A while back, I received an email from a reader requesting pickled onions. “How come you don’t have them on your blog?” I know, right!? It’s something that we eat very often here at home and is also really easy to make. At first he didn’t specify if he wanted the recipe with white or red onions, so I asked him and he said he was referring to the red onions, like the ones that are served at taco stands.
Pickled onions are prepared in several ways in Mexico. For example, in the Yucatan area, it is made with pickled white onions and habanero or Xcatic peppers. Garlic and other herbs and spices can also be added. There are other recipes that are easier and quicker, where you just slice or chop the onion and add salt and lemon to macerate.
In Mexico, the states of Zacatecas, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Guanajuato, Baja California and Michoacán are the main producers of onion. White onion comprise 85-90% of the harvest, while red and yellow onions average 7% and 3%, respectively. Growing up, I didn't see that much red onion at home, since red onions are more common in the cuisine of the southern states. It was until I went to live in the south back in 1980 that red onions became a part of my everyday cooking. Red onions are a staple in the cuisines of the State of Yucatan and other states in the Yucatan peninsula. In theses states, it is common to served pickled onions (pickled with vinegar, bitter orange, or lemon) at the table when eating stews or other traditional dishes from that region.
Yes, we Mexicans like onions a lot, so much that the average person in Mexico consumes about 12 pounds of onions each year. We eat them in salsas, stews, pickles, and soups, either raw, cooked, grilled… well you get the idea.
What follows is my own quick and simple recipe for making pickled onions, or in Spanish: “cebollas curtidas”.
MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican Oregano
- 2 Medium-sized red onions
- About 4-5 cups of water (enough to cover the onions)
- 1 bay leaf (Optional)
- 1/2 cup of White vinegar
- 1/2 cup of water
- Salt to taste
1. Toast Mexican oregano in a small skillet over medium high heat for about 30 seconds. Set aside to cool.
2. Peel onions and thinly slice them. Place 4-5 cups of water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
3. When water starts bubbling, add sliced onions, and turn the heat off.
4. After 2 minutes, quickly drain the onions into a colander over the sink.
5. Place the drained onions in a glass bowl and add the vinegar, water, oregano and bay leaf (if using). Season with salt and mix well. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, and they are ready to eat. They keep well refrigerated for about a week.
Enjoy with your tacos, tostadas, subs, sandwiches or grilled meats.