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How long do canned pickled red onions last?

Canned pickled red onions are a versatile ingredient that can add flavor and crunch to many dishes. But how long do they actually last once the can is opened? Here is a comprehensive guide to maximizing the shelf life of canned pickled red onions.

Do canned pickled red onions expire?

Yes, canned pickled red onions do eventually expire and go bad. However, unopened cans have an exceptionally long shelf life of 2 to 3 years past the printed “best by” date on the can. Once opened, canned pickled red onions last between 6 to 8 months in the refrigerator.

How to tell if canned pickled red onions are bad?

There are a few signs that indicate spoiled canned pickled red onions:

  • Mold growth
  • Slimy texture
  • Foul odor
  • Discolored or darkened onions
  • Soft onions
  • Popped or bulging can upon opening

If you notice any of these signs, it is best to discard the canned onions. Consuming spoiled pickled onions can potentially cause foodborne illness.

Tips to maximize shelf life

Here are some tips to get the most out of your canned pickled red onions:

  • Refrigerate after opening – Keep the opened can in the fridge, rather than the pantry. The cold temperatures prolong freshness.
  • Transfer to an airtight container – For longer lasting onions, transfer the contents of the opened can to a clean airtight container. This prevents air exposure.
  • Use clean utensils – Always use clean forks, tongs, or spoons to remove onions. Dirty utensils can introduce bacteria.
  • Check for damage – Inspect cans before purchasing. Avoid cans with rust, dents, or bulging lids.
  • Don’t contaminate – Be careful not to reintroduce onions that have been exposed to double dipping back into the can.

Refrigerator: 6-8 months

Once opened, canned pickled red onions will last for 6 to 8 months in the refrigerator. The vinegar brine preserves the onions and prevents spoilage. Just be sure to store them properly.

Keep the can or storage container towards the back of the fridge, rather than the door. The coldest section of the refrigerator extends shelf life. Some other guidelines for storage include:

  • Keep sealed in original can or transfer to airtight container
  • Ensure onions remain fully submerged in brine
  • Wipe clean the rims of cans before sealing
  • Do not stack cans to prevent damage

Pantry: 2-3 years (unopened)

Unopened cans of pickled red onions are incredibly shelf stable. They will maintain quality for 2 to 3 years in a cool, dry pantry as long as the can remains undamaged.

Avoid storing cans in humid environments or in direct sunlight, both of which can accelerate deterioration. Cans should not be exposed to freezing temperatures either. Prior to opening, inspect each can to ensure it shows no signs of damage or swelling.

Freezer: 1 year

For maximum shelf life, canned pickled red onions can also be frozen. This stops the aging process almost completely. Frozen, they will last for 1 year.

To freeze, simply transfer onions along with brine into freezer bags or airtight containers. Lay bags flat to freeze faster. Thaw onions overnight in the fridge before using.

Freezing does lead to some textural changes. Onions become slightly softer once thawed. But the flavor remains intact.

Summary Table

Storage Method Storage Time
Pantry (unopened) 2-3 years
Refrigerator 6-8 months
Freezer 1 year

How to use up canned pickled red onions

To use canned pickled red onions before they go bad, try incorporating them into these recipes:

Sandwiches and burgers

Add crisp tang by topping sandwiches and burgers with pickled red onions.


Mix pickled red onion slices into fresh green salads, pasta salads, or potato salads.

tacos and nachos

Pile pickled onions on top of tacos or nachos for a salty crunch.

grain bowls

Use pickled red onions to top grain bowls with quinoa or couscous.

charcuterie boards

Arrange pickled onions alongside cured meats, cheeses, fruits, and nuts.


Scatter pickled red onions over homemade or store-bought pizza.

soups and chili

Add some onions to soups or chili for a bright acidic crunch.

coleslaws and potato salads

Stir pickled red onion slices into creamy summery salads.


Eat pickled red onions straight out of the jar for a quick snack.

Pickling onions at home

Want to pickle your own red onions? Here is a simple brine recipe to try:


  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced


  1. Combine vinegar, water, salt, sugar, bay leaf and peppercorns in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  2. Place onion slices into a sterilized jar. Pour hot brine over onions.
  3. Let cool completely, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
  4. Onions will keep in the fridge for up to 1 month.


With proper storage and handling, canned pickled red onions can last 6 to 8 months in the fridge or 2 to 3 years in the pantry. Transfer opened cans to the refrigerator right away. Look for signs of spoilage before eating. Freezing also extends shelf life significantly. Use pickled onions to add flavor to sandwiches, salads, nachos, pizza and more.