Cebollas moradas en escabeche, pickled purple onions are a favorite condiment found throughout Mexico. Their tangy flavor, crunchy texture, and bright pink color can enhance many dishes. Cebollas moradas en escabeche are so quick and simple to prepare and can be added to your favorite Mexican recipe.

Origin and history

Cebollas encurtidas (which means pickled onions), also known as Cebollas moradas en escabeche (Pickled purple onions), is a crisp, flavor-packed condiment found throughout Mexico.

Pickling is an old preservation technique to keep vegetables throughout the year. The process of pickling onion is quite short and easy, from minutes to several hours. It brings a change in flavor and a slight change in texture. Since this type of pickling will not prevent spoilage that well, it is often used in combination with heat to properly kill all the microorganisms.

Pickled onions are a condiment consisting of onions pickled in vinegar and salt and other flavorings, for a certain amount of time. Pickled onions are known from all around the globe and nearly every cuisine has its version of pickled onions: in Britain, pearl onions pickled in malt vinegar are served as an accompaniment to fish and chips; in India, onions pickled in spiced vinegar can be found with rotis; in China, onions pickled with rice vinegar, soy, and ginger are served with dumplings; in Mexico, red onions pickled with bitter orange juice are a common topping for tacos

In Mexico, pickled onions are one of the favorites condiments. They are prepared in various ways. In the Southern states, particularly in the Yucatán peninsula, a marinade is made with onions, habanero or Xcatic chili, and bitter orange juice and/or lemon.

Tips and notes

Try to use small red onions to make pickles: they’re easier to slice and eat. You can also substitute the red onions with white onions but they’ll not have the same crunch and only red onions will lend a distinctive pink color to the final product.

If you find the flavor of onion to be a bit strong, you can blanch them for 20 seconds in boiling water, then drain and immediately rinse in cold water to stop them from cooking. 

The original Mexican recipe is made with bitter orange juice. Since it was difficult to find in summer, we substitute it with white distilled vinegar. Instead of white distilled vinegar, you can use apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, malt vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or a combination of vinegar and lemon/lime. You might need more liquid depending on the size of your jar. If this is the case, add more vinegar.

Since we didn’t have jalapeño, we’ve used dried red hot chili peppers but be sure to use them instead. And if you want the recipe to be spicier, add more jalapeño slices.

In the recipe below, we used our favorite mixture of flavorings but you can totally flavor your pickled onions to your preferences, here are some ideas:

  • Fresh or dried herbs: oregano, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, star anise, …;
  • Whole or ground spices: peppercorns, cumin, coriander seeds, fennel, …;
  • Garlic cloves, fresh ginger;
  • Lemon/orange peels;

The pickled onions will be sharper and fully pickled after resting in the fridge overnight. They will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks, stored in a hermetically sealed glass container but be sure to cover them completely with vinegar.

Serving

Pickled red onions are delicious on just about anything. They are usually, used as a garnish or condiment, especially for seafood. They are also served as an aperitif (tapa). They can garnish the Mexican and BBQ recipes, tacos, sandwiches, salads, stews, …

Variant

  • Pickled silverskin onions;
  • Dutch Amsterdamse ui;
  • Italian Giardiniera;
  • Indian Mango Pickle;
  • Moroccon L’hamed Markad;
  • Japanese Kyuri Zuke;
  • Israelian Torshi Left;
  • Kimchi;
  • Pickled Herring;
  • Sauerkraut;
  • Cornichon;
  • Dill pickles;

Cebollas Moradas en Escabeche

Cebollas moradas en escabeche, pickled purple onions are a favorite condiment found throughout Mexico. Their tangy flavor, crunchy texture, and bright pink color can enhance many dishes. Cebollas moradas en escabeche are so quick and simple to prepare and can be added to your favorite Mexican recipe.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Resting time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course Appetizer, Condiments, Onions, Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Calories 12 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 500 g red onions

Brine

  • 300 ml white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt

For flavorings

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 20-30 peppercorns
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2-5 dried red hot chili peppers

Instructions
 

  • Peel onions and thinly slice them into thin rings of about ¼in/5mm across the top so you get nice rounds. You can do this with the knife or use a mandoline.
  •  In a saucepan, add the sugar, salt, peppercorns, and vinegar. Stir to dissolve while bringing the brine to a soft boil. Then, immediately remove from the heat.
  • Put the onion slices in a jar. Alternating with flavorings: hot chili peppers, bay leaves, garlic cloves, rosemary sprig.
  • Pour the mixed liquid into the jar to cover completely the onions.
  • Close the jar and leave to marinate at room temperature for at least 1 hour.
Keyword Appetizer, condiments, Mexican, onions, pickles, Side Dish
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 tbsp
Servings Per Container 30

Amount Per Serving
Calories 12 Calories from Fat 0
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 466mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 2.4g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0.4g 2%
Sugars 1.2g
Protein 0.2g 0%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Step by step preparation

Sources:
1. Wikipedia.org - Pickled onion : www.wikipedia.org.
2. Mexicoenmecocina.com - Cebollas Moradas Curtidas : www.mexicoenmicocina.com.