just made these pickled onions, looking forward to having them with MawMaw’s bean and cornbread recipes. Now I just need to replicate her chow chow recipe.

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