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30-Minute Pickled Onions: Side Dish to Mexican Cooking

30-Minute Pickled Onions: Side Dish to Mexican Cooking
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Pickled onions are a tart and slightly sweet accompaniment to a wide variety of dishes (a perfect match with Mexican cuisine).  The cool, pungent crunch adds a crisp fresh taste to carnitas or fish tacos in particular. They take 5 minutes to prep, 30 minutes to marinate, and will keep in the refrigerator for many weeks.

Red onions with pickling ingredients ready to marinate
Red onions with pickling ingredients ready to marinate

Jump to: RECIPE | Pickled Onions & Mexican Food | Serving Suggestions | Other Things to Pickle

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**Note: This post is by my daughter, Tesla

Pickled Onions as a Side to Mexican Food

A few years ago, freshly out of college, my then-roommate was from Belize. She shared a wonderful dish with me called cochinita pibil, which is a pulled pork dish with an achiote marinade.

Sliced cochinita pibil with corn tortillas
Sliced cochinita pibil with corn tortillas

After the roommate moved out and took all her Belizean recipes with her, I stumbled upon a recipe for cochinita pibil served with pickled onions.

The recipe for the pickled onions looked easy and sounded like something I would like to eat. I was just starting to learn about cooking my own food and the pickled onions seemed like a perfect entry into a flavorful (but still easy) world of food.

Although that cold winter day was the first time I had pickled something, it was certainly not the last time!  See the video below (you tube video) for a detailed ”how-to” and the recipe card for the text form of the recipe.

What to Serve with Pickled Onions?

My family is somewhat notorious for eating the same item for days on end in various ways (aka creative leftover dishes). Pickled onions are the perfect versatile condiment that allow us to change up a dish to become a “new” meal.

Carnitas with refried beans and pickled onions

Egg salad, beans, salads or any type of sandwich are just a few of the dishes subject to pickled onion additions.

My dad’s favorite “dish” using pickled onions is a sandwich with Miracle Whip, braunschweiger and pickled onions on rye bread. My mom prefers pickled onions on burgers or in a burrito bowl. 

For me, it’s a rare day when I have any type of Mexican food without pickled onions.  I really love the sweet, cool crunch of the onions in the soft and hot black beans.

I also love the tangy onions in salads (especially a version of this nicoise salad) or in my DIY poke bowls. And of course one of my favorite Mexican dishes that uses pickled onions is Mexican fish tacos.

However you use them, pickled onions are a slightly sweet, slightly tangy, and definitely delicious addition to any recipe.

What Else is Good Pickled?

After pickling onions, I discovered you can pickle pretty much anything! Our family’s newest favorite pickled item is these pickled beet eggs, but we’ve also made our own kimchi (pickled and fermented cabbage), and even pickled chicken gizzards! 

2 jars of kimchi and the fermenting tools needed to make it.
Green tomato kimchi

Pickled watermelon rind has recently become very trendy, and I think I’ll try that one next on my pickling journey. I’d also eventually like to try pickling jalapenos. 

You don’t have to be too adventurous or an experienced chef to pickle foods, which is the beauty of pickling! 

Another benefit of pickling is that pickling is so simple- most of the magic happens after you walk away. Pickling can sometimes take a few days to marinate, so patience and planning are key here.

Are there health benefits to pickling?

There have been many studies on the benefits of pickled or fermented foods to the gut flora suggesting that pickled foods can boost digestion and energy levels.

However, most recipes for pickled foods contain a fair amount of sugar and salt. I’ve read that the process of fermentation and pickling lowers the carbs and impacts of sugar, but I’m not sure how reliable those sources were.

More Methods for Preserving Summer’s Produce:

30-minute Pickled Onions

Plate of carnitas with pickled onions and avocado
30-minute pickled onions are a perfect condiment for Mexican food, especially carnitas, cochinita pibil or fish tacos.
4.75 from 12 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Servings 10
Calories 43



  • 2-3 red onions large onions
  • 1.5 Teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 2 Cups vinegar white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3 Teaspoons table salt
  • water enough to fill jar


  • Peel the onions and cut them in half. Using a sharp knife or a mandolin, thinly slice the onions and place in a large glass jar (or heat proof bowl) with an airtight cover
    2-3 red onions
  • Add the peppercorns to the jar and lightly shake the jar to disperse the peppercorns
    1.5 Teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • In a small pot, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt and heat until sugar and salt are dissolved (couple of minutes). Pour into the jar (or a heat proof bowl) with the onions
    2 Cups vinegar, 2 – 3 Tablespoons sugar, 3 Teaspoons table salt
  • Fill the jar with water until the water level reaches the top of the onions
  • Let sit in room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour and place the extra in the refrigerator for later. Serve immediately, or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.



** You can use vinegars other than apple cider vinegar, but they should be around 5% acidity.


Calories: 43kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 700mgPotassium: 42mgFiber: 1gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 4IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 12mgIron: 1mg
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  1. Kristen K says:

    These are amazing. We ate almost all of them without even ever getting them on to other food. They are just a good snack all by themselves.5 stars

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