Bowdoin Quick Pickled Red Onions
Yield: 1 pint-size jar
This easy-to-make condiment adds a punch of color and flavor to a variety of meats, tacos, sandwiches, salads, and more.  


  • 2 small red onions, peeled and very thinly sliced into rings or half moons
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (150ml) unseasoned rice vinegar*
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup (144g) granulated sugar**
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pickling spice***
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Add the vinegar and water to a small to medium pot, and then stir in the sugar, pickling spice, and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  As soon as the mixture begins to boil, remove the pan from the heat, stir to make sure the sugar and salt are dissolved, and set aside for 5 minutes.  (I slice the onions during this time.)

    Place the onion slices in a large glass or ceramic bowl.  After 5 minutes, strain the vinegar solution over the onion slices. (The mixture will still be hot. The short rest gives the pickling spices time to infuse the liquid—but you want to strain and discard the spices because they’re a bit pungent to eat.)

    Press down on the onions so all the pieces are submerged, and then let the mixture cool to room temperature.  The onions will soften, so if they don’t all submerge right away, they will after sitting in the warm brine for several minutes.

    For storage, keep the onions in the brine and use a lidded, non-reactive (glass or ceramic) bowl or jar. (Most metals will react with the vinegar, and plastic will absorb the flavors.) The onions will taste good right away, but the flavor improves after several hours in the fridge and even more over the first day or two.  The onions will keep, refrigerated, for 2-3 weeks.


*White wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar could be used, but Bowdoin’s “secret” is the rice vinegar.

**Sugar can be decreased, but keep in mind that most of the sugar remains in the brine.  I’ve made versions with less sugar, which become sharper and tangier as the amount of sugar in decreased.

***I use McCormick’s pickling spice, which can be found in the baking aisle with the rest of the dried herbs and spices.


A few tips...

Very thinly slicing the onions–about 1/4-inch thick–allows the brine to be absorbed quickly and yields pickled onions with just the right texture.

Conveniently, additional onion slices can be added to the brine once the initial batch is gone.



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