Easy & Quick Mexican Pickled Onions (cebollas curtidas)

Mexican pickled onions, or cebollas curtidas, is a tangy condiment that a delicious addition to your favorite Mexican dishes. Perfect on tacos, tostadas, quesadillas or other Mexican-inspired recipes, these quick-pickled onions can take your meal to the next level. Luckily, making your own Mexican pickled red onions at home is easy and requires only a few basic ingredients.

Small blue bowl filled with Mexican pickled onions that have a bright pink color and a green blackened habanero on top.

Mexican Pickled Onions

Pickled onions are a perfect condiment for authentic Mexican meals.

If you’re a fan of Mexican food, you know that the right condiment can make all the difference. Like a perfectly spicy and flavorful salsa or the tangy, zesty flavor of pickled onions over your favorite tacos is just pure joy on your taste buds. Needles to say, cebollas curtidas (sometimes also called cebollas encurtidas) are a very popular condiment all over Mexico.

Mexican pickled onions are a great way to add extra flavor to various dishes. They are a fantastic addition to tacos, tostadas, and tortas or sandwiches, giving your meal a bright and tangy twist. The health benefits of onions are a bonus, as they are a good source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

A glass full of spicy pickled onions made with red onions and habanero peppers.
Spicy Pickled Onions

Yucatan Style Pickled Red Onions

Here on the Yucatan Peninsula, pickled red onions are a particularly popular condiment to serve with countless traditional foods. 

Everything from meat or fish tacos and seafood dishes to banana leaf tamales. Of course, lest not forget the most popular and traditional dish from the region, cochinita pibil.

While the rest of Mexico makes their pickled onions usually with vinegar, in the regions around Yucatan we make the pickling brine with bitter orange. 

Unfortunately, these type of tart green oranges are quite difficult to find outside of Southern Mexico, but don’t worry because I’m going to show you how to replace them with citrus fruit you can find anywhere in the world. 

So your pickled onions will still be full of authentic Mexican flavor just with a Southern Mexican touch.

By the way have you seen my Yucatan-Style beets recipe?

Amigos, with this simple recipe, that requires minimal effort, you’ll be making your own quick batch of pickled onions on a weekly basis and be adding them to all of your favorite Mexican food.

Why You’ll Love Mexican Pickled Onions


  • Mexican pickled onions, or cebollas curtidas, are a delicious addition to your favorite Mexican dishes.
  • They add a burst of tangy, savory and little spicy touch to any dish.
  • Making your own pickled onions at home is easy and requires only a few basic ingredients.
  • They are budget friendly and a great way to add an authentic Mexican condiment bursting with delicious flavors. 
  • This Mexican pickled onions recipe is traditionally plant-based and perfect for all diets!
  • Though it’s a pickled recipe, there’s not actual long pickling process involving canning and extra work.
Small bowls filled with the ingredients for making Mexican pickled onions. They are red onions, radishes, habanero peppers, bay leaf, salt, peppercorns, apple cider vinegar, orange juice, olive oil.

The Ingredients

The key to making great Mexican pickled onions is the brine. As I mentioned earlier, this easy recipe is made Yucatan style so the ingredients will different than other Mexican recipes you may find elsewhere. Below I’ll list some ingredient variations for you to choose from. 

Red Onions: Most common than not the Mexican pickled onion recipe you come across will use red onions, but you could easily replace them with white onions or yellow onions. The difference in flavor will be minimal but, of course, the color will be completely different. (Do you call them red or purple onion? lol)

​Radishes: So this is not an ingredients commonly used, but I just LOVE the flavor, texture and color it adds to the onions. You can feel free to omit if desired.

Habanero Pepper: Not everyone I know adds it to their pickled onions. But believe me when I say that you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the touch of heat and fruity flavor that habaneros add.

Spices: I like to add bay leaf, whole black peppercorns, salt and occasionally Mexican oregano. In other versions I’ll also include allspice berries. 

Orange Juice: This is to help replace the traditional bitter orange used. Orange makes a delicious substitution because it adds a touch of sweetness that makes for a perfect combination of flavors all while elevating the flavor profile of this red onions recipe.

Vinegar: I personally like to use apple cider vinegar because it’s not as aggressive as white vinegar. In a you could swap one of the other, if desired.

Oil: I like to add a little bit of olive oil to the mixture for extra flavor and texture, you’re free to omit if you’d like a fat free option. 

Substitutions

To make these pickled Mexican onions mild or not spicy at all you can simply omit the habanero or swap it for mild jalapeño peppers. 

If you’d like you can skip the radishes without a problem.

Instead of the orange juice and apple cider vinegar you could do a mix of equal parts water and white vinegar then add some lime juice to taste. 

Another great ingredient to add would be a large garlic clove. Make sure to char it with the habaneros so your onions don’t taste like raw garlic. 

I wouldn’t suggest adding sugar as this isn’t commonly done for most Mexican pickled red onion recipes.

Important Tips

Make sure to use fresh onions and radishes- like the freshest you can get because over ripe onions and radishes won’t have a good texture and taste or smell.

Additionally make sure that all of your utensils, from the cutting board to the glass jar or storing container are thoroughly clean.

Habaneros are quite spicy so if you’re sensitive to chile burns do wear a pair of latex gloves for food prep to keep your fingers safe. 

Easy Steps to Make Mexican Pickled Onions at Home

Making your own pickled onions at home is easy, just follow these simple steps.

Adding hot boiling water over sliced red onions before pickling them.

Step 1: Prepare The Onions

Bring a small pot of water to a boil, making sure it’s enough water to cover the onions. Decide if you’ll be using one large red onion or a couple of small red onions.

Peel the onion then use a sharp chef’s knife to slice into thin and even-sized pieces. If you don’t have a large container for storing, then you can slice the onion in half and then slice into thin even size half moons to fit them better into a glass jar or mason jar.

