These Mexican Pickled Onions are the perfect tangy, crunchy bite to your favorite Mexican-Inspired meals. Pickling might sound time-consuming, but this Mexican pickled onions recipe is really easy—and they're done in under 20 minutes.
Once you see how simple and delicious the pickling process is, you’ll want to add them to all of your favorite Mexican dishes!
Why you Need to Try These Mexican Pickled Onions
- Quick and easy: put together a quick batch of these Mexican pickled red onions as you're making your favorite Mexican cuisine. Or while you're stirring up a marg, like these strawberry hibiscus margaritas, blood orange margaritas, cucumber margaritas, or mango margaritas.
- Healthy: Red onions are rich in anthocyanins, which are powerful plant pigments that have many health benefits, like helping protect against heart disease, certain types of cancer, and diabetes.
- Budget-friendly: You'll already most likely have all of the ingredients at home -- and even if you don't, they're all extremely affordable and you'll undoubtedly use them again.
- Perfect condiment: Not only are they a great addition to any authentic Mexican food, but they also work as an easy topping for your favorite burger, sandwich, or salad, adding plenty of color, flavor, and crunch.
Grab These Ingredients
Here are the simple ingredients for these quick pickled red onions. Most are pantry staples and easy (and affordable) to find in grocery stores. Jump down to the recipe card for exact measurements.
- Red onion: Red onions work best because they're naturally a little sweeter, but white onions, yellow onions, or sweet onions will work as well. Just make sure you’re always using fresh onions when pickling.
- Lime juice: Lime juice is a staple in Mexican cooking, adding a bright, tangy flavor. Don't like a lot of lime? Lemon juice can also work in this recipe.
- Red wine vinegar: Use distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar instead if you don't have red wine vinegar on hand.
- Kosher salt: I prefer kosher salt, but any type will work for this recipe.
- Sugar: Sugar will help to balance out the tanginess of the lime juice and vinegar. If you don’t have sugar, you can substitute it with maple syrup or honey.
How to Make Mexican Pickled Onions
The full printable recipe is below, but let’s walk through the steps with some photos and a video so you have a clear idea of what to expect. These Mexican onions are really easy and these step-by-step instructions will make sure they turn out every time.
Take your large red onion and slice it in half lengthwise from the root to the stem using a sharp chef's knife. Remove the outer layer or two of the onion, then lay each half of the onion flat on the cutting board.
Cut the root and stem off each side and thinly slice the onion into strips using either your knife or a mandoline. Use your hands to separate the layers of strips.
Add the lime juice, red wine vinegar, salt, and sugar to a medium or large mason jar or glass container with a lid and stir it quickly to combine. Add the sliced onions, stir or close the lid, and gently shake to combine. The pickling liquid won’t fully cover the onions.
Close the lid and pickle the onion for at least 20 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to make sure all of the onions are coated in liquid.
Pro tip: If you’re using these in a recipe like these pork tenderloin tacos, make the Mexican pickled red onions first and let them marinate while you prepare your meal. The onions will be ready when your meal is ready to eat. If you want to make them a day ahead, the flavors will only develop more.
White onions are most commonly used (especially when raw), but yellow and red onions can be used interchangeably.
Red pickled onions are called cebollas curditas in Mexico.
Red pickled onions add a sweet and tangy flavor to plenty of grain bowls, sandwiches, tacos, and salads.
Pickled red onions contain high amounts of good probiotics and digestive enzymes, helping to maintain healthy gut flora.
Recipe Variations for Mexican Pickled Onions
Since this is such an easy recipe, let's talk about the various ways to dress up your Mexican pickled red onions:
- Spice up your brine by adding red pepper flakes, whole spices, or habanero peppers.
- Give it more flavor with garlic cloves, a bay leaf, or fresh herbs like parsley, dill, or cilantro.
- Add a little citrus with some orange juice.
Other Foods to Pickle
Sometimes a salty, crunchy snack really hits the spot in the late afternoon. Especially while I’m cooking, I’m looking for something that won’t spoil my dinner but still curbs my appetite.
What could be better than an easy-to-grab, healthy pickled veggie to snack on? Make some extra brine and pickle any of these foods to have on hand as a snack, a tangy condiment, or a delicious addition to any number of dishes:
- Jalapeño peppers (If you are making these, be sure to add them to these bacon jalapeno deviled eggs)
Freezing and Storing Tips
Store leftover onions in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, making sure the onions are always covered in the brine. If you have extra brine, you can save it to add to homemade salad dressings.
If you make this recipe, I’d love for you to give it a star rating ★ below. You can also tag me on Instagram so I can see it!
- 2 cups thinly sliced red onion about 1 large onion
- 4 Tablespoons lime juice 2 lime
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Glass jar or bowl
- Cutting board
- Sharp chef's knife
- Slice the onion in half lengthwise from root to stem. Remove the outer layer or two of the onion then lay each half of the onion flat on the cutting board. Cut the root and stem off each side and thinly slice the onion into strips. Use your hands to separate the layers of strips.
- Add the lime juice, red wine vinegar, salt, and sugar to a medium to large jar or bowl with a lid and stir it quickly to combine. Add the sliced onions and stir or close the lid and gently shake to combine. The pickling liquid will just cover the onions.
- Close the lid and pickle the onion for at least 20 minutes. If you’re using these in a recipe like tacos, make the Mexican pickled onions first and let them marinate while you make the recipe and these onions will be ready. Store leftover onions in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.