Quick and Easy Mexican Pickled Onions using red onions that require no boiling water and are cured using citrus, vinegar and salt. Ready in 30 minutes.
I am not a huge fan of raw onions. My husband LOVES them and will add some fresh raw onions on just about everything. While the taste of raw onions is too strong for me, pickling them gives the onions the perfect flavor. These I will happily eat over everything.
Pickling onions helps to tone down their sharp and pungent flavor and enhance the things I really love about them. Plus, they provide great texture to a meal and the insanely beautiful pink color is just mesmerizing.
Pickled Onions or Cebollas Encurtidas
The great thing about pickled onions is that they are really easy to make. And you will find various preparations and ways to enjoy pickled onions around the world. Variety can change based on the type of onion used, how and what it is cured with and even what you serve it with.
Even in Mexico, you will find a variety of different ways of preparing and enjoying pickled onion based on region and family recipe. So, while I am showing one way I have been taught to do it, I totally understand that there are many ways to enjoy this. That’s the beauty of sharing food.
Why You Need These Pickled Onions in Your Life
- This is one of the simplest ways to do it. You literally just need some onions, citrus juice, vinegar and salt. Put it all together in a bowl or jar and you are ready to go.
- No boiling water needed. There is no wrong way to pickle onions, but if you want to save a step, you can have the citrus juice to do all of the work for you.
- These are ready to use in just 30 minutes. Once the citrus hits these onions, they begin to break down and soften really fast. No long wait time makes these the perfect last minute condiment to prepare.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
- Limes: You can mix and match limes and lemons for this. I personally, really like using limes for this preparation for this as they give that nice sourness.
- Orange: It is hard to find bitter orange where I am from in the US. Bitter orange is like a sour orange and is popular to use in Yucatán cuisine. I like doing a mix of lime and orange as the sour flavors tend to help mimic some of the flavors. Not exact, but still helps.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: I have made these onions a number of times, and apple cider vinegar is my go to for it’s tang. Other vinegars likes white vinegar can work really well here too.
- Salt: Necessary for the curing process. I know many will be concerned with the amount of salt, but I think it’s important to note that you are not consuming the whole jar of onions in one sitting. It’s a condiment, so you will consume a very small portion of salt.
- Extras: You can add additional mix-ins to your onions. Personally I love these with red pepper flakes or jalapeño slices for a little extra heat. You can also use peppercorns, and if you happen to have any Mexican Oregano, it is such a good pop of flavor as well.
How to Make Mexican Pickled Onions
Cut your red onion in half and then slice the onion into thin, even slices using a sharp knife. Once cut, add the onions to a glass bowl or glass mason jar.
Now squeeze as much juice out of your limes and orange as possible over top the onions. I highly recommend using a lemon/lime squeezer to make sure you’re getting as much juice out of your citrus as possible.
Add your vinegar and sprinkle your onions with the salt and any extras you wish to marinade your onions with. Toss or mix everything together, then cover and refrigerate until the onions have broken down and become a brilliant pink color.
Tips for the Best Vibrant Onions
- Do not cure your onions in plastic or metal. The combination of metal or plastic with citrus can cause corrosion. It is better to make this recipe in a glass bowl or jar.
- To help get as much juice out of the citrus, try using a lemon/lime squeezer.
- If you don’t have a lemon/lime squeezer, make sure to roll your citrus with your palm onto a flat surface. The rolling motion of your palm pressing into the citrus helps to release more juices in the fruit.
- Your liquid will not initially fully submerge your onions, and that’s okay! Just make sure that you shake your jar of onions to coat with the juice. They will still breakdown.
- Your onions will be ready in 30 minutes, but they will continue to become more vibrant pink in color as they continue to sit and soften.
- Change up your add-ins. Once you add your base ingredients, it’s totally up to you how you want to flavor your onions, so feel free to experiment.
Frequently Asked Questions
They will last 2 weeks when sealed properly and left in the fridge. To ensure they last that length of time, ALWAYS make sure you are using a clean utensil to pull out onions from the jar. Do not stick your fingers in it or use a dirty utensil as this will contaminate the brine and make them more likely to spoil.
You can pickle both yellow and white onions as well using this same method. An obvious difference you’ll notice will be the color, but from a flavor perspective they will be slightly less sweet. You can always balance that out by adding a pinch of sugar to the onions when curing.
Yes! You can mix and match the citrus you use. Sometimes I like to do half lime and half lemon. I have made this without the orange. Pick and choose the balance you prefer.
Need some ideas of what you can flavor your onions with? Try some of these add-ins. Mix and match based on preferences.
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Sliced Jalapeños
- Bay Leaf
- Cumin Seeds
- Coriander Seeds
- Mexican Oregano
How to Serve
Pickled onions are served over so many things in Mexico and around the world. Try them over your favorite tacos, as a colorful addition to your favorite nourish bowls, topped over burgers, enchiladas and much more.
More Latin Inspired Vegan Dishes
- Sazon Grilled Tofu Skewers
- Latin Style Lentil Soup
- Vegan Pastelitos
- Moro de Guandules
- Air Fryer Plantains
Mexican Pickled Onions
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Marinating Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 1 1/2 cups 1x
- Category: Condiment
- Method: No Cook
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegan
Quick and Easy Mexican Pickled Onions using red onions, no boiling water required! Cured using citrus, vinegar and salt. Ready in 30 minutes.
- 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
- Juice of 3–4 limes
- Juice of 1 small orange
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 tsp salt
- To a glass jar or bowl, add your onion slices.
- With a lemon/lime juice squeezer, squeeze as much juice out of your citrus fruits overtop of the onions.
- Add your apple cider vinegar, salt and any extra add-ins you like to the onions.
- If using a bowl, carefully toss everything together to coat. If using a jar, seal the jar and give it a few good shakes to distribute the juice and salt evenly.
- Place the jar in the fridge to sit for at least 30 minutes before using. You can still taste and adjust the salt to preference once they are ready to eat.
Do not cure your onions in plastic or metal. The combination of metal or plastic with citrus can cause corrosion. It is better to make this recipe in a glass bowl or jar.
To help get as much juice out of the citrus, try using a lemon/lime squeezer.
Your liquid will not initially fully submerge your onions, and that’s okay! Just make sure that you shake your jar of onions to coat with the juice. They will still breakdown.
Your onions will be ready in 30 minutes, but they will continue to become more vibrant pink in color as they continue to sit and soften.
Change up your add-ins. Once you add your base ingredients, it’s totally up to you how you want to flavor your onions, so feel free to experiment.
Keywords: pickled red onions, quick pickled onions, Mexican pickled onions
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So simple and so delicious! I much prefer these to typical vinegar and water quick pickles. My one year old also loves them.
Thank you so much for trying them Samantha! I totally agree about this method. Easier and I think less strong because less vinegar. So glad your little one also loves them! 🙂