Place the onion slices into a large bowl then pour the boiling hot water over them and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.

A red and green habanero peppers that have been blackened over an open flame.

Step 2: Prepare The Habanero

Next pierce the habaneros a few times then place them over an open flame and char evenly on all sides. You could also place them on a hot pan and toast them. 

Mixing the brine ingredients for making Mexican pink onions.

Step 3: Pickle Your Onions

Drain your sliced onions and set aside. We are going to make the pickling brine in a large glass mixing bowl. (It needs to be glass because both metal and plastic interact with vinegar and citrus.)

Begin by combining the salt, peppercorns, vinegar, orange juice and oil until well combined. Add the drained onion and toss, then add the sliced radishes and charred habaneros if using, then mix until well combined.

Depending on the size of your onion, the brine may or may not cover enough. It’s ok if it doesn’t because you can just mix up the ingredients and the onions and radishes do release extra liquid. 

Mixing red onions with radishes, habanero and spices to make pickled red onions.

Step 4: Marinate 

Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit on your counter at room temperature to marinate for 30 minutes or in the fridge overnight – the longer you let it marinate, the more intense the flavor and color will be. Stir now and then to help the ingredients combine well and for all of the flavors to evenly distribute. 

A glass bowl filled with pickled Mexican red onions.

Step 5: Enjoy

After marinating you can leave in the same container or transfer them into an airtight container and store them in the fridge. They will keep fresh for up to 2 weeks, but we doubt you won’t finish them before then.

One corn tortilla filled with cochinita pibil made from mushrooms and topped with pickled onions.

How to Eat

Use your homemade Mexican pickled onions to add a bright flavor to your favorite tacos, tostadas, banana leaf tamales, quesadillas, salads, sandwiches, caldos or stews, cochinita pibil, or even burgers.

Like you could literally add these easy pickled onions to just about anything. 

To make the onions spicier you can chop up the habanero peppers and mix into the onions. If you leave them whole in the container, they won’t add too much heat. 

How to Store

Store in a thoroughly clean and airtight container  make sure it’s a glass container or large jar because the vinegar and citrus reacts with both plastic and metal. Glass is your safest bet!

Additionally remember not to double dip and always use a clean fork or tongs to remove the pickled onions from the container. We always want to avoid any cross contamination and ruining our food. 

Place your pickled red onions in the refrigerator and eat within 2 weeks.

Small blue bowl filled with Mexican pickled red onions for tacos.
Mexican Pickled Red Onions for Tacos

Mexican Pickled Onions Recipe

Amigos as you can see, Mexican pickled onions are not only incredibly easy and quick to make, they are a great addition to many of your favorite recipes.

These vibrant pink onions are the best way to add a great condiment to your favorite dishes. With just a few  basic simple ingredients you can have a small batch of pickled onions in your fridge in no time.

They’ll be ready to grab out of the fridge anytime you want to have a perfect match for your cochinita pibil or a great topping for your other favorite Mexican dishes.

Small blue bowl filled with Mexican pickled red onions for tacos.

Easy & Quick Mexican Pickled Onions (cebollas curtidas)

Nancy Lopez & MexicanMadeMeatless.com
Mexican pickled onions, or cebollas curtidas, is a tangy condiment that a delicious addition on tacos, tostadas, quesadillas or other Mexican-inspired recipes, these quick-pickled onions can take your meal to the next level. 
5 from 1 vote
Save Recipe Pin Recipe Leave a Review
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Marinating Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course condiment
Cuisine Mexican, Vegan Mexican Recipe
Servings 12 servings
Calories 39 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 large or 2 small red onions peeled and evenly sliced into 1/8th”
  • 5 small radishes evenly sliced
  • 2 whole habanero peppers
  • 1 large bay leaf or 2 small bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt adjust to taste
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cups orange juice preferably freshly squeezed
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Bring a small pot of water to a boil, making sure it’s enough water to cover the onions. Decide if you’ll be using one large red onion or a couple of small red onions.
  • Peel the onion then use a sharp chef’s knife to slice into thin and even-sized pieces. If you don’t have a large container for storing, then you can slice the onion in half and then slice into thin even size half moons to fit them better into a glass jar or mason jar.
  • Place the onion slices into a large bowl then pour the boiling hot water over them and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.
  • Next pierce the habaneros a few times then place them over an open flame and char evenly on all sides. You could also place them on a hot pan and toast them.
  • Drain your sliced onions and set aside. We are going to make the pickling brine in a large glass mixing bowl. (It needs to be glass because both metal and plastic interact with vinegar and citrus.)
  • Begin by combining the salt, peppercorns, vinegar, orange juice and oil until well combined. Add the drained onion and toss, then add the sliced radishes and charred habaneros if using, then mix until well combined.
  • Depending on the size of your onion, the brine may or may not cover enough. It’s ok if it doesn’t because you can just mix up the ingredients and the onions and radishes do release extra liquid.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit on your counter at room temperature to marinate for 30 minutes or in the fridge overnight – the longer you let it marinate, the more intense the flavor and color will be. Stir now and then to help the ingredients combine well and for all of the flavors to evenly distribute.
  • After marinating you can leave in the same container or transfer them into an airtight container and store them in the fridge. They will keep fresh for up to 2 weeks, but we doubt you won’t finish them before then.

Video

Notes

To make the onions spicier you can chop up the habanero peppers and mix into the onions. If you leave them whole in the container, they won’t add too much heat. 
For a milder pickled onion you can use jalapeño pepper. 

Nutrition

Serving: 12servingsCalories: 39kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 0.4gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0.3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 195mgPotassium: 79mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 58IUVitamin C: 14mgCalcium: 9mgIron: 0.2mg
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