Pickled Red Onions

A canning jar overflowing with pickled red onions and a fork resting on the jar.

Pickled red onions are an essential in Yucatán cuisine and accompany many traditional dishes, including cochinita pibil [Editor’s Note: And many untraditional dishes, including ancho short rib tacos]. They’re so easy to make and brighten up any dish with their sweet acidity and hot pink color.–Shannon Bard

LC Acid(ic) Trip Note

Pickled red onions provide the perfect acid(ic) trip when tucked inside tacos, quesadillas, sandwiches, hot dogs, and anything else that could use a tangy crunch. And don’t feel bad if they don’t even make it that far. We’ve been known to snitch so many straight outta the bowl that we’ve had to make another batch. Luckily, these take only 15 minutes to toss together and a few hours to actually pickle. Actually, lately we tend to simply double the recipe right away. That whole “know thyself” thing. As for what you can do with pickled red onions, we compiled a short list of things we find are perfect when embellished by these. Here it is:

Atop tacos, natch. Especially grilled fish tacos.
Substituted for coleslaw on a barbecue sandwich.
Stirred into eggs any time of day.
Plopped on hot dogs.
Swapped in place of pico de gallo or salsa in just about anything.
Draped on an open-face sandwich of smoked salmon and cream cheese or chèvre.
Incorporated into lentil salad with feta.
Added to watermelon salad with feta and arugula.
Strewn atop avocado toast.

Pickled Red Onions

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 15 M
  • 4 H, 30 M
  • Makes 8 servings | 2 cups total
5/5 - 1 reviews
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Toss the red onion and salt in a nonreactive bowl and stir in the lime juice. Set the mixture aside and let the ingredients hang out at room temperature for 30 minutes, stirring fairly frequently, until the onions begin to turn bright pink. At first the onions will be stiff so you’ll need to toss them with the lime juice frequently so as to expose as many of the onions to the lime juice as possible. But after a little while the onions will begin to collapse.

After half an hour, stir in the oregano and cumin, if desired.

Cover and refrigerate the red onions and the lime juice for at least 4 hours, stirring occasionally, before serving. (Any leftover pickled red onions—as if!—can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week. As for ideas what to do with your pickled onions, see the LC Straight Outta The Bowl note above and the Testers Choice comments below.)

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

Yucatán, meet Baja! I was making Baja-style fish tacos and decided that these pickled red onions would be perfect to bump things up a bit. Wow, did they ever! I used my usual sour cream- and mayo-based Baja sauce but cut back on the amount of lime juice to compensate for the lime in the onions. I decided to use the onions instead of my usual slaw. The onions only took about 10 minutes to slice and assemble, followed by about 6 hours in the fridge. I used both the cumin and Mexican oregano. The sweetness and acidity of the pickled red onions enhanced the flavor of the fish and the sauce without overpowering them, and I loved their beautiful pink color. Can't wait to try this with other dishes or on sandwiches. Perfect meal for a warm summer evening on the patio with an ice-cold beer!

Wow! Perfectly salty, crunchy, sweet, and sour, these pickled red onions are just wonderful and rival anything I can find at my local southern California taquerías. These pickled red onions would be a fabulous condiment for a summer BBQ or would make a great addition to tacos, burritos, quesadillas, or any other Mexican-style dish. I’m glad my local market was selling 10 limes for $1. I usually show restraint when using salt, but for this pickle, I added all the salt called for in the recipe. The flavors were fantastic and spot-on. The recipe yielded about 3 cups pickled red onions, which could easily serve 12 people with a generous 1/4 cup serving per person and even more in smaller portions. I tried these in a quesadilla and boy, was it good! I wouldn’t hesitate to make this simple pickled red onions recipe again.


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  1. Obsessed!! I love all pickled onions and these are sooooo good. I added a little extra Mexican oregano and they were perfect on our street tacos and even the kids loved them.

  2. Until I opened this post, I didn’t know I needed these pickled onions. I had all the ingredients on hand and will be adding them to my salad for tomorrow’s lunch. Yum!

    1. Elizabeth, we didn’t know we needed them, either, until we put them on fish tacos last summer. From that moment, everything changed. Lovely to be in such good tastes with our pickle preferences.

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