I want to make pickled red onions, but I'm not sure which vinegar is more suitable - white vinegar or rice vinegar.

From my research, white vinegar is the most common choice - it has a stronger, sharper flavor than rice vinegar, which is a little sweeter and more delicate.

Which vinegar is more suitable for pickling red onions? Are there any other similar alternatives I haven't considered?

  • 3
    I don’t think this question can be answered as basically you can use whatever vinegar in the 4-7% acidity range that you can get your hands on. It depends on what you want to achieve also.
    – jmk
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 10:20
  • What I'm trying to ask is, which vinegar works best with red onions specifically? I want my pickled red onions to be tangy with a hint of sweetness, but without an overwhelming acidic flavor.
    – uriyabsc
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 11:11
  • It's all "refrigerator pickles", so... try them both and see which you like.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 23:02
  • I'm afraid this is really a pairing question. The amount of acid you need for a conserved product is fixed, you can't vary that. If that's too acidic to you and you want more flavors or more sugar in there to distract from it, you can of course either add those or use a vinegar which already has them, but this really a question of picking a vinegar which you think matches the taste, and that's a pairing question.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 7:02

2 Answers 2


White rice vinegar is virtually indistinguishable from “white vinegar”, which may be made of various things including rice.

You can pickle red onions in whatever vinegar you like, but clear vinegars (such as “white vinegar” or white rice vinegar) will best show off the color, so that’s what I ordinarily use. Flavor-wise, cider vinegar also works well. If you want the color to pop even more, you can use red wine vinegar.

To reduce the acidic flavor, add water. Most vinegars available to consumers have the same acidity. To increase sweetness, add sugar.

  • 2
    It's worth noting that rice vinegar is usually lower acidity than white vinegar: 5% vs 6%. The only vinegar I wouldn't casually substitute is balsamic vinegar. Balsamic-marinated onions are a thing, but they are very different.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 20:28

I really like using seasoned rice vinegar. It is slightly milder and is also salt/sweet balanced already. I just add some orange peel, peppercorns, and whatever herbs I'm angling for to compliment the main dish.

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