Curaçao Pika is a traditional Spicy Pickled Onions from the Caribbean island of Curaçao. This Spicy Pickled Onions recipe elevates the original recipe by adding aromatic spices to make the flavor more pungent and a touch of sweetness.

A jar of spicy pickled onions (Curaçao Pika)

Pickled onions are a flavor enhancer that can be paired with a variety of dishes. Spicy pickled onions are even more amazing as they add a flavor kick due to the spiciness. As an island-girl that grew up on Curaçao, I recommend pairing it with stews, flavored rice, or chicken or meat.

Using Habanero Peppers

If you’ve never had habanero pepper before, then let me introduce you to the gem of the Caribbean. Originally Habanero’s are from South-America, but many people know it from Mexican cuisine.

Habaneros are small but potent pepper that comes in red, yellow, or green color. This pepper used to be considered the hottest pepper in the world. While Habaneros may not hold the crown anymore, they’re still a pretty darn hot pepper.

For this recipe, I used Habaneros, but you can also substitute it with Scotch Bonnet or Madame Jeanette as they’re all similar to each other. However, you can’t substitute with another type of pepper in a different family as the flavor will differ significantly. What makes this specific spicy pickled onions recipe different is the added flavor from the pepper.

How Do You Make Hot Pickled Onions?

Making hot/spicy pickled onions is actually very easy. Since this recipe is not meant to be canned, there is no cooking or special techniques required. The only thing you need to focus on is the flavor combination.

To create an aromatic yet slightly sweet flavor palate I decided to combine the following ingredients:

  1. Cardamom
  2. Cloves
  3. Nutmeg

I’ve only used whole spices to remain as close as possible to their original flavor and powder spices tend to lump when you combine it with liquid.

Detailed Guide for Making This Spicy Pickled Onions Recipe

Step 1: 

Start by dicing the onions using a sharp knife. They don’t need to be perfectly diced, but it looks nicer when they’re at least similar in size. Don’t dice them too big or the flavor will overpower during each bite.

Another faster option is to use a food processor. Instead of dicing, you’ll be chopping the onions which will create a more paste-like structure. Both methods work and there isn’t much difference in flavor. However, I do find that having the onions diced gives adds structure to the dish.

Step 2:

Add the onions into a mason jar (or any jar or glass container). Avoid using a plastic container as the onion flavor will penetrate into the plastic tainting the container. Then add the spices and carefully mix them together.

Step 3:

Add the vinegar to the mix and top off with water until just below the rim. The water helps balance the acidity. While the recipe gives an indication of the amount of water to use, there isn’t an exact amount you have to use. Because it’s a matter of taste, it doesn’t matter if you add a tad more water or a little less. As a rule of thumb, the mixture should be 80% vinegar and 20% water.

Close the lid onto the jar tightly and shake to mix well. Store it in the fridge for at least 12 hours to let the flavors intensify. You can choose to remove the spices so people don’t accidentally eat or you leave them in and let people remove the spices themselves.

A close up of a jar of spicy pickled onions (Curaçao Pika)

Frequently Asked Questions:

Which vinegar is best for pickling?

The idea of making pickled onions is to let the main ingredients and the added flavor shine. The vinegar is just a supporting act. That means unless you want your vinegar to influence the final result, opt for a neutral white vinegar.

How long do pickled onions last?

The spicy pickled onions will last for about 2 weeks when stores in the fridge. However, one taste and I’m sure it won’t last that long.

Do I have to boil vinegar for pickling?

Canning is a process that requires boiling first. However, this recipe need no preservation and can be enjoyed immediately after letting it rest.

A jar of spicy pickled onions (Curaçao Pika)

Spicy Pickled Onions Recipe with Habanero Peppers

This Spicy Pickled Onions recipe is a flavorful adaption of traditional Curaçao Pika. It’s full of aromatic spices to add a pungent flavor and a touch of sweetness.
Prep Time 10 mins
Resting Time 12 hrs
Total Time 12 hrs 10 mins
Course Sauces, Relish & Chutneys
Cuisine Caribbean
Servings 1 16oz. jar

Equipment

  • 16 oz. Mason jar

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup (120 gr) yellow onions
  • 2-3 Habanero/Madame Jeanette/Scotch Bonnet peppers or to taste (see note 1)
  • 5 whole cloves
  • ½ nutmeg
  • 3 cardamom pods crushed
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cup (237 ml) white vinegar
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) water optional (see note 2)

Instructions
 

  • Sanitize your jar well with hot water to remove any “leftover flavor”.
  • Dice your onions and add them to your jar. Take the Habanero, Madame Jeanette, or Scotch Bonnet and remove the seeds and vein. Cut them into 4 or large chunks. Add them to the jar as well. Add the cloves, nutmeg, star anise, and crushed cardamom into the jar. Stir carefully to mix.
  • Add the white vinegar, water, and close the jar tightly. Shake to mix and turn the jar upside down to make sure there’s no leakage.
  • