Mexican Escabeche (Pickled Jalapeños & Carrots)
Whether served as a side dish or used as a topping for tacos, burritos, or other Mexican favorites, the zesty and refreshing taste of my 15-minute Mexican Escabeche (pickled jalapeños & carrots) is sure to tantalize your taste buds.
With a perfect balance of crunchy veggies and spicy, tangy flavors, this quick and easy pepper escabeche recipe is the perfect way to preserve your summer crop AND add tons of flavor to your favorite meals.
What is Escabeche?
There are many different types of escabeche (pronounced “ess-KA-bey-CHAY”). The specific ingredients and preparation methods can vary widely depending on the region and cuisine.
While Peruvian, Puerto Rican, Spanish, and Filipino cuisines have their own varieties of escabeche, today we’re focusing on the dish I’ve been eating since I was a child. Mexican escabeche, also known as escabeche de verduras, is a pickled vegetable dish commonly served as a condiment or side dish.
While recipes vary by family, many vegetable escabeche mixtures consist of mixed veggies, like carrots, onions, and jalapeños that are soaked in a brine of vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and various spices, such as oregano, bay leaves, and garlic. Other veggies like cauliflower may also be added, similar to an Italian giardiniera.
The pickling process not only gives whichever vegetables are used a tangy and slightly spicy flavor, but also helps to preserve them for months at a time. This escabeche recipe is so good that it made it into my NEW cookbook.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
If you’re someone who thinks the best part of a deli sandwich is the pickle, this recipe is for you!
These zippy and spicy pickled carrots, onions, and jalapeños are perfect for serving alongside the Mexican sandwiches known as tortas, but can also be paired with everything from tacos to nachos. In fact, I’ll sometimes grab a jar from the fridge and eat it as an escabeche vegetable salad.
Aside from being an ideal condiment, side dish, light snack, and even hostess gift, these escabeche carrots and jalapeños are also:
- Wholesome & Nutritious – Made with just 11 simple, easy-to-pronounce ingredients (most of which are probably already in your pantry), these Mexican pickles are a healthier alternative to store-bought brands that contain artificial preservatives. Plus, the process of pickling gives the veggies an extra boost of probiotic goodness!
- Budget-Friendly – If you’re a vegetable gardener who grows peppers, chances are you’ll have at least one bumper crop over the course of the season. This recipe for escabeche jalapeños is a great way to preserve your bounty for several months.
- Quick & Easy – The best part is that these pickled jalapenos are very simple to make. You only need 15 minutes (or less) of active time to prep a big ol’ batch of these delectably crunchy and spicy pickled vegetables.
- Allergen-Friendly – Naturally gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, and vegan, these tasty veggies are perfect for sharing with nearly anyone!
Ingredients & Substitutions
You only need a handful of readily available ingredients to make escabeche jalapeños:
- Distilled White Vinegar – In addition to its role in pickling, distilled white vinegar also adds a tangy, sour flavor to the escabeche. I personally like to use distilled white vinegar due to its neutral flavor and affordability. Feel free to swap in flavorful apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar instead.
- Sugar – Just a touch of sweetness helps to balance out the acidity of the vinegar brine. Feel free to swap in brown sugar or agave nectar instead.
- Kosher Salt – Essential to pickling, salt acts as a natural preservative and it can also help to create a firmer texture in the finished escabeche. Additionally, kosher salt has a milder flavor than table salt, which allows the flavors of the vegetables and spices to come through more prominently in the finished dish.
- Mexican Oregano – Mexican oregano has a slightly citrusy and earthy flavor profile, with notes of mint and licorice. It’s actually more closely related to marjoram in flavor than Greek or Italian oregano. As such, I’d recommend marjoram as the preferred substitute, with regular oregano being the second alternative. 🤓
- Peppercorns – For adding a touch of heat. Make sure to use whole peppercorns for the best flavor.
- Bay Leaves – Bay leaves have a slightly bitter and astringent taste, which makes them a good complement to the sourness of the vinegar. Bay leaves also contain tannins that have natural preservative properties, which can both help to extend the shelf life of the pickles and preserve their crunchiness.
- Garlic Clove – Adding a hint of garlicky flavor makes these escabeche vegetables even more crave-worthy.
- Jalapeños – The main star of the show, jalapeño adds heat and color.
- Serrano Peppers – Optional, but encouraged if you like spicy foods like we do!
- Carrots – For sweetness and crunch. Feel free to use any color (orange, yellow, or purple) or swap in white parsnips instead.
- Sweet Onion – Walla Walla or Vidalias are perfect here. You’re also welcome to use red, yellow, or white onions if you prefer.
How To Make Mexican Escabeche
This simple spicy pickle recipe comes together in just a few minutes. Here’s how:
Step 1: Prep Storage. Clean four to five (12-ounce) jars in the dishwasher or in hot soapy water.
