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18 Creative Uses For Pickled Red Onions

Pickled onions, hot dog, burger
Pickled onions, hot dog, burger - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

The world of pickled veggies is vast, encompassing everything from flavorful Korean kimchi to massive deli pickles brined with garlic and dill. But one pickled veggie stands above the rest: pickled red onions.

Red onions can be an oppressive allium if they're not tamed with vinegar. At their most intense, they're sharp and throat-stingingly painful to eat. Plus, everything you eat after you consume a stray piece of red onion in your salad will taste like the bright purple root veggie. But pickled red onions have a softer flavor that can be infused with sugar, garlic, and spices. While you can pick up a jar from the store, you can also make your own at home and have a container ready whenever you're looking to upgrade a dish. Here are some of our favorite ways to use this beautiful pink ingredient and add a new depth of flavor to your favorite foods.

Read more: Vinegar Cooking Hacks You'll Wish You Knew Sooner

Add Some Crunch To Your Pizza

Pickled red onions on pizza
Pickled red onions on pizza - Katerininamd/Shutterstock

Even the most casual pizzeria offers an array of toppings nowadays. It's not uncommon to see ingredients from all corners of the world, including finely shaved truffles, fruits and jams, and an array of meats to please the palate. One of these ingredients goes underappreciated by the broader pizza community: pickled red onions.

These onions bring a sweet, acidic pop to your pie. These flavor notes cut through an otherwise fatty and dense meal, but the pickling process softens the full blow of the onions' flavor. You can go out of the box with this topping and pair it with things like arugula and coppa, or you can stick to adding it to a plain cheese pie. While you can add it to the pizza before baking, we find that the pickling liquid is sometimes too wet for the pie crust to handle, and the baking process often subdues the allium's delicate flavors. Best to add it right before you pull it out, or as it's cooling on the counter.

Use Them On Your Burgers

Burgers with veggies on plate
Burgers with veggies on plate - Vladislav Noseek/Shutterstock

Burgers seem to know no bounds when it comes to toppings: You can find these sandwiches topped with the most absurd and ostentatious things. Unfortunately, this often overshadows some of the simpler toppings out there, like pickled red onions. They're not as out-there as, say, guacamole, but they're still deserving of attention.

These alliums add a new dimension of flavor to your burgers and help balance out the heavier ingredients hiding in the bun. They subdue the richness of ooey, gooey cheese, while also cutting through the greasiness of the burger patty. Not only can you use this topping for standard beef burgers, you can also use it for hearty black bean or veggie burgers, or a patty made with ground poultry.

Brighten Up Your Breakfast Sandwich

Bagel with lox and fried egg
Bagel with lox and fried egg - Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock

You can stuff practically anything into a bagel or biscuit and call it a breakfast sandwich. Fried eggs, cheese, avocadoes, hot sauce, and even hash browns can all amp up this beloved dish and please your palate. If you need to bring an acidic balance to your sandwich, though, grab a jar of pickled red onions.

These onions counteract the heaviness of breakfast sandwiches, which makes them a godsend when you cook your over-easy egg in a bit too much oil, or are working with especially greasy bacon. This is why red onions are a staple addition to a bagel with cream cheese and lox -- they're sharp, bright, and have a way of waking you up. But the pickling takes them even further, bringing classic onion flavor to the meal without overwhelming the other elements of this sandwich, as the non-pickled variety often does.

Mix Them Into Your Egg Salad

Egg salad sandwich with pickle
Egg salad sandwich with pickle - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Egg salad has historically been dealt a bad hand. It's not a top sandwich choice from any deli, which is surely influenced by many folks' aversion to mayonnaise and the salad's strong smell. But egg salad can actually be a good vector for flavors, and it doesn't have to be a gummy, too-creamy, oddly thick mouthful. All it takes are pickled red onions.

Pickled onions add a final, flavorful touch to egg salad, without the intense assertiveness of plain red onions. Each bite is filled with a subtly sweet and sour portfolio of flavors that makes the mayonnaise and fatty egg yolks a bit more approachable. Pair your upgraded egg salad with fresh, crunchy lettuce and sturdy bread, and you'll be well on your way to a successful lunch.

Add New Dimmension To Your Salad

Salad with artichokes and onions
Salad with artichokes and onions - AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock

Finding chopped red onions in a salad is pretty standard. However, many people still ask for their salads to be made without red onions. While colorful, the onion overtakes every element of the dish and leaves some tasting the allium for days.

Pickled red onions solve this issue. They're just as pretty as raw red onions, which makes for a nice-looking salad, but the addition of brininess blunts the onions' sharpness and works well with a variety of dressings. In addition, these pickled alliums also have a moderately crunchy texture that keeps every bite interesting. We recommend pairing your pickled red onions with a mild lettuce, like romaine or bibb, bready croutons, and cheese.

