Looking to add a bright zing to just about anything? These Pickled Red Onions or Cebollas Curtidas add phenomenal color and crunch, not to mention sweet vinegary bite to tacos, sandwiches, tostadas and more! Video included.
no simpler way to dress up a meal
This Mexican secret of adding acid to onions—making them soft, supple, and tame is one of the best ways to add a special finishing touch to your favorite Mexican food recipe.
All over Mexico you will find different variations on this idea depending on the most abundant local onion and other ingredients they have to add that acidic touch.
The onions can vary from yellow to white to red and the sourness can be anything from bitter orange juice, lime juice, or the gentle, sweet fruit vinegars many people make in their homes.
Sometimes spices like black peppercorns, bay leaves, or allspice berries are added. Occasionally, I add a minced habanero chile if I want to make them spicy.
My recipe adds a touch of sweetness to make a quick pickled red onion recipe that is 100 percent addictive!
what you need to make pickled red onions
This refrigerator pickle is dead simple and only requires a few ingredients.
Red Onions. You will need onions (obviously). This makes enough brine for 1 large red onion or 2 small red onions.
For this recipe I used red onions because their color turns a bright pink that is so beautiful and makes anything it graces look instantly more appetizing.
If you have white or yellow onions and want to use those instead, they will still taste great, just not have the same color.
Granulated Sugar. I think this gives the cleanest flavor and clearest liquid but see below for other sugar substitutes.
Kosher Salt. Always kosher, always Morton’s.
Distilled White Vinegar. Just like the granulated sugar, I think distilled white vinegar offers the cleanest flavor but I’ve listed other vinegar options in the variations listed below.
Small saucepan to make the pickling liquid in.
Whisk for dissolving the sugar and salt.
Mandolin or sharp Chef’s knife. Not a day goes by that I don’t use my $14 Benriner Japanese Mandolin (just checked the price on Amazon and they now sell for $30 but I think you can still find them for less at an Asian market.)
Medium, heatproof bowl, for marinating the onions.
Mason jar for storing them in the refrigerator. You could also use any glass container with a tight-fitting lid as long as the onions stay submerged beneath the brine.
how to make a quick pickle
When I say it is super quick and easy, I mean it!
I use a ratio of sugar to vinegar to water that my grandmother taught me when we would make pickled beets in the summer.
It works on just about any vegetable and in my opinion is the perfect mix of sweet and sour.
- Make the brine. Start by mixing the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve.
- Boil to dissolve the sugar and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil then turn the heat off.
- Slice the onions. Meanwhile, slice the onions. I like to slice them very thin on a mandolin.
- Transfer to a shatterproof glass or metal bowl. Place the thinly sliced onions in a medium, heatproof bowl.
- Cover with hot brine. Pour the pickling liquid over the onions, push down to submerge in the liquid.
- Cool at room temperature. Let cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes.
- Chill. Transfer to a Mason jar, making sure the onions are covered by the pickling liquid.
- Enjoy! Seal and keep onions in the fridge for up to a month.
when are they ready?
The onions are ready as soon as they are cold. Let them sit at least an hour or two in the refrigerator before eating. That being said, the longer they sit, the better they are. I like to make them at least a day before I plan on eating them.
They will keep sealed in the fridge for up to a month but mind never make it that long, they are so good, they disappear in usually about a week.
Now that you’ve got the idea, let’s play around!
- Swap the distilled white vinegar for rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.
- Use maple syrup, brown sugar, or Piloncillo (raw, crushed sugar cane) instead of the granulated sugar.
- Add spices like toasted cumin seeds, whole allspice berries, or black peppercorns. Or add a few garlic cloves. Gemma from Everyday Latina adds bay leaf and red pepper flakes to hers.
- Instead of quick pickled red onions, use thinly slice carrots, radishes, bell peppers, or beets instead.
- Cut onions into thick slices and char them first on a hot, dry comal or on the grill before soaking them in the brine. This gives them a smoky flavor.
what to eat with this pickled red onion recipe
I honestly can’t think of a Mexican dish that wouldn’t benefit from a tangle of pickled onions on top. Here are a few ways I’ve used them in the past:
- Cochinita Pibil Tacos
- On top of avocado toast
- Grilled Hot Dog and Sausages
- Crock Pot Mexican Pulled Pork Sandwiches
- You could even chop them up and add them to salad dressings.
More pickled recipes you may enjoy
- Basic Pickled Vegetables
- Tomatillo-Pineapple Pickle Relish
- Pickled Jalapeños with Goat Cheese
- Avocado Pickles
- Sweet Cumin Radish Pickles
take your tacos from good to amazing!
With this one simple trick! When you make these pickled red onions, let me know how they’ve transformed your life—or at least your tacos. Let me know when you make it by snapping a pic and tagging me on Instagram @holajalapeno and #holajalapeno so I can see or leave me a comment below (don’t forget to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating) ! Also, sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!
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