Step 2: Make Brine. In a large stockpot, combine water, vinegar, sugar, salt, spices, and garlic. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.
Step 3: Simmer veggies. Lower the heat to medium-high. Stir in the veggies and cook until the chile peppers turn from bright green to a slightly duller green, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Step 4: Can the Escabeche. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the mixture to the jars, dividing them equally among the jars. Discard the garlic and bay leaves. Spoon the pickling liquid into each jar, filling each to 1/2 below the rim.
Step 5: Cool & Store. Cover the jars tightly. Let cool completely, then store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
More of a visual learner? Watch this video below to see how simple it is to make pickled jalapeños.
As much as I love this “escabeche salad” recipe, there are plenty of ways for you to zhuzh it up and make it your own. Here are a few ideas worth considering:
- Add other veggies. There are many different vegetables that can be used in this recipe, depending on personal preference and what is in season. The key is to select veggies that will hold up well during pickling and that will provide a balance of flavors and textures. Here are some good options:
- Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that adds a unique texture and flavor. It can be broken into small florets or sliced into thin pieces.
- Radishes add a peppery flavor and crunchy texture. They can be sliced into rounds or julienned.
- Cabbage is often used in Mexican escabeche for its crunch and mild flavor. It can be sliced into thin strips or shredded.
- Bell peppers add sweetness and color. They can be sliced into thin strips or chopped into small pieces.
- Escabeche de Chiles. Not for the faint of heart or mild of tongue, this spicy variation of escabeche is made with a variety of pickled chilies. Try a mix of jalapeños, serranos, and habaneros, along with onions, garlic, and spices.
- Choose high-quality vegetables. The quality of the vegetables you use will greatly impact the flavor and texture of your escabeche. Choose fresh vegetables that are in season for the best results.
- Cut the vegetables into uniform pieces. Much like cooking veggies, cutting the vegetables into uniform pieces ensures that they will pickle evenly and have a consistent texture.
- Don’t rush perfection. For best results, let the vegetables marinate in the pickling liquid for at least a day before serving to allow the flavors to meld together.
Mexican escabeche is a versatile dish that can be used in many different ways. Experiment with different serving suggestions to find your favorite way to enjoy this delicious and healthy dish. Here are a few of my favorites:
- As a side dish: Similar to pickled red onions, these pickled jalapeños are great on tacos, nachos, and pizza. They also make for a deliciously spicy surprise in a margarita.
- In a salad: Add some zesty Mexican flair to any salad for added flavor and texture. Escabeche pairs especially well with greens, avocado, and grilled chicken or shrimp.
- In a sandwich or wrap: Use Mexican pickles as a flavorful topping for a Mexica torta, tuna fish sandwich, or any kind of wrap.
- As a topping for a bowl: Spoon escabeche on a burrito bowl or grain bowl for added texture and flavor.
- As a snack: Serve it with some tortilla chips or crackers (or straight from the jar) for a healthy and flavorful snack.
Frequently Asked Questions
If kept in an airtight container in the fridge, these Mexican pickled veggies should last for up to 2 months. That said, they’re so yummy on just about everything, you should have no problem demolishing them well before then!
This recipe is not designed for shelf-stable canning.
More Recipes For Spice Fiends
- Spicy, Crispy Tostones Chips
- Spicy Maple Candied Bacon
- Easy Spicy Michelada (Mexican Beer Cocktail) Recipe
- Spicy Cilantro Pesto Pasta
Escabeche (Pickled Jalapeños)
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups distilled vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- 5 large jalapeños, sliced into 1/8 inch thick rings
- 2 serrano peppers, sliced into 1/8 inch thick rings
- 4 carrots, peeled, sliced into 1/8 inch thick rings
- 1 sweet onion, sliced
- Have ready four to five jars with tight fitting lids. Clean them in the dishwasher or in hot soapy water.
- In a large stockpot, combine water, vinegar, sugar, salt, oregano, peppercorns, bay leaves, and the garlic. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.
- Lower the heat to medium-high and stir in the jalapeño, serrano, carrot, and onion slices and cook until the chile peppers turn from bright green to a slightly duller green, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the mixture to the jars, dividing them equally among the jars (leave the garlic and bay leaves behind). Spoon the pickling liquid into each jar, filling each to 1/2 below the rim.
- Cover the jars tightly. Let cool completely, then store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
- Always use caution when handling hot chiles.
- Kosher or pure sea salt are most commonly used for pickling.
- Make sure the chiles are cooked through before canning. You will know they are cooked when they are no longer vibrant green, but a dull, olive green.
- You can use the pickled jalapeños right away, but they get tastier and less spicy the longer they sit.
- These instructions are not designed for long term canning. Store these jars in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.