Bring A Zing To Your Carne Picada

Carne picada on taco
Carne picada on taco - Julianne De Witt/Tasting Table

Carne picada is essentially a Southwestern rendition of beef stew. Chuck roast is braised with tomatoes and Anaheim peppers, as well as flavorful additions like cumin, ancho chili powder, and Mexican oregano. It's a party in your mouth that can only be made better with a bright, sweet element like pickled red onions.

The pickled red onions need to be reserved until after the cooking process is finished, to preserve their sweet flavor and distinctive color. You can add the stew to tacos and top with red onions, or serve it in a bowl with cilantro, seasoned rice, and black beans, or a similar medley. The acidity of the onions meshes well with the bright tomato, and makes for a well-rounded bite you'll want to savor.

Elevate Your Potato Salad With Pickled Red Onions

Bowl of potato salad with onions
Bowl of potato salad with onions - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

We give potato salad a lot of credit, because it can easily morph into anything you want it to be. Start with boiled potatoes and decide if you want to go with a vinegar-based dressing or stick with the classic Southern mayo variation. Toss whatever ingredients you want in, chill it, and serve it at your next barbecue or family event.

If you find your potato salad is falling short, though, elevate it with pickled red onions. The sharpness of the onions pairs well with the starchy potatoes, without dominating the salad. Plus, pickled red onions have a little bit of a sweeter taste than other onions, and make your salad more colorful. You can also get adventurous with spices like paprika, or additions like walnuts; they play very well with pickled red onions, and bring subtle crunch and fattiness to the salad. These onions are a gateway to flavor exploration.

Use Pickled Red Onions For Color On Your Charcuterie Board

Charcuterie board with knives
Charcuterie board with knives - stbar1964/Shutterstock

In a lot of people's kitchens, charcuterie boards are inspired by whatever the supermarket has to offer on any given day. But methodical planning and an appreciation for colorful ingredients can help build a cohesive board that encapsulates every sort of ingredient. Pickled red onions are a staple, especially in plant-based charcuterie boards, because they provide a subtle pop of pink and vibrant, versatile flavor.

There are many different elements to pair with pickled red onions. A creamy Boursin cheese would be a great complement to the onions' prickly-sweet flavor, while hummus would also benefit from a garnish of pickled onions on top.

Give Your Plain Sandwich A Lift

Open faced sandwich with onions
Open faced sandwich with onions - Tatiana Vorona/Shutterstock

Life is too short to settle for a lackluster sandwich. While adding a glob of mustard or a piece of lettuce might be a beginner's idea of "exciting," there's a whole world of ingredients out there to take your lunchtime staple to new heights. Adding acidic ingredients will do your sandwiches a favor, because each bite will have a built-in palate cleanse. If you're working with particularly salty deli meat, you can also get a reprieve with the help of pickled red onions. It even cuts through spicy arugula and tangy mustard with ease.

One of our favorite sandwiches to make with pickled red onions is a Benedictine and bacon. Benedictine spread, for the uninitiated, is made of cream cheese and cucumber, which is complemented with fresh dill sprigs, crispy bacon, and pickled red onions.

Make Your Hot Dog More Exciting

Hot dogs with many toppings
Hot dogs with many toppings - sweet marshmallow/Shutterstock

"Hot dogs! Get your hot dogs here!" Although we love a good hot dog call, we need to make it clear that we only order a hot dog if it comes with a topping of pickled red onions. While this condiment might not be a staple at cookouts, it should be; pickled red onions take these humble hot dogs to a new level. We feel so strongly about this that we're willing to argue that they should be as ubiquitous as ketchup.

Plain onions provide great texture to hot dogs, but tend to leave a film on your tongue and overtake every other topping. Instead of reaching for them, add a layer of pickled red onions instead. You get extra vinegar notes without having the astringent flavor of the onions themselves lingering too long. Try flavoring your pickling liquid with anise or dried chili peppers for an extra dimension of flavor.

Set Your Tacos Up For Success With Pickled Red Onions

Tacos with red onions
Tacos with red onions - Marcos Castillo/Shutterstock

Tacos and pickled red onions were made for one another. The condiment performs double duty on taco night. It provides a bright, colorful contrast to the comparatively plain color of the taco shell and meat inside. It also gives each bite a surprising pop of acidity and flavor that can only be made better with a squirt of lime juice.

We prefer using pickled red onions to elevate our tacos over white onions because the flavor is less overpowering. Plus, you can add a bit of sugar to the pickling liquid to lend more sweet flavors to the condiment, which easily enhances slow-cooked pork carnitas or barbacoa. Fish, although light, can also be a great vector for the pickled red onions, especially when paired with creamy avocado.

Enhance The Flavor Of A Savory Galette

Galette with beets and cheese
Galette with beets and cheese - Magdanatka/Shutterstock

If you serve a galette at a party, everyone will be certain to praise how beautiful and bright it is. Vegetable-stuffed savory galettes are made with a layer of pastry, which can be made from pie dough or puff pastry, crowned with toppings. It teeters on the line between pie and pizza, which makes it sublimely possible to stuff with your favorite ingredients.

