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Pickled Red Onions Recipe/ Taco Toppings

This pickled red onions recipe makes everything taste amazing. As does this avocado sauce and grilled cabbage, all of which are perfect taco toppings!

Pickled red onions are amazing on just about anything, but put them on tacos and oh man…you’ve hit on what makes them so addictive.

This simple ingredient puts tacos so above the norm.

Tacos are where it’s at! It took me awhile to get on board, but let’s just say I’m now shipshape!

The fun thing about tacos, or quesadillas for that matter, is the variety of ways they can be topped.

Toppings for tacos are an art form and too many or too little or not the right kind, can take away from your creation.

Each bite should contribute to the next, to the point of not wanting to put that taco down, because each morsel tastes so massively good.

Little bites full of big flavor, but also a giant mix of textures come into play, in what seems like just a simple taco!

The balance of flavors is what makes a taco special and these quick pickled onions the perfect condiment.

Mexican cuisine is something we eat a lot of here at TIHIC.

Though I never ate Mexican food as a child, Manservant grew up with it.

There were no Mexican restaurants in Kankakee when I was a child, though I think Taco Bell is there now.

And true confessions here-I have never eaten at a Taco Bell!

avocado sauce and pickled onions

How To make Mexican Pickled Onions:

This easy recipe almost shouldn’t be called a recipe!

I choose to use a red onion because I like the color, but yellow onions or white onions may also be used.

Worried about tears? Be sure to slice the root end last.

Apparently that is where most of the sulfuric compounds lie, which is what causes you to shed tears.

When making this simple recipe I often grill the onion first which adds flavor, however if you don’t want to start the grill for an onion-no worries.

These sliced onions are perfect without the grilled taste.

Begin by slicing one large red onion (or any onion) very thin using a sharp chef’s knife or a mandolin.

In a small saucepan heat up the white vinegar, water, a crushed garlic clove, a pinch of Mexican oregano (regular oregano works, too) and a pinch of salt, a few black peppercorns and the onion slices on medium heat.

Want to add some red pepper flakes or a bay leaf? That’s OK, too!

Add a squeeze of lime juice if you’d like, but I like this recipe as is, though the seasonings are very fun to play with.

Don’t have white vinegar? Rice vinegar, red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar also work.

Bring the mixture to a boil. The minute it starts to boil, remove from heat, let cool, and pour into a glass container.

I always have a mason jar in the fridge filled with this red onion recipe and also one with pickled jalapeno peppers both of which are perfect on fish tacos!

Pickled Jalapenos

And for the record this easy Mexican recipe can be used to make many varieties of refrigerator pickles.

If this is your first time making these pretty pink onions, make sure to make a batch with carrots or radishes, too.

And make more than you think you need, because a jar of these make a great gift!

Besides using these on tacos, I have been known to make sub sandwiches with them and serve them on a cheese board.

Alex loves the pickled red onions on scrambled eggs. And then he tops them with avocado sauce.

And just so you know this red onions recipe is great on lox and bagels.

I have no doubt that you will find a favorite way to use these.

It’s fun creating taco topping ideas and these three always add something extra to our favorite Mexican dishes.

Need some more ideas besides this avocado sauce, pickled onions and grilled cabbage?

I’ll let you slide. You could just do raw shredded cabbage, but this is so good!

grilled cabbage

Welcome to the world of taco toppings!

Keep in mind that a combo of spicy, sour, salty and even sweet ingredients are added to round out the flavor of the taco.

Then think texture – crispy, crunchy, creamy, as ways to add interest.

Salsas add complexity and guacamole or avocado adds creamy, salty and savory flavors.

Ordering a taco at a taco joint may seem simple, but I guarantee there was a lot of thought put into that taco!

Below are a few simple taco toppings and a few more that I use to amp up the flavors of any taco.

Don’t be afraid to try any of these on burgers or sandwiches or anything else where you need a little extra!

I used to love doing taco bars for dinner. It seems just about anything can be made into a taco.

If you like soft shell tacos I heartily recommend this straw tortilla warmer that can be put in the microwave!

(Mine is straw, but this one is so dang cute!)

pickled red onions

It’s always important to start with a hearty base for your taco.

Think ground meats-chicken, turkey, pork, beef, chorizo-they all work.

Seafood? You betcha! Grilled fish or shrimp, even calamari, makes a great taco.

Steak. BBQ chicken. Want to go vegetarian? Roasted potatoes, mushrooms or cauliflower.

Now for the fun part! Take your pick. Honestly though, the basics are fine, along with a fun salsa and of course, these pickled onions.

What are basic taco toppings?

Shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, corn, diced onion or peppers, (sauteed, grilled or raw) and of course guacamole or sliced avocado or better yet, this avocado sauce.

And please don’t forget the salsa!

