You are currently viewing What are Red Onions? Which Recipes should they be used in?
Red Onions

What are Red Onions? Which Recipes should they be used in?

Red onions are widely used in Mexican cuisine due to their distinctive flavor, color, and versatility in various dishes.

Red onions, scientifically known as Allium cepa, belong to the same species as other common onions but are recognized for their unique reddish-purple outer skin and inner rings.

Red onions typically have a milder, slightly sweeter taste compared to yellow or white onions. Their flavor is less assertive, making them excellent for raw consumption in salads, salsas, and fresh garnishes.

They offer a crisp texture and add a vibrant hue to dishes, especially when used fresh. Red onions have a reddish-purple skin and layers of red and white inside, contributing to their visual appeal in culinary presentations.

Different varieties of red onions, including locally cultivated types or specific cultivars like ‘Mexican Red Onions,’ may be preferred in Mexican cuisine. These onions might vary slightly in flavor and appearance, but their overall characteristics align with the milder taste and colorful aspect sought after in Mexican dishes.

Flavor Profile and Pairings:

Flavor Profile:

  • Red onions offer a milder, slightly sweet taste compared to other onion varieties. They provide a subtle tanginess and crunch when raw, making them ideal for salads, salsas, and raw garnishes in Mexican cuisine.

Enhancement in Mexican Dishes:

  • Red onions add vibrant color and a pleasant crunch to various Mexican dishes, enhancing both the flavor and visual appeal. They are frequently used in fresh salsas, ceviches, and salads, contributing their mild onion flavor without overpowering the other ingredients.

Complementary Ingredients:

  • Red onions complement a wide range of Mexican ingredients such as tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, chilies, avocados (in guacamole), and various meats in tacos, enhancing the overall taste and texture of these dishes.

Cooking and Preparation Tips:

Selecting and Storing:

  • Choose red onions that are firm, heavy for their size, and have dry, papery skins. Avoid those with soft spots or signs of sprouting.
  • Store them in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight. Once cut, wrap the remaining onion in plastic wrap or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


  • To slice or dice red onions, first, cut off the ends, peel off the outer skin, and then slice or dice as needed for the recipe.
  • For a milder flavor in raw dishes, soak sliced or diced red onions in cold water for 10-15 minutes, then drain before using.

Cooking Methods:

  • Sautéing or caramelizing red onions in a pan over medium-low heat brings out their natural sweetness, perfect for adding depth to sauces, soups, or fajita fillings.
  • Grilling or roasting red onions can intensify their sweetness and provide a smoky flavor, enhancing the taste of dishes like grilled vegetable platters or kebabs.

These methods help to soften the onions and develop their flavor, making them versatile for different Mexican recipes.

Here are the named and summarized recipes using red onions in Mexican cuisine:

  1. Pico de Gallo:
    • A refreshing salsa featuring diced tomatoes, red onions, cilantro, jalapeños, lime juice, and salt. Ideal for serving with tortilla chips or as a taco topping.
  2. Red Onion and Cilantro Guacamole:
    • Classic guacamole with a twist, incorporating ripe avocados, diced red onions, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Perfect for dipping or as a taco accompaniment.
  3. Pickled Red Onions:
    • Thinly sliced red onions marinated in white vinegar, lime juice, sugar, and salt. These tangy pickled onions are great as toppings for tacos, tostadas, or sandwiches.
  4. Ceviche with Red Onions:
    • A refreshing ceviche made with diced white fish or shrimp, lime juice, red onions, cilantro, tomatoes, jalapeños, and salt. Served chilled as a delightful appetizer.
  5. Grilled Red Onion and Steak Tacos:
    • Tacos filled with grilled steak strips seasoned with cumin, paprika, and garlic powder, along with thinly sliced red onions. Topped with salsa and guacamole for a flavorful meal.

These recipes showcase the diverse ways red onions can be incorporated into Mexican dishes, offering a balance of flavors and textures.