Mexican pickled carrots or zanahorias en escabeche are the perfect topping for tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, and grilled meats. They offer a delightful balance of sweet, sour, savory, and spicy flavors.
Mexican pickled carrots are a popular and flavorful condiment or side dish in Mexican cuisine. They are typically served alongside other Mexican dishes as a crunchy, tangy, and slightly spicy accompaniment.
This dish is known in Mexico as zanahorias en escabeche and is often offered along with pickled jalapeños at restaurants and taquerias (taco stands).
I love making these quick pickled carrots at home because the recipe is super easy. You’ll need only a few ingredients such as carrots, onions, garlic, and some earthy spices like bay leaves, oregano, and pepper.
Believe me, once you make them and taste their deliciousness, you’ll be obsessed! They go well with a large variety of dishes. From topping crispy tacos dorados to adding them to sopa de fideo for extra flavor and texture.
How to Make Mexican Pickled Carrots
Start by washing and peeling the carrots. Once done, cut them diagonally aiming for the same thickness so they will cook evenly.
Peel the onion and slice it too. If you add chilies for a bit of heat, you can slice them or add them whole.
Next, in a medium pan heat the olive oil. Add garlic, carrots, sliced onions, black peppercorns, and chilies. Sauté for 2 minutes over medium-high heat.
This will be enough for garlic and pepper to release their aroma and for the vegetables to slightly cook.
Pour the vinegar, then the water. Add salt, bay leaves, and oregano.
Mix well to combine the ingredients, lower the heat, and then bring the mixture to a simmer.
Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the carrots have the desired level of tenderness.
TIP: I like to have my zanahorias en escabeche with a bit of crunch so I cook them for up to 4 minutes, then the remaining heat will finish the cooking.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to reach room temperature.
Once done, transfer the pickled carrots to clean jars along with the delicious pickling brine and refrigerate.
You can eat them right away or for the best flavor and texture, allow them to marinate overnight and enjoy them from the second day of making.
Recipe Tips And Notes
- Parboiling is key for perfect Mexican pickled carrots, if you allow the mixture to boil for too long, they will cook quickly and become mushy.
- Chili peppers are optional but they add a little heat to the dish. You can use pretty much any type of chiles you prefer. From jalapeños to serranos, to anything available to you.
- If you add the chilies whole, the pickled carrots will have little heat, but if you slice them, they will become more spicy. It is up to you!
- I recommend lightly smashing the garlic cloves and peppercorns, so they will infuse more of the mixture during and after the cooking process.
Ways to Serve Zanahorias en Escabeche
Zanahorias en Escabeche are served cold as a side dish, condiment, or garnish for various Mexican dishes such as tacos, burritos, tortas, or grilled meats.
They add a refreshing, tangy crunch and a hint of spice to the meal. I like to serve them with:
Mexican pickled carrots will last for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. The flavors may continue to develop over time, and the carrots will become more intensely pickled.
Make sure you use clean jars or glass containers and always use a clean spoon or fork when taking the carrots to prevent cross-contamination.
Remember that while refrigeration is the most common method for storing quick pickled carrots, you can also explore canning or jarring techniques if you want to store them for even longer periods at room temperature.
Canning typically involves heat processing to create a vacuum seal and ensure long-term preservation.
How long should you wait before eating them?
Technically you can eat these pickled carrots right after made and cooled down. However, allowing them to marinate in the pickling solution for at least a few hours or overnight will enhance their flavor and texture significantly.
Are zanahorias en escabeche and Mexican pickled carrots the same?
Yes! zanahorias en escabeche is the name with these quick pickled carrots are known in Mexico. They are marinated carrots in a simple pickling mixture made from vinegar, water, salt, herbs, and spices. The result is a tangy, slightly sweet, and sometimes spicy condiment or side dish that adds flavor and crunch to Mexican meals.
More Pickle Recipes
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Mexican Pickled Carrots (zanahorias en escabeche)
- mason jars or glass containers
- 1 ½ pound carrots
- 1 small onion (sliced)
- 3-4 serrano or jalapeño chilies (whole or sliced)
- 1 ¼ vinegar (white or apple cider)
- 1 ¼ water
- 1 Tablespoon Mexican oregano
- 3 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns (lightly crushed)
- 3 cloves garlic (peeled)
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon table salt (or more, to taste)
- Peel and cut the carrots into coins or diagonal slices more or less of the same thickness.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
- Add garlic, carrots, onions, black peppercorns, and chilies. Sauté for 2 minutes over medium-high heat.
- Pour the vinegar and water into the pan.
- Add salt, bay leaves, and oregano. Mix well to combine the ingredients, lower the heat, and bring the mixture to a simmer.
- Cook uncovered for 4-5 minutes or until the carrots have the desired level of tenderness (read notes). Adjust salt to taste.
- Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to reach room temperature.
- Transfer the pickled carrots to sterilized jars along with the pickling brine.
- You can eat right away or refrigerate overnight for the best flavor.
- I like my pickled carrots to have a bit of crunch so I cook them for up to 5 minutes, then the remaining heat will finish the cooking. Also, they get softer as they sit in the brine.
- The spiciness level will depend on how many chilies you add and whether you cut them or leave them whole. Slicing the chilies will make them release their heat more intensely.
- Those pickled carrots taste a lot better after some hours of being made, I strongly recommend leaving them to marinate overnight.
- Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Maricruz Avalos Flores is a Mexican cook and photographer living in Italy where she shares authentic Mexican & Italian recipes that can be easily made at home using easy-to-find ingredients.