Salsa Criolla (Red Onion Dressing) – is the most popular accompaniment for Peruvian dishes. This salsa will bring any dish to life. Salsa Criolla is simple to make and once you try it, you will make it one of your favorite sides for frijoles (beans), arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), seco (stew), the list goes on. Basically, this Salsa Criolla is good with anything.
Everyone has their own version adding ajis or peppers, garlic, and/or cilantro. Mine is simple and it has been served in my family for as long as I can remember. What’s wonderful is the simplicity of this salsa and also how quickly it can be prepared.
The ingredients are simple – 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 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 and squeeze them once or twice then drain the water and repeat. The grit from the salt would separate the membrane from the onion and remove some of the intensity. This is the way I have 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.
To prepare, thinly slice the onion into half moons. Sometimes I break tradition and dice the onions. Either way is fine, but traditionally the onions are thinly sliced half moons.
Place the sliced 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 once or twice. Drain the water and add more cold water and squeeze them again. Drain.
Add in canola or vegetable oil, lime juice, red wine vinegar, aji amarillo (if using), salt, and pepper. Stir 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!
- 1 red onion - should yield about 3 cups when thinly sliced
- ¼ cup canola or vegetable oil
- ¼ cup lime juice (2 limes)
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon aji amarillo paste - or to taste*
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon pepper or to taste
- Thinly slice the onion into half moons.
- Place the sliced onions in a bowl and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt. Cover with cold water and squeeze the onions once or twice. Drain the water and add more cold water and squeeze them again. 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.