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The easiest and best pickled red onion recipe we’ve ever seen belongs to Rick Bayless

The god of Mexican cuisine has the easiest and best recipe

Red onions
Quin Engle/Unsplash

Pickled onions may just be the most underappreciated, underutilized, yet amazingly delicious condiment that exists. Sure, we love our onions raw and sliced paper thin on a sandwich or battered and fried with a perfect dipping sauce. We love them grilled, piled on our favorite steak, or charred and sandwiched in a chicken kabob. And, of course, onions are the start of almost any great recipe. But if you’ve never taken this humble but wonderful ingredient and pickled it, you’re doing yourself (and your sandwiches) a great disservice. Pickled onions have a zippy, piquant sweetness that elevates any number of dishes. Put them in sandwiches, burgers, brats, and tacos. Mix them into salads and stir-fries, or pile them on top of your favorite snacks like avocado toast or deviled eggs. Their briny, bright tartness adds so much character and flavor to just about anything. And the truly marvelous thing about pickled onions is that they’re ridiculously easy to make and have in your fridge at all times.

In the following video, the great Rick Bayless, famed chef and restaurateur, teaches his easy method for pickling red onions. He begins by simply covering a bowl of sliced onions with very hot water, which he explains will take the “power” out of them and soften their texture. After the onions have sat in the hot water for about 30 minutes, he drains them completely and covers them with freshly squeezed lime juice. To that mixture, he mixes in a teaspoon of salt, then presses the onions down firmly so that they are totally submerged in the lime juice. The next step is to simply set the bowl aside for about six hours, and that’s when the magic happens. After the elapsed time, the onions are beautifully pink and perfectly pickled.

Easy Pickled Red Onions, Perfect for Cochinita Pibil | Rick Bayless Taco Manual

Easy pickled red onion recipe

It’s important to note that Chef Bayless recommends storing these pickled onions in the refrigerator as they are pickled with lime juice and not vinegar, which would be self-preserving. Granted, the vinegar method creates a more shelf-sturdy ingredient, but, he reminds us, these are so much more delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium red onions, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method:

  1. Place the onions into a glass or stainless bowl.
  2. Cover onions with very hot tap water. If your tap doesn’t get very hot, heat water until just under boiling and pour over onions.
  3. Let the onions rest for 20 minutes, then drain.
  4. Sprinkle with salt.
  5. Press onions down into the lime juice, laying a plate on top to keep them submerged. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 3 or 4 hours (or, preferably, overnight).
  6. Cover and store onions in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Lindsay Parrill
Lindsay is a graduate of California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu, San Francisco, from where she holds a degree in…
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