Just in case you are worried I didn’t give you enough ideas, here are links to some of my faves!

Have fun with this and let me know your favorite taco combination!

Lots of Taco Toppings-Perfect For a Taco Bar:

Chili Con Queso

Chil Con Queso


Guacamole without tomatoes

Peruvian Green Sauce

Peruvian Green Sauce

Fire Grilled Salsa Roja

Salsa Roja

Hominy Salsa with Blueberries

Hominy Salsa with blueberries

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

roasted tomatillo salsa

Pico de Gallo

pico de gallo

Salsa Macha

Salsa Macha

And then there is pineapple salsa and peach salsa. Just sayin’!

I’d Love it if You’d Follow Me and Pin and Share!

Pickled Red Onions

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pickled red onions

Pickled Red Onions and Other Taco Toppings

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star No reviews
  • Author: Abbe
  • Prep Time: 30 Minutes
  • Cook Time: Varies
  • Total Time: 30 Minutes
  • Yield: Varies
  • Category: Side Dishes
  • Method: Varies
  • Cuisine: American


These three taco toppings also make great topping on most everything. Simple and flavorful, I think you will enjoy them all!



Avocado Sauce

Serves 4

Time to Make: About 10 minutes

1 ripe avocado

2 T finely minced onion

2 T sour cream or Mexican crema

24 T heavy cream

1/4 t garlic powder

1/2 t salt

A few grinds of black pepper

Juice of 1/2 a lime

Pickled Red Onions

Serves 10

Time to Make: About 10 minutes active/ 20 minutes inactive

1 large red onion peeled, but root end still attached. Cut into quarters without slicing through the root. Do not separate. Brush with some oil and sprinkle with salt.

3 T white vinegar

3 T water

1 crushed garlic clove

Pinch of oregano

4 peppercorns

Pinch of salt

Grilled Cabbage

Serves 48

Time to Make: About 15 minutes active/ 20 minutes inactive


1 head green cabbage

Olive Oil

Coarse Salt

Juice of 1 lime

Seasonings such as salt, smoked paprika, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder


Avocado Sauce:

Mash avocado. Stir in all ingredients while mashing to a sauce consistency. You may want it chunky or smooth and that is your choice.

If you want it more of a thin sauce, add more cream. Add your seasonings to taste. Avocados need to be bold. This sauce is tangier than guacamole and really brings out the richness of the avocado!

Pickled Onions

Preheat grill to medium high heat. Grill onion with bulb side down until blackened.

Now turn over and rest root end on grill and grill until that is blackened. It will start to spread like a flower opening. I only grill this partially, so that the onion retains some crispness. Take off fire and let cool.

Now cut off root stem and slice into thin slices.

Place onion, vinegar, water and seasonings in a pot. Bring to a boil. (I know it seems like you need more liquid, but you don’t.) As soon as it boils, turn into a container and let stand until cooled. These are great on sandwiches of all kinds and of course tacos or quesadillas! They keep in the fridge a long time!

Grilled Cabbage

Slice cabbage into 3/4″ rounds. Brush both sides with oil. Season one side well with salt.

Combine lime juice with seasonings and brush on to cabbage. Use more seasonings if necessary to cover cabbage rounds.

Let sit for at least one hour or up to overnight. When ready to cook, preheat grill to medium high.

Place cabbage rounds on an oiled grill and grill until cooked, but not soft. If some of the cabbage strings fall off gather them up and place a pile of them on a grill tray and cook by tossing until browned.

Cabbage can be used as a taco topping or it can even be tossed with cole slaw dressing and served that way as a  taco topping or as a replacement for cole slaw.


Onions do not have to be grilled. They can be sliced and then placed in the pot to pickle. I think grilling gives them more flavor, but is totally optional.

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Monday 2nd of May 2022

Oh yes - you can have a taco without something pickled on top. Love pickled onion and cabbage as toppings. I make a different version and look forward to giving your recipes a try. Have never tried a taco with the avocado crema but watched Pati Jinich make it a lot on her show. I guess it's time to give it a try. Of course now I'm craving tacos! :)


Monday 2nd of May 2022

Molto invitnati queste cipolle, perfette per tante preparazioni, grazie!!!!

John / Kitchen Riffs

Friday 29th of April 2022

Love pickled red onions! I make mine with somewhat different seasonings, but any which way they're good. Looking forward to Cinco de Mayo so we can have a taco fest! :-)


Sunday 10th of July 2016

I love everything about these tacos, Abbe. Your avocado sauce sounds delicious and while I've prepared pickled red onions, your idea of grilling them first is something I'm sure to try. The same is true for the cabbage, and I especially like the idea of going from the grill to cole slaw. As I said, love it all!


Friday 8th of July 2016

Ooo I've never grilled cabbage for tacos before, now I must!