Pickled red onions

December 15, 2016 Published by Dina

If you have been to Mexico, and I am sure you have, you know how important pickles are to the layers of flavours in this simple yet complex cuisine. Almost every dish is accompanied by some pickles, be it the bright and colourful pickled red onion, mildly spicy jalapenos, pickled radishes or pickled fruits. The most commonly seen are the pickled red onions that go so well with the variety of seafood so abundant in this area.

Pickled red onions are easy to prepare, keep well in the fridge and look beautiful and vibrant on a plate of food.

Pickled red onion

When I arrive at our Mexican abode, once I get comfortable in the kitchen, I first make a few basic things such as red tomato sauce, green tomatillos sauce, pickled onions and perhaps roasted habaneros salsa, things that can be used in many dishes and are staples in local cuisine.

The red onion pickle is a must have here. It can be made with plain white vinegar, sugar and salt, or more traditionally in the Yucatan, with juice from sour green oranges. Since we have no access to green oranges in the northern latitude where we live, I am providing a recipe with ingredients that can be commonly found anywhere, but this link to a previous post will give you  information of how to prepare it with sour green oranges if you have them or suggested substitutes .

Sour oranges

Sour oranges

Pickles are at the heart of many sun drenched cuisines, providing a contrast and burst of fresh acidity between bites of rich and earthy flavours. I see all kinds of ways to use this pickle even without Mexican cooking: vegetarian burgers, sandwiches, falafel in pita, as condiment alongside foods, added to salads and slaws etc., not to mention serving with nachos, tacos, burritos and as they do here, with fish and more.

Mexican pickled red onion

Mexican pickled red onion

These are not necessarily preserves and do not require the usual processing that preserving and pickling vegetables would require. My method is simply to boil the vinegar, sugar and salt, pour it over the vegetables, let it cool and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the pickle effect to take place. In the case of red onions, their colour blossoms into magnificent reddish pink tone. Depending on the vegetable you pickle, you can vary the amount of sugar you use to create a sweet or more savoury pickle as you like them.

I hope you enjoy and give it a try.


1 large red onion

1 1/2 cups white vinegar

Juice from 1 large or 2 small but juicy limes

1/3 cup sugar or more for a sweeter version

2 teaspoons coarse sea salt


Cut the onion in half through the root, then slice thinly across.

Place onion slices in a glass bowl.

Bring the vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.

Add the lime juice and pour over the onion, mixing it so all of the onion is in contact with the pickling liquid.

Transfer to a jar, cover and refrigerate a few hours or until needed.

Pickled red onion