Mexican Pickled Onions (cebollas curtidas)

Mexican pickled onions (cebollas curtidas) are a delicious addition to crispy tacos, salads, and even stews. They are also very easy to prepare and can be ready in just 15 minutes!

Mexican Pickled Onions (cebollas curtidas) in a Mason jar.

About The Recipe

Mexican pickled onions are a simple Mexican preparation made by quick pickling onion rings in a mixture of lime juice, vinegar, water, and spices.

This fast pickling method is often used in Mexican cuisine to make other easy sides, such as Mexican cabbage salad.

Those red pickled onions are called in Mexico cebollas curtidas, cebollas rojas en escabeche, cebolla desflemada, or cebolla en vinagre…various names but they all mean the same.

Our recipe for fast pickled onions doesn’t involve the stove to boil water or other long methods. It is fast and easy!

Close-up of Mexican pickled onions, aka cebollas curtidas, in a glass.

Why You Should Make This Recipe

  • It is easy. Recipes like this one make me happy because they’re super fast to make. Just add all of the ingredients to a bowl, mix, and that’s it!
  • Is quick. You don’t need to wait hours or even days to enjoy those pickled red onions, 10 minutes is enough.
  • Budget-friendly. Onions are a vegetable that can be found anywhere and that makes them affordable. With this recipe, you will take a humble ingredient and make an amazing side with little money.
  • Perfect topping/side. Tacos, sandwiches, quesadillas, stews, salads, you name it. Mexican style pickled onions make one of the perfect condiments for many dishes.
  • Is healthy. Onions have many health benefits thanks to their high content of antioxidants and sulfur-containing compounds. They improve bone health, lower blood sugar levels, and have anti-inflammatory effects.

Related article: Health Benefits of Eating Red Onions (by Healwithfood.org)

A bunch of red onions on a rustic white surface.

Ingredients Needed

  • Onions. You can use red onions to achieve that bright and amazing purple color, or you can also use white onions if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Limes. Use lime juice or lemon juice.
  • Vinegar + water. To make the pickling brine you will need 1:1 of both ingredients, I am using here white vinegar, but apple cider vinegar or even rice vinegar can work too.
  • Oregano. The authentic recipe for Mexican pickled red onions calls only for oregano, that’s it. But if you feel like adding other spices go ahead (see “popular versions” below).
  • Salt. I prefer fine salt because it dissolves faster, but feel free to use any type of salt you prefer and as much as you want.

How To Make Mexican Pickled Onions

Cut off the stem of your onions and peel the outer skin. Wash them and pat dry them with a clean kitchen towel.

Peeling red onions.

Cut the ends of the onions and slice them into thick rings (about 0,11″/0.3mm). You can also use a mandolin if that makes it easier for you.

Sliced Mexican onions on a cutting board.

Place sliced onions into a medium bowl, add oregano, and season with salt. Then add the juice of one lime.

Squeezing a lime wedge over red onions in a bowl.

Mix water and vinegar in a large jar or cup and pour the mixture into the bowl with onions.

Adding vinegar and water over red onions in a bowl.

Mix thoroughly for one minute to coat everything with the pickling brine. Taste and adjust salt if needed.

Mixing Mexican pickled onions in a bowl.

Allow the onions to marinate for about 10 minutes and then serve your cebollas encurtidas with your favorite dishes as suggested below or store them for later.

Useful Recipe Notes

  • These Mexican pickled onions can be eaten straight away after being prepared, but if you want to enjoy their flavor 100% and bring out that marvelous bright color, I recommend that you let them marinate for at least 1 hour.
  • The longer the onions sit in the pickling brine, the softer and more colorful they will become, but no worries because they will also keep a nice crunch inside.
  • If you’re lucky enough to get Mexican oregano, use that one because it definitely tastes different and is perfect for this recipe.
  • You can certainly prepare this side dish with any type of onions such as white, golden, red (purple), or even spring onions! But the red onion has a slightly spicier flavor, which makes it perfect for pickling.
  • Make sure the onions are not too old because vinegar can bring out some weird flavor and smell on old onions.

Popular Versions

There are various ways to make cebollas curtidas in Mexico, sometimes depending on traditions and sometimes on personal preferences.

  • In the State of Yucatan, onions are marinated together with slices of habanero or Xcatic pepper to accompany the traditional cochinita pibil dish.
  • Other versions include the use of olive oil, various types of spices such as black peppercorns, garlic, whole cloves, and fresh or dried herbs like oregano, thyme, marjoram, bay leaves, cumin seeds, etc.
  • And we will also find recipes that are prepared with white onions in several states such as Colima, Michoacan, and Jalisco.
  • My mother loved spicy food, so she will always add some slices of jalapeno peppers or serrano. I like to add some red pepper flakes (peperoncino).
Pickled onions stored in jars.

How To Eat

This quick pickled red onions recipe goes well with your favorite Mexican dishes. Here are a few recommendations for you to try:

Chicken tostadas topped with mexican pickled onions.

How To Store

First you need to take in minds that this is not a canning recipe. Proper canning recipes takes longer to develop and requires a special method.

Being said that, red pickled onions last for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Just make sure they are always immersed in the liquid.

Use jars or glass containers with a tight lid. Glass is better to preserve flavors and smells. Do not use metal or plastic because those react with the acidity of lime juice and vinegar.

If you want to make a large batch of this recipe and want to store it for a bit longer, you can add one or two tablespoons of olive oil on top of each jar. The oil will create a protective coating on the onions and helps to keep them longer.

Remember to always take the pickled onions with a clean fork or spoon to avoid cross-contamination that could possibly spoil them, even if they are in the refrigerator.

More Pickling Recipes

Mexican pickled onions recipe.

Mexican Pickled Onions

author Maricruz
Mexican pickled onions are the perfect side dish for tacos, Mexican stews, sandwiches, burritos, and many other delicious dishes!
prep 5 minutes
resting time 10 minutes
total 15 minutes
serving 2

Equipment

  • chef's knife & cutting board
  • large mixing bowl
  • storing jars

Ingredients 

  • ½ lb red onions (sliced into thick rings)
  • 1 lime (juice)
  • dry oregano (to taste)
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup cold water
  • salt (to taste)

Instructions
 

  • Place onions, oregano, and salt, into a medium bowl.
  • Add lime juice.
  • Mix together vinegar and water in a bowl and pour it into the bowl with onions.
  • Mix everything for one minute and adjust the salt to taste.
  • Let the onions marinate for 10-15 minutes and serve.

Notes

  • These Mexican pickled onions can be eaten straight away after being prepared, but if you want to enjoy their flavor 100% and bring out that marvelous bright color, I recommend that you let them marinate for at least 1 hour.
  • If you’re lucky enough to get Mexican oregano, use that one, because it definitely tastes different (and more delicious, in my opinion) and is perfect for this recipe.
  • You can prepare this recipe with any type of onions such as white, golden, red (purple), or even spring onions.
Nutrition Information
Serving: 1jar | Calories: 78kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 3502mg | Potassium: 203mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 19IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 1mg
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Recipe Rating




2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Tasteful recipe! I keep making it every time we have tacos for dinner at home, is just another must-have topping for our taco night, even kids loved them! I definitely recommend your recipe for Mexican pickled onions to anyone :)