Salsa Criolla (Red Onion Dressing) – is the most popular accompaniment for Peruvian dishes. It’ll bring any dish to life. It’s simple to make and once you try it, you’ll make it one of your favorite sides for frijoles (beans), arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), seco (stew), etc.
Everyone has their own version of salsa criollo adding ajis or peppers, garlic, and/or cilantro. Mine is simple. What’s wonderful is the simplicity of this salsa and also how quickly it can be prepared.
The ingredients are simply red onion – a staple in Peruvian cuisine, lime juice, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Sometimes, we add aji amarillo paste to add some heat.
When my Tía Martha visited from Peru, she made this salsa to accompany the frijoles (beans) she made for dinner. When preparing the Salsa Criolla, she first cut the red onion in half and placed it in a bowl of cold water. When I asked why, she explained it eliminated tears when slicing. After 10 minutes or so, she took the onion out and began to slice. Tears formed and I asked if she was okay. She told me the onions were making her cry. Maybe the cold water here is different from Peru! We all laughed.
My Mom and Tía Renee would slice the onions first, then place them in a bowl of cold salted water with a good pinch of salt, squeeze them over and over, then drain the water and repeat but without the salt. The grit from the salt would separate the membrane from the onion and remove some of the intensity. This is the way I’ve always done it.
Fresh lime juice is the costar of this Salsa Criolla. It’s what gives that “zing”.
We use vegetable or canola oil which doesn’t mask or take away from the flavor of the onions. A neutral oil works fine.
To prepare, thinly slice the onion. If you prefer, you can also dice the onions. Either way is fine, but traditionally the onions are thinly sliced.
Place the onions in a bowl and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt. The grit from the salt will be used to “wash” the onions.
Cover with cold water and squeeze the onions over and over. Drain the water and add more cold water and squeeze them again. Drain.
Add the remaining ingredients. Toss together, and you now have a delicious Salsa Criolla to accompany any meal.
Try this Salsa Criolla with pulled pork, flank steak, frijoles (beans), or anything your heart desires. ¡Al ataque!
Be happy, eat well…
Salsa Criolla (Red Onion Dressing)Print Recipe Pin Recipe
- 1 large red onion should yield about 3 cups when thinly sliced
- good pinch of kosher salt for "washing"
- 1/4 cup vegetable or neutral oil
- 1/4 cup lime juice 2 limes
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon aji amarillo paste - or to taste* optional
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste
- Thinly slice the onion.
- Place the sliced onions in a bowl and sprinkle with a good pinch of kosher salt. Cover with cold water and squeeze the onions to "wash" them. This separates the membrane from the onion making them sweeter. Drain the water and add more cold water and squeeze them again without adding more salt. Drain.
- Add in remaining ingredients and stir.
- Adjust for salt and pepper.
- Can be served immediately or refrigerated. Note, the onions will soften the longer it sits.
- ¡Al ataque!
Recipe can be halved or doubled.