Yucatán-Style Pickled Red Onions in Sour-Orange Juice Recipe

Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt

Why It Works

  • Par-cooking the onions in water softens them while allowing you to keep the bright, fresh flavor of the citrus juice uncooked.
  • Using a combination of grapefruit, lime, and orange juice replicates some of the floral, bitter aroma of Seville oranges if they are unavailable.

These sweet, salty, and tangy pickled onions are the perfect accompaniment to braised, slow-roasted, or smoked meats. Use them in tacos, burritos, fajitas, or sandwiches.

Recipe Facts

Active: 10 mins
Total: 2 hrs 10 mins
Makes: 2 cups pickled red onions

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  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 15 whole black peppercorns
  • 15 whole allspice berries
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/3 cup juice from 1 grapefruit (2 1/2 ounces; 80ml) (see note)
  • 1/3 cup juice from 1 to 2 oranges (2 1/2 ounces; 80ml) (see note)
  • 1/3 cup juice from 4 to 5 limes (2 1/2 ounces; 80ml) (see note), plus a little extra just in case
  • Salt


  1. Place onion, peppercorns, allspice, and bay leaves in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat, drain carefully, and transfer onions to a sealable container, such as a Mason jar.

  2. Add grapefruit, orange, and lime juice. Onions should be submerged at this point; if they aren't, top off with extra lime juice. Stir to combine, season to taste with salt (they should be quite salty—use about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon of table salt), cover, and refrigerate until color deepens, about 2 hours. Onions can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Do not eat peppercorns, allspice berries, or bay leaves.


Seville oranges are sometimes available in Latin markets. If available, use 6 tablespoons Seville orange juice in place of the grapefruit, lime, and orange juice combination.

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