These easy balsamic pickled red onions are super quick to prepare and add a lot of flavor and such an amazing crunchy texture to any meal you pair them with! They are sweet and salty and perfectly tangy, plus super simple and made with just a few ingredients. Add them to tacos, burritos, burgers, salads... the BEST all-purpose condiment to brighten up a meal!
Here is a delicious recipe showing you how to make your own balsamic pickled red onions!
You can easily buy pickled onions in stores, but it never will be the same compared to homemade pickled red onions! Plus, it is cheaper and open to personalization as you can adjust the sweetness of the brine or even add more veggies if you want to experiment.
And these ultra simple balsamic pickled red onions are done very quickly and they are simply the best sweet and tangy topping to refresh a meal!
I made these Mexican lime pickled onions a bunch of time to garnish all sorts of Mexican dishes, but I like this sweeter balsamic version that have an even more complex flavor and also a fun color!
These pickled onions are amazing as they add a great crunch and such a nice punch of zippy flavor to rise a dish to the next level. Make them ahead and use them to top off salads or grain bowls, especially this falafel buddha bowl or this Mexican buddha bowl, for a nice boost of acidity. They also make for the BEST burger garnish or sandwich filler to brighten up the flavors. Try them over these vegan chickpea burgers for a perfect match!
And did I say they were ridiculously easy to make?! Simply heat up the vinegar with water, a little sweetener and spices, which takes 5 minutes, then pour over sliced onions and then chill. You can slice the onion thinly so the pickles are ready within one hour, although try to make them the day before you need them to give them plenty of pickling love to tenderize and softened any strong onion-y flavor.
I hope you give them a try! ❤️
Why you'll love this recipe
- Simple condiment recipe that requires only a few ingredients
- Can be used in SO many meals
- Great meal-prep or make-ahead meal-enhancer recipe
- Easy to modify to your taste
- Healthy and 100% plant-based
- Red onion: red onion is my favorite kind of onion for pickling as they already are milder in flavor and have that bright beautiful color to make dishes pretty and appetizing. BUT, you could totally use yellow onion or even better, sweet onion such as the Vidalia kind for a milder flavor similar to red onion.
- Balsamic vinegar: there are TONS of different kind of balsamic vinegars on the market with a large array of varying quality and flavor profile. The type of balsamic vinegar you use will influence the final taste and sweetness of your pickled onions. I used a "regular" balsamic vinegar that is not expensive (balsamic from the brand Colavita) at all and the result was great! If your vinegar is more vinegary like mine, then you can easily adjust by including more of the sweetener.
- Sweetener: any kind will work. I used maple syrup, but granulated sugar is ok too.
- Dried Italian herbs: or switch for oregano, basil, parsley, dill, etc. You can also add one bay leaf.
- Peppercorns: optional, but they add a nice peppery flavor and I also love the way they look in the jar!
- Salt: adjust the amount to your taste.
How to make balsamic pickled red onions
They are quick and easy to prepare, although try to plan ahead as they need to rest and chill for at least one hour or even better overnight before serving.
Warm up the balsamic vinegar brine
In a small pot, add the water, balsamic vinegar, sweetener, salt, and dried herbs. Bring to a simmer and then, turn the heat off right away.
Prepare the red onion
While the vinegar is heating up, peel and slice the onion thinly. You can use a mandoline for super thin slices that will pickle very quickly, but I usually simply slice by hand with my knife. I like a little bit of a crunch, so I usually aim for ⅛-1/4 inch thick.
Then, transfer the onion slices to a tall glass jar. I love these 32 ounces Ball mason jars for pickling.
Combine and chill
Add the peppercorns in the jar with the onions and then, pour the steamy hot vinegar mixture over. Seal well, shake a few times and let them cool down on the counter for about one hour before transferring in the fridge.
If your sliced onions are super thin (such as if you used a mandoline), then your pickled onions should be ready in a hour. If you slice them thicker, then let them marinate for longer (overnight is great).
Watch how to make them
- Once you pour the vinegar over the onions, shake/stir/press in the jar well so they are all submerged into the brine. At first the fresh onions are sturdy and won't sink as easily in the jar, but once they have been soaking for a bit, they soften and will be easier to press into the liquid for better pickling. So, I recommend to stir and shake every 20 minutes or so in the first hour.
- If you are looking for a milder onion flavor, then feel-free to first do a quick blanching of the vegetable. To do this, bring a small pot of water and then turnoff the heat. Meanwhile, slice the onion and then do a super quick soak in the hot water (30-60 seconds) before draining and adding to the jar.
- You can even warm up the brine using a microwave if that's easier. The goal is to pour a hot brine over the onion to help pickling and softening them but also, warming it up first will make sure the sugar (if using granulated sugar) and salt are all well dissolved.
