Make these quick and easy Mexican pickled onions for a simple yet delicious addition to tacos, salads and more. With a few simple ingredients and half an hour you can create these vibrant, tangy quick pickled red onions that enhance any meal.
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Pickling vegetables is a delicious way to preserve them and serve them as condiments. And refrigerator pickles are especially easy to make because they don’t require canning or special equipment.
These Mexican pickled onions are the pickle I make the most often because they are so versatile and useful. I love to add them to tacos, casseroles, sandwiches and all kinds of dishes, not just Mexican meals.
You can make a jar of pickled onions in just a few minutes and then enjoy them for the next few weeks. This recipe is for making one half pint jar of Mexican pickled onions, which is enough to last my family for about 2 weeks.
This is a great condiment to have on hand because it goes so well on so many things and elevates the taste. A boring low effort dinner like hamburgers seems much more exciting when you add these easy homemade pickles.
Why You Will Love Mexican Pickled Onions
- They are easy and take only five minutes to make!
- You can serve them after 30 minutes – which means you don’t have to plan very far ahead of time.
- The pickled onions are tangy and crisp and add a vibrant flavor to your meal.
- The pink color of the onions make them stand out.
- There is no special equipment or complicated pickle brine ratios to figure out with these refrigerator pickles.
- Red onions – Red onions are milder and are traditional for Mexican pickled onions. And they are a lovely color after pickling too!
- Salt – Use kosher or pickling salt, not iodized table salt.
- Sugar – The sugar helps preserve the onions and enhances the flavor. You can reduce the amount of sugar, but don’t eliminate sweetener completely.
- Cider vinegar – Cider vinegar has a light taste and is my preference for pickling onions. But you can use another kind of vinegar such as white or rice vinegar if you don’t have cider vinegar.
- Spices – I include whole cumin and peppercorns in my pickled onions. Ground cumin or pepper will also add flavor, but will make the brine cloudy, so they don’t look as nice. But if you only have ground spices use them!
Containers for Pickles
Pickles, even quick refrigerator pickles, need to be made in a non-reactive container like glass or ceramic. I like to use Mason jars or Weck jars for my pickles.
It works best to pick a wide mouthed jar, because it makes filling the jar and adding the pickling brine easier.
Making Pickled Onions
1. Slice the Onions
Slice the onions to about 1/8 of an inch thick and separate the onion layers. I find it easiest to fill the Mason jar as I slice the onions, because then I can cut exactly the right amount for the jar.
If you want to be fancy you can cut the onions into rings, but I usually just make slices. And if you want really thin pickled onions use a mandolin slicer.
Since the pickled onions only keep for 2-3 weeks this recipe is for a small batch, half pint jar of pickled onions. But you can double it if you use onions more quickly than my family.
2. Make the Pickling Brine
In a small saucepan mix the cider vinegar with water. Add the salt, sugar, peppercorns and cumin.
Heat the saucepan on medium heat, stirring, until the salt and sugar dissolve. Take the brine off the heat.
It is not necessary to actually boil the brine. Just heat it enough to dissolve the salt and sugar. It is fine if it boils, but not necessary.
3. Pour the Brine
Carefully pour the hot brine into the glass jar with the onions. Fill the jar to about 1/4 of an inch below the rim. Put the lid on the jar and let it cool for about half an hour, then refrigerate.
Pro Tip – Filling the Jar
Sometimes the spices stay in the bottom of the saucepan when you pour the brine. If that happens use a spoon to transfer them to the jar. And if you don’t have quite enough brine to fill the jar and cover the onions top the jar off with hot water.
How to Store
These pickled onions can be served after as little as 30 minutes. The pickles should be refrigerated and used within 2-3 weeks.
They will be more flavorful after overnight in the refrigerator. The pickle brine will also change color, from yellowish right after making the pickles to pink a few days later.
Serving Mexican Pickled Onions
These pickled onions are delicious with a wide variety of meals, and not just Mexican food either! My family considers these onions essential for any kind of tacos, but they are good for so much more.
Add them to salads or use them to top off a cast iron skillet pizza. I like to add them to roast beef sandwiches or use on my hamburgers. And a new jar of Mexican pickled onions is a staple for any cookout or barbecue!
Here are some easy variations on these pickles.
- If you want spicy Mexican pickled onions add a few slices of jalapeno or some red pepper flakes to the pickles.
- Add Mexican oregano or coriander seeds to the brine for a slightly different flavor.
- A clove of garlic in the jar of onions will infuse them with some garlic flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Pickled onions will keep for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator. The taste, texture and color of pickled onions will change as they age. Red onions will become more pink and most onions will become softer and sweeter with age.
White onions can be pickled in the same way as red onions. These onions are stronger and more pungent than red onions, so you probably want to let them rest 24 hours before serving though, to allow them to mellow out.
Find More Quick Pickles
- 1 large or 2 small red onions
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 3/4 teaspoon salt, kosher or pickling
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon cumin
This recipe is for refrigerator pickles. It is not suitable for canning or storing the pickles at room temperature
- Remove the peel from the red onion and slice it into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick. Fill your half pint jar with red onion slices as you go so you know when you have sliced enough onion.
- In a small saucepan combine the cider vinegar with water. Then add the salt, sugar, peppercorns and cumin.
- Heat over medium heat until the salt and sugar dissolve, then take the pan off the heat.
- Pour the hot brine over the onions in the jar, filling to about 1/4 of an inch from the top.
- Put a lid on the jar and let it sit at room temperature for half an hour.
- The pickled onions are ready to use after 30 minutes. They will become sweeter and pinker over time. Put them in the refrigerator where they will keep for 2-3 weeks.
Sometimes the spices don't go in the jar when you pour the brine. If this happens just use a spoon to transfer the spices to the jar.
If the amount of brine you made doesn't quite cover the onions you can top the jar off with hot water.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 17Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 201mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 0gSugar: 2gProtein: 0g
Nutrition facts are estimates.