Mexican Archives - Birdseed Kitchen

Quick Pickled Red Onions

Quick Pickled Red Onions

Colorful, crunchy, and convenient, these Quick Pickled Red Onions take about ten minutes to prepare, and last for a month in the refrigerator. They are a piquant accompaniment to pork, a brilliant sandwich topping, or just the thing to brighten up a simple plate of scrambled eggs. Because they are so versatile, they are the second recipe in our series, Brilliant Basics.

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I am a fan of pickles from all parts of the world, and an avid collector of pickle recipes. (Visit my “Pickles from Around the World” board on Pinterest to check out some of my favorites!)

There’s nothing quite like the salty-sour (or spicy, or sweet) crunch of a homemade pickle. They make a great palate cleanser and condiment. My favorite Mexican restaurant in town serves a small side of pickled cauliflower, carrots, and jalapeños with their delicious tacos. I always order extra pickled daikon and carrots next to my banh mi sandwich. When I order a burger, it’s usually with extra pickles. And my mom still cans homemade pickles every year – mostly pickled red beets, and old-fashioned, bright green, sweet cinnamon pickles that we refer to as “green oil pickles.” (Has anyone else heard of Green Oil Pickles? I can’t find a recipe on the web for them anywhere. Leave me a comment if you have seen them around.)

I don’t can pickles myself (yet!) but I LOVE making refrigerator pickles. These Quick Pickled Red Onions couldn’t be easier. We serve them with tacos, pulled pork, and Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas. I like to make them right in a wide-mouth quart mason jar. If you don’t have access to a jar, any non-reactive container will do. They should marinate for at least an hour for best flavor, and will keep well in the refrigerator for about a month.

This recipe is based on a recipe from Rick Bayless, one of our favorite chefs, and comes from his book entitled, “Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico.”

Quick Pickled Red Onions

Quick Pickled Red Onions

This recipe makes one quart of pickled red onions. They keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator, and are even better the next day.

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 16 1/4 cup servings


  • 1 large red onion
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp light amber agave nectar


  1. Slice onion into thin half-moons, about 1/8 inch thick. Pack into a quart-sized Mason jar or other non-reactive container with a tight-fitting lid.

  2. In a glass measuring cup, combine remaining ingredients. Microwave on high for 3 minutes.

  3. Pour brine over onions in jar. Close the lid, and gently shake the jar to distribute the brine with the onions. If necessary, pack onions down with a spoon so they are submerged in brine. 

  4. Refrigerate for a minimum of one hour, or overnight, before serving. Store for about a month in the refrigerator.

Recipe Notes

Based on a recipe by Rick Bayless that originally appeared in "Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico."

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Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas

Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas

Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas are your new favorite filling for burritos, tacos, or taco bowls. Crispy edges, tangy citrus and tasty spices, and smoky flavors are yours with your pressure cooker or Instant Pot.

(Disclosure: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you.)

I don’t own an Instant Pot. Not yet.

I’m sure I’ll get one eventually, but for now, I’m happy with my traditional 6-quart Presto Pressure Cooker. VERY happy. Pressure cooking is like bending time. If you’re a busy working parent, or just plain busy, either a stovetop pressure cooker or an Instant Pot would be a worthwhile investment.

Pork shoulder was the first meal I made in my pressure cooker, and I’ve enjoyed cooking pork with it ever since. It’s like a time machine. Meat braised in a pressure cooker comes out tender and juicy, in a fraction of the time it takes to smoke or braise the same cut. It’s all about long-cooked texture and flavor.

These Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas are a great example of just the right texture and flavor. The extra step of frying the shredded meat in a skillet is worth it – you’ll love the crispy edges. I love some smoke flavor with pork, so I started out with a little bacon. Not much, just one strip. And I used the bacon fat to brown the chunks of pork shoulder, so all that flavor is put to good use. Mmm.

The citrus juices and spices in this recipe make for some fantastically-flavorful and juicy meat. Adding the reduced cooking liquid to the crisped meat makes it more than a filling for tacos or burritos. We served ours without tortillas, with a side of Mexican Cauliflower Rice (recipe coming soon!), chopped avocado, and my new favorite condiment – Quick Pickled Red Onions.

The next night, we made fresh polenta and served leftover Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas on top, with some hot sauce and more pickled onions.

Next time, I’m going to try a Chipotle-style burrito bowl. And you can be sure this recipe will be in our family’s frequent rotation.

Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas

Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas

Course Main Course
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8 servings


  • 1 slice bacon diced
  • 3.5 lbs pork shoulder or butt
  • 1 medium white onion chopped
  • 10 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 oranges juiced
  • 1 lime juiced
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste


  1. Cut pork shoulder into 8 pieces. Season on all sides with salt and black pepper.

  2. In a pressure cooker over medium-low heat, render diced bacon until brown and crisp. Add pork pieces to pressure cooker. Brown on all sides.

  3. Add onion, garlic, and bay leaf to pressure cooker.

  4. Stir together orange and lime juice, chicken stock, cumin, coriander, chipotle, cinnamon, and oregano. Add to pressure cooker.

  5. Cook on high pressure for 40 minutes. Let pressure release naturally.

  6. When pressure has released, open pressure cooker. With a slotted spoon, remove pork and place in a bowl. Discard bay leaf.

  7. Place pressure cooker containing remaining juices over medium heat and  boil gently to reduce and concentrate the liquid, about 10 minutes.

  8. Meanwhile, shred the pork with two forks, or with your fingers.

  9. In a wide skillet, heat 1 tbsp canola oil over medium-high heat. Add shredded pork, and fry until it begins to crisp along the edges, turning occasionally.

  10. Measure out 1/4 cup of reduced cooking liquid, and add it to the pork in the skillet. Remove from heat.

  11. Serve with rice (try Mexican Cauliflower Rice!), chopped avocado, and Quick Pickled Red Onions.

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