Pickling vegetables really is simple and pretty forgiving, so feel-free to experiment and change a thing or two to make it your own! Use this basic pickling onion recipe and try these changes:
- Add more vegetables: such as finely sliced carrots, cucumber, cabbage, etc. If the vegetable is hard, such as carrot, you can blanch it first for 1 minute or so, but this is unnecessary. And if you add quite a bit of extra veggies, then you might need to add more balsamic pickling brine.
- Make it spicy: to add a little heat to your pickled onions, then add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. You could also include finely sliced jalapeño or any other spicy peppers, which would work great to pair with Mexican dishes. Choose habanero peppers for a more pronounced kick!
- Make it garlicky: add finely sliced garlic to your jar for a fun flavor that would pair well with the onion and balsamic.
- Clear brine: if you love the idea of a balsamic vinegar flavored brine, but looking for a paler color, then simply use a white balsamic vinegar.
This is the ultimate make-ahead recipe as it gets better over time! So, needless to say that these pickled onions store very well in the fridge for days. We usually enjoy them within about 1-2 week.
I like mine after about 24 hours of marinating, where the onion is not very pungent anymore, but still crunchy enough for a good texture bonus.
There are endless ways to use these pickled red onions. Make them in the weekend and top various dishes during the week for extra texture, flavor, nutrients and freshness.
Here are a few ideas to use these marinated onions:
- Mexican dishes: absolutely amazing with lentil tacos, tostadas, Mexican rice, burritos, nachos, enchiladas and more.
- Breakfast: you can use them to garnish savory breakfast recipes, such as this silken tofu scramble, breakfast sandwiches, black bean avocado toasts or try garnishing this savory breakfast bowl with these onions!
- Burgers: these pickled onions add a fun layer of texture to burgers with a bright tangy flavor. Try them with these vegan chickpea oat burgers or these jackfruit burgers.
- Sandwiches: Include them in your sandwiches to make your lunches even more delicious. They pair well with a vegan egg salad sandwich, balsamic tofu wraps, mashed chickpea avocado sandwich, vegan chickpea gyros and marinated vegan lox.
- Salads: top any salads with them for a delicious added crunch and nice pop of tang. Try them over these kale and apple salad, rainbow tahini salad, vegan creamy chickpea salad or brown rice and quinoa salad.
- Pizza: garnish over pizza or pesto flatbread to jazz it up!
- Vegan cheese board: These pickled onion would be amazing part of a vegan cheese board for a fun appetizer or finger food when hosting. Pair them with crackers, vegan tofu cream cheese, olives, vegan cashew ricotta, grapes, broccoli hummus, raw veggie sticks, baba ganoush, crusty bread, cherry tomatoes, vegan cheese ball, etc, and display everything nicely on a large board for everyone to serve themselves. Check out this vegan cheese and charcuterie board for more inspiration!
They can be kept for 3-4 weeks in the fridge (even maybe longer). We usually use them within a week or so, but if you make sure to use a very clean glass jar (you can sterilize it first if planning to store for longer) and keep it in the fridge, then they will be good for a little while.
You can use the leftover marinating liquid to use as a salad dressing: whisk with some more sweetener as needed plus a crushed clove of garlic, some salt and just a little bit of dijon mustard. If you are not following a whole food plant based oil-free diet, then I would also add a tiny bit of olive oil, just enough to help emulsify the sauce. Then, whisk and taste to adjust the vinaigrette. Serve over a green lettuce or a kale salad with cherry tomatoes, sweet snap peas, dollops of vegan ricotta cheese, and slivered almonds.
I hope you like this balsamic pickled red onion recipe as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
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Balsamic Pickled Red Onions
- 1 medium-large red onion - peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¾ cup water
- 2-3 tbsp maple syrup or sugar
- 1 tsp dried Italian herbs
- ½ tsp salt
- Thinly slice the onion and transfer to a large glass container. Then, add the peppercorns over. Set aside.
- In a small pot, add the water, balsamic vinegar, sweetener, herbs and salt. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Then, remove from the heat (if using granulated sugar, then make sure it is all dissolve).
- Pour the steamy hot vinegar mixture over the onion and seal the container. Then, shake a few times and then let the jar cool down for about one hour on the counter before transfering in the fridge.
- The pickled onions can be ready after one hour if you thinly sliced them (such as when using a mandoline), but it is best to let them marinate overnight in the fridge before serving.
- Keep the marinated onions in the fridge for up to 3-4 weeks (or even longer).
- Serve with tacos, burgers, enchiladas, salads, buddha bowls, sandwiches, and much more.
- Balsamic vinegar vary so much in flavor, so adjust the sweetness of the brine by adding more maple syrup or sugar depending on your taste.
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