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Are pickled onions healthy?

Pickled onions are onions that have been preserved in an acidic liquid, usually vinegar. This process extends the shelf life of the onions while also imparting a tangy, sour flavor. But are pickled onions good for you? Here is a comprehensive look at the nutrition profile and health effects of pickled onions.

Nutrition Facts

The nutrition content of pickled onions can vary depending on the ingredients used in the pickling process. In general, a 1/2 cup (75g) serving of pickled onions contains (1):

  • Calories: 16
  • Carbs: 4g
  • Fiber: 0.5g
  • Sugar: 2g
  • Fat: 0g
  • Protein: 0g
  • Sodium: 270mg

Pickled onions are very low in calories, fat, and protein. They do contain a fair amount of sodium from the brining process. The main nutrients found in pickled onions include:

Vitamin K

Pickled onions are an excellent source of vitamin K. Just 1/2 cup provides over 50% of the RDI for this important vitamin (1). Vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting and bone health.

Vitamin C

Thanks to the vinegar used in pickling, pickled onions provide a decent amount of vitamin C, with 1/2 cup delivering 4% of the RDI (1). Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and aids immune function.


Pickled onions supply around 3% of the RDI for potassium per serving (1). Potassium helps control blood pressure and balances fluid levels in the body.


The pickling process promotes the growth of beneficial probiotics. Consuming probiotic-rich foods like pickled onions can enhance digestive health and immunity (2).

Health Benefits

Eating pickled onions may provide several benefits when enjoyed as part of a healthy diet:

May Promote Heart Health

Animal and cell studies reveal that acetic acid, the main component of vinegar used in pickling, may help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides (3). The probiotics in pickled onions could also benefit heart health by reducing inflammation (4).

Could Aid Digestion

The probiotics in pickled onions may help optimize the balance of good bacteria in your gut. This effect could improve several aspects of digestive health, including digestion, regularity, and symptoms like bloating and constipation (5).

May Strengthen Bones

Pickled onions are packed with vitamin K, a nutrient vital for healthy bones. Getting adequate vitamin K prevents fractures and conditions like osteoporosis by improving calcium absorption (6).

Could Support Immune Function

Pickled onions supply vitamin C and probiotics, both of which help keep your immune system strong and prevent infections. Studies link low vitamin C intake with impaired immunity (7).

May Have Antioxidant Properties

Onions are rich in antioxidants like quercetin and vitamin C, both of which combat inflammation and protect cells from damage. Pickling may preserve some of these antioxidant compounds (8).


While pickled onions can be healthy in moderation, some potential downsides exist as well:

  • High in sodium, which may increase blood pressure
  • Often made with refined sugar, increasing calorie count
  • May contain preservatives like sulfur dioxide
  • Some brands pasteurize pickles, destroying probiotics
  • Acidic vinegar may cause reflux in sensitive people

To maximize benefits, choose pickled onions made without sugar or preservatives. Opt for raw, unpasteurized versions to get probiotics. Limit portion sizes to control your sodium intake. People with acid reflux may wish to avoid pickled items.

Are Pickled Onions Safe During Pregnancy?

Pregnant women can safely enjoy pickled onions as part of a healthy pregnancy diet. In fact, the vitamin K in pickled onions helps prevent vitamin K deficiency bleeding in newborns (9).

However, pregnant women should opt for pasteurized varieties to lower the very small risk of foodborne illness from bacteria like listeria. Talk to your doctor about how much sodium and vinegar is appropriate for you.

How to Make Your Own Pickled Onions

Making homemade pickled onions allows you to control the ingredients. Here is a simple recipe to try:


  • 3 cups sliced onions
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vinegar (apple cider or white vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Optional: garlic, peppercorns, mustard seeds, dried chiles


  1. Slice onions into thin rounds and place in a mason jar or pickling container.
  2. Bring water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a boil. Pour over onions.
  3. Add any optional spices.
  4. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 2 days before eating to allow flavors to develop.
  5. Store pickled onions in the fridge for up to 1 month.

How to Use Pickled Onions

Pickled onions add a tangy crunch and unique flavor to many dishes. Here are some tasty ways to use them:

  • Top burgers or sandwiches
  • Toss into green salads
  • Add to wraps or tacos
  • Use as a relish for hot dogs or sausages
  • Garnish for nachos or chili
  • Mix into potato or egg salads
  • Accompaniment for meat or cheese boards
  • Add to omelets, frittatas, or breakfast sandwiches

The Bottom Line

Pickled onions can be a nutritious addition to your diet when consumed in moderation. They supply probiotics, vitamin K, vitamin C, and antioxidants. Potential benefits include improved digestion, immunity, heart health, and bone strength.

To maximize the nutritional value, opt for raw, unpasteurized varieties without added sugar or preservatives. Pair pickled onions with healthy whole foods and limit portion sizes to keep sodium in check. Overall, pickled onions can be a tasty way to add beneficial probiotics and nutrients to your meals and snacks.