As with pizza, we recommend not putting pickled red onions onto your galette dough before you pop it in the oven. Instead, add the pickled red onions to the pie after you pull it out. Then, you can sprinkle them thickly without having to worry about making your crust too droopy or soggy. The onions pair well with many different squashes, figs, and brie. You can also add a drizzle of maple syrup on top for a sweet twist.

Add Crunchiness To Your Tuna Sandwich

Tuna salad with avocado
Tuna salad with avocado - sweet marshmallow/Shutterstock

Like other types of salads, tuna salad can come out bland if you neglect to dress it up. Spices and a quality mayonnaise can help you forget that this tuna came from a can, but it really needs the help of different tastes and textures. Cue the pickled red onions.

These onions are one of the best additions to canned tuna because they don't make the entire salad too onion-forward. Rather, they provide a subtle hint of sugar and spice that makes canned tuna extra nice, whether you add them to a salad or on top of an open-faced sandwich. You can even up the ante by pouring a little bit of the pickling liquid into the bowl containing the canned tuna.

Curb The Richness Of Your Baked Potatoes With Pickled Red Onions

Loaded baked potato with toppings
Loaded baked potato with toppings - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

If we could describe a baked potato in one word, it would be "heavy." It's easy to get overwhelmed by its starchy filling, as well as towering toppings like bacon, sour cream, and cheese. If you need a reprieve from the richness of these spuds, turn to pickled red onions. The acidic tang will balance out the rich toppings and the heartiness of the potato.

Regular russets and yellow potatoes aren't the only ones that can benefit from a pickled onion topping, either. Our shwarma-ish stuffed sweet potatoes are the perfect base for the pickled allium, which complements the shaved steak, chickpeas, and spinach in the recipe. A tahini dressing and fresh cilantro can further enhance the flavor of these potatoes and make them into a whole meal.

Pack It On Your Avocado Toast

Avocado toast with red onion
Avocado toast with red onion - Lisa Top/Shutterstock

No breakfast food had a starring role in the 2010s food scene quite like avocado toast. The recipe is simple: Grab a sturdy bread, top it with mashed or slivered avocado, and dress it with toppings fit for an Instagram-worthy snapshot. The best way to curb the heaviness of the avocado is to pair it with something fresh and vegetal -- like pickled red onions.

This ingredient helps restore balance to this breakfast star. Not only are pickled red onions beautiful, they can also curb the richness of other toppings you add, like poached or fried eggs. Their flavors are as sweet and as vibrant as their color. This makes them a must-have for every avo-toast going forward.

Bring An Acidic Element To Your Pulled Pork

Pulled pork sandwich with onions
Pulled pork sandwich with onions - Robert Briggs/Shutterstock

Pulled pork is a delightful protein for a sandwich -- but boy, is it heavy. Not only does it take ages to make, but the resultant sandwich is coated with layers of sauce and meat that will make you feel very, very full afterward. To make your sandwich a little more balanced, turn to pickled red onions.

First things first: You can make relatively easy pulled pork by cooking it in a slow cooker. When you're ready to serve, skip the coleslaw and pile your brioche buns high with pickled red onion. We prefer a sweeter onion recipe here, since it complements the meat beautifully and balances out the tasty, moist pulled pork and the soft bun.

Give Your Grilled Cheese A Zesty Upgrade

Grilled cheese sandwich on paper
Grilled cheese sandwich on paper - Secha6271/Getty Images

Grilled cheese doesn't have to be chained to the one-note homestyle recipe that everyone is used to, alongside tomato soup. It can also be exciting and full of fun, punchy flavors. If you're eager to experiment and scanning your fridge for a condiment, reach for a container of pickled red onions. Their acidity balances out the melty richness of the cheese, whether you go with brie, cheddar, or classic American.

The one thing to worry about with this topping is that it can be wet. Wet toppings don't always work well with a hot, crusty sandwich.Try to remove as much of the pickling liquid as you can, or add the onions to the sandwich after you pull it off the heat.

Pack It Into Your Grain Bowls

Various grain bowls
Various grain bowls - RFondren Photography/Shutterstock

The best things in life are simple, which is why we find ourselves turning to grain bowls as a solid lunch or dinner option. Grain bowls are filled with all the wholesome ingredients you need. You can customize the base recipe by toggling between couscous, quinoa, rice, and many other fluffy foundations, top it with whatever complementary proteins, veggies, and sauce you like, and choose garnishes from all over the world.

We like using pickled red onions for grain bowls, because they add a pop of color and an acidic element to the dish. They're particularly useful if your sauce tends to lean heavy and creamy, like a tahini or a tzatziki. Plus, pickled red onions play well with other flavorful toppings like crunchy chickpeas, pickled veggies, and nightshades like eggplant and tomato.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.