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I love these Mexican pickled onions so much. This is such an easy recipe and the result is so flavorful, and so beautiful (that bright pink color!) that I just can’t get enough.
This quick and easy Mexican pickled onions recipe makes frequent appearances on my table. I like to keep a jar of these pickled red onions in my fridge at all times. Just a few slivers can really dress up a simple taco or sandwich.
With just 3 ingredients, 5 minutes of hands-on prep time, and 30 minutes for the magic pickling action to take place, these delicious quick pickled onions can be on the table in no time.
Quick Mexican Pickled Onions Aren’t Just for Tacos
Lime juice makes these quick pickled red onions a perfect match for Mexican food. I made up a batch to top some tacos a couple of weeks ago.
Since then I’ve put them on many of my favorite Mexican dishes plus scrambled eggs, a pita sandwich stuffed with broiled salmon, and a salad with feta cheese. They even make a delicious addition to bagels and lox.
What ingredients do you need to make pickled red onions?
Did I mention they only have three ingredients? Yep.
- Raw red onions: One large red onion makes enough to fill a pint-size jar. Slice the onion as thinly as you can, using either a sharp knife or a mandoline.
- Lime juice: Acid is the first key to pickling onions. Many people use vinegar, like apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar, to make pickled onions. I love the bright citrus flavor lime juice brings to the table, though.
- Salt: This is key number two to perfect quick pickled red onions. Salt helps to break down the raw onion, which facilitates the pickling action of the lime juice.
You could substitute red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or even distilled white vinegar for the lime juice, but I love the lime flavor.
How do you make them?
It’s seriously as easy as 1, 2, 3!
- Thinly slice onions using a sharp chef’s knife or a mandolin slicer. You can slice them into rounds or half moons.
2. Pour boiling water over the onions and let stand for about 10 to 20 seconds before draining.
3. Add salt and freshly squeezed lime juice. Wait 30 minutes to serve them or store them in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Pickled Red Onions Have Tons of Flavor with Less Bite than Raw
I love the bright snappy flavor of onions, especially in Mexican food. But I don’t really like onions raw.
Here, though, the onions are quickly blanched in boiling water to tame their bite, and then pickled in lime juice and salt.
This recipe takes less than 5 minutes of hands-on time to make. Your pickled red onions will be good to go after sitting for just 30 minutes. And they get even better and better after a day (or a week) in your refrigerator. I always have a batch in a mason jar in the fridge.
how do you serve them?
The tangy flavor of these pickled onions adds the perfect pop of flavor to countless dishes.
They are a perfect match for Mexican cuisine. They are the perfect condiment for chicken tacos, Mexican Shredded Beef Tacos, shrimp tacos, cochinita pibil, enchiladas, tamales, fish tacos, Instant Pot black beans, Instant Pot refried beans, and Korean tacos.
I also love them on put them on falafel sandwiches, chickpea burgers, gochujang chicken, fried chicken, rice bowls, scrambled eggs; a pita sandwich stuffed with broiled salmon; salads; bagels and lox; any kind of sandwich, and more.
I love to make an onion-y lime salad dressing using the pickling brine from the jar along with olive oil and a spoonful of dijon mustard. Add a few slivers of the pickled onions to the salad, as well, for the visuals and the flavor.
If you love onion-centric dishes, don’t miss my Onion Samosas.
Mexican pickled onions frequently asked questions
Yes! I like to add chiles to my Mexican pickled onions. I often have jalapeño peppers in the house, in which case I’ll just slice one into rings or strips and add it along with the sliced onions.
Habanero peppers are also great to add here for an extra kick of spice. Like with jalapenos, I slice the habanero thinly and add it along with the sliced onion. Habanero peppers are small, but they pack a lot of heat, so you only need one!
You can also add other vegetables like thinly sliced radishes or carrots or a garlic clove. Radishes can be added after you drain the water off of the onions. Add carrots to the bowl with the onions before pouring the boiling water over them.
You can also add whole spices like red pepper flakes, bay leaves, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, star anise, or a cinnamon stick. Add these after draining off the boiling water.
Fresh herbs, too, are a great addition. Basil, mint, dill, or Mexican oregano are all great here.
If you’d like them to be a little sweeter, add a bit of honey, maple syrup, or sugar.
If you don’t have lots of limes, you can use lemon juice or just about any variety of vinegar including distilled white vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or rice vinegar, which will give a milder flavor, in place of the lime juice. You can even use a combination of vinegars. The flavor will be different, but still delish!
I wouldn’t recommend substituting orange juice or Meyer lemon juice as these don’t have enough acid to properly pickle the onions.
You can absolutely make Mexican pickled onions with white onions or yellow onions. They won’t be as pretty, and they’ll likely be slightly less sweet, but they will still be delicious!
You can also use sweet onions like Vidalia onions, which will be sweet like the red onions, but without the bright pink color.
This is one of those things that people are very passionate about. If this goes against everything your grandmother taught you about pickling onions, you can certainly skip this step.
I like to blanch the onions first because it softens them up so that they can pickle in the lime juice quickly. These pickled onions are ready to eat within 30 minutes.
They are great on just about anything. I add them to salads or use them to top chili or stews, put them in tacos and burritos, on sandwiches, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, bagels, falafel pitas, hummus, or add them to a platter of dips and appetizers.
At least a few weeks. I mean, they’ll probably disappear way faster than that. But if you have any left, they’ll still be perfectly delicious and safe to eat.
Put them in a mason jar, canning jar, or another airtight container in the refrigerator and they will last for at least a couple weeks, if not a month or longer.
Keep a Jar of Quick Pickled Red Onions in the Fridge
Mexican Pickled Onions will last for at least a month in your refrigerator, and I guarantee you will not run out of ideas for things to put them on. Try it on Chicken Enchiladas, Fish Tacos, Blackened Fish Tacos, Salpicon de Res, or really any type of tacos or tostadas. They’re perfect on Birria Quesadillas or an Elk Burger.
Or try it on:
- Grilled meat or fish
- Chickpea Burgers
- Sandwiches (mmm, how about on a tuna, chicken, or egg salad sandwich? Or on top of a bagel with cream cheese and lox! Or pulled pork sandwiches.)
- Burgers (they’re a great way to add punch to a turkey burger!)
- Hot dogs or sausage sandwiches
- Cochinita pibil (a Yucatecan specialty of pork braised in banana leaves)
I could go on and on. But bottom line, you should make these Mexican pickled onions now. You won’t regret it.
Mexican Pickled Onions with Lime Juice
- 1 large red onion halved and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup lime juice from about 6 limes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Put a kettle of water on the stove to boil. Place the sliced onions in a heat-proof and non-reactive bowl (glass or ceramic). When the water boils, pour it over the onions to cover. Stir and let sit for about 10 seconds, then pour into a colander to drain.
- Return the onions to the bowl and add the lime juice and salt. Stir to mix well. Let sit for 30 minutes before serving. Store in a covered glass container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.