How To Make Spicy Mexican-Style Pickled Carrots

How To Make Spicy Mexican-Style Pickled Carrots

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Meghan Splawn
Sep 1, 2017
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman/The Kitchn)

Meet the spicy pickled carrots that are about to forever change your Taco Tuesday or even just your snack-dinner Wednesday. These crunchy, spicy, tangy pickles are made for serving with (or on top of) Mexican staples like tacos and enchiladas, or even just alongside a cold beer.

And because these carrot pickles are made just like our favorite quick refrigerator pickles, they are as easy to make as they are to eat.

What Are Mexican-Style Pickled Carrots?

Zanahorias en escabeche is a pickle of carrots, jalapeños, and onions that you've likely been served as a starter or alongside tacos at your favorite taqueria. Recipes vary from restaurants and home cooks, with some calling for just a few thin slices of jalapeño to proportions where the jalapeños outnumber the carrots.

This recipe is heavy on the carrots, with just a few jalapeños for spice and flavor. Once you master this simple technique, you can adjust the proportions however you like.

For Your Information

  • This recipe calls for about a pound of carrots, two medium jalapeños, and one small sweet onion. If you can't find a sweet onion, a small red onion is a nice substitute.
  • This recipe makes two (eight-ounce) jars, and you'll need them cleaned and dried before making the pickles.
  • Let the finished jars sit at room temperature for an hour before refrigerating, then refrigerate for at least 24 hours before enjoying.

Why Your Carrots Need Jalapeños and Onions

Last summer, I pickled every vegetable under the sun with a simple refrigerator pickle method, but a truly crave-worthy pickled carrot eluded me. What I was missing I found on the table at a small Mexican restaurant near my home in Georgia. These pickles piquant with pickle brine, but also deeply savory with just the right amount of spice, kept me reaching across the table for more.

A Few Key Points for Crunchy Pickled Carrots

  • Cut the carrots into coins, not sticks. This helps them "cook" in the pickle brine more evenly and makes it easy for stacking and snacking on later.
  • Make a flavorful brine. Along with the vinegar, salt and water, be sure to include bay leaves, oregano (Mexican if you can get it), and fresh thyme in the brine.
  • Let the jars "cook" at room temperature for one hour. While the brine is hot, it will soften the carrots slightly, so leave these jars at room temperature for about an hour before refrigerating.

The Best Place to Serve Your Pickled Carrots

Pickled carrots partnered with jalapeños become more than a pickle — instead they can become a condiment for tacos, but also a quick salad with a sprinkle of feta cheese and generous drizzle of olive oil. They are as welcome on a sub sandwich as any kosher dill, and with twice the crunch. At their very best, they are a perfect partner for a cold beer and a warm patio.

How To Make Pickled Carrots

Makes 2 (8-ounce) jars

What You Need

Ingredients
3 large carrots
2 medium jalapeños
1 small sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)

Equipment
Measuring cups and spoons
Small saucepan
Canning funnel (optional)
2 (8-ounce) wide-mouth jars with lids

Instructions

  1. Wash and dry the jars. Wash 2 wide-mouth (8-ounce) jars, lids, and rings in warm, soapy water and rinse well. Set aside to dry, or dry completely by hand.
  2. Prepare the carrots, onions, and jalapeños: Peel and slice the carrots into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Trim the stems from the jalapeños, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Halve and thinly slice the onion. Place them all in a medium bowl and toss to combine.
  3. Pack the vegetables into the prepared jars. Pack the vegetables into the jars, making sure there is a 1/2 inch of space from the rim of the jars to the tops of the vegetables. Pack them in as tightly as you can without smashing. Add 1 garlic clove, 1 bay leaf, and 1 sprig of thyme to each jar.
  4. Make the pickling liquid. Place the vinegar, water, salt, oregano, and sugar if using in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.
  5. Pour the brine over the vegetables. Pour the hot brine into the jars, filling each one to within 1/2 inch of the top. You might not use all the brine. Gently tap the jars against the counter a few times to remove all the air bubbles. Top off with more pickling brine if necessary.
  6. Tightly seal the jars. Place the lids over the jars and screw on the rings until tight.
  7. Cool the jars and then refrigerate for 24 hours. Let the jars cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Store the pickles in the refrigerator. The pickles will improve with flavor as they age — try to wait at least 24 hours before cracking them open.

Recipe Notes

  • Storage: Refrigerator pickles will keep for about 1 month. If they develop any off flavors or smells, or if you notice fermentation, it's best to just discard the remaining pickles.
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