Traditional Pickled Red Onion & Habanero Salsa

This Pickled Red Onion & Habanero Salsa is the traditional topping for Cochinita Pibil tacos. The salsa pairs beautifully with the shredded pork and brings out the unique earthy flavor of the Yucatan style Cochinita Pibil tacos.

a bowl full of habanero salsa made using this recipe

Though you can always find this salsa paired with Cochinita Pibil, there is no reason you can’t enjoy it with any other taco! In my opinion, it would work with carnitas, pulled pork, and even chicken tacos.

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This Salsa Has a Kick to It

This is a spicy one folks! The mix of red onion and Habanero give it a special zing! If you’ve ever handled Habanero Peppers, then you know you have to be careful when touching it and cutting it. One bad move and you can be in pain for hours! So please be careful when handling it, use gloves if you have some, and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

showing you how to make spicy habanero salsa

The Perfect Addition to Cochinita Pibil

This salsa is simple to make and should definitely be made when making Cochinita Pibil.

close up of a sliced lime

I recently had a fun day with my Mexican friend, Mari, and we cooked some Cochinita Pibil in my Instant Pot. It was so delicious and so easy to make. You can read all about it and get the recipe here. She, of course, also showed us how to make the traditional salsa that always tops Cochinita Pibil. So without further ado, let’s get to the Pickled Onion & Habanero Salsa to top those tacos!

habanero salsa served along side mexican tacos with cochinita pibil

Just a few simple steps and you’ll be enjoying some delicious authentic Red Onion & Habanero Salsa. Here we go!

Essential Items

Here are some essential prep tools, utensils, and appliances I used to make this recipe.

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Prep Tools & Utensils

Here are the prep tools and utensils that you’ll need:

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Making Pickled Red Onion & Habanero Salsa

Some simple ingredients are all you need. You can make the salsa while your Cochinita Pibil is cooking so it will be ready to go when your tacos are ready. You can also make it the night before for maximum flavor.

Gather Your Ingredients

You will need limes (for juice), red onion, habanero peppers, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, and olive oil.  For exact measurements see the recipe below.

ingredients including lime, purple onion, habanero peppers and garlic are laid out on a cutting board ready for making a habanero salsa

Squeeze Two Cups of Lime Juice

With a good lemon squeezer, squeeze 2 cups of lime juice.

squeezing limes for a spicy habanero salsa recipe
freshly squeezed lime juice for salsa habanero

A little fact for you: In Honduras and Mexico we call limes “limones”, which means lemons. I actually never saw any yellow ones growing up. All we had was limones, which were the green ones people from the United States call limes. When we make lemonade, we use the green ones you probably know as limes. For this salsa, you need the green ones!

squeezing lime for habanero salsa

Chop the Red Onions

Finely chop the red onions. Some people like to make this salsa with larger slices of onion. Mari likes to chop them finely.

red onion is one of the main ingredients for this habanero salsa
adding chopped red onion to a prep bowl for this homemade habanero salsa recipe

Carefully Cut the Habanero Peppers

Like I mentioned above, be very careful when handling the Habanero Peppers. Mari used a fork and a knife to cut them and remove the seeds. She says she uses gloves at home. She almost had a heart attack when my husband Ryan offered to cut some up and went straight to it using his hands! He even removed the seeds with his hands. He was fine and made sure to wash his hands extensively after chopping them but she wasn’t happy he did that! So don’t try that at home!

slicing habanero peppers to make salsa de habanero

You do not use the seeds to make the salsa. Remove them and discard them. Keep in mind that peppers will always vary. You can get a batch of killer spicy peppers and you can also get a batch of some that aren’t too hot. We got some pretty spicy ones, which was fine with us because we love spicy food!

all the ingredients for mexican habanero salsa in a bowl

Add the Minced Garlic & Oregano

After you’ve put the chopped onions and Habaneros in a mixing bowl, add the minced garlic cloves. I’ve had this mincer for years, and it’s awesome. It’s from Pampered Chef.

mincing garlic while showing how to make salsa de habanero

Now, add all the oregano.

oregano is one of the ingredients for this habanero salsa recipe

Pour in the Lime Juice

Pour the lime juice into your onion and Habanero mixture and mix everything together.

showing how to make habanero lime salsa

Add the Salt & Olive Oil

Finally, add the salt and the olive oil.

making the best habanero salsa recipe in a blue prep bowl

I was trying my hardest to annoy Mari while pouring in the olive oil!

my friend and i showing how to make mexican habanero salsa

Mix Well

Mix everything well and you’re done! Set it aside until your tacos are ready, or put it in the fridge if you’re making it well in advance.

preparing habanero salsa, a yucatan favorite

Serve Your Pickled Red Onion & Habanero Salsa

This is some good stuff! Mari didn’t disappoint.

a bowl of spicy habanero lime salsa

Let me know if you’re daring and try Cochinita Pibil with this Red Onion & Habanero Salsa!

Pickled Red Onion & Habanero Salsa


4.82 from 16 votes
Prep Time
10 minutes
Total Time
10 minutes
Recipe by: Valerie Cooper
If you like spicy, then this salsa is for you. Loaded with fresh habanero, red onions, and a blend of herbs and spices all bathed in lime juice, this traditional Mexican habanero salsa can be enjoyed with any taco but pairs especially well with my Cochinita Pibil tacos.
a bowl full of habanero salsa made using this recipe

Essential Equipment

  • measuring spoons



  • Squeeze 2 cups lime juice and set aside.
  • Finely chop the red onions and habanero peppers. Be careful when handling the habanero peppers. It’s best to wear protective gloves to avoid burning your skin or getting the pepper oil somewhere you don’t want it.
  • Add the chopped onions and habanero peppers to a bowl and then mix in the minced garlic and oregano.
  • Pour in the lime juice and add the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
  • Serve with your favorite tacos.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 39kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 196mg | Potassium: 122mg | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 165IU | Vitamin C: 35mg | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 0.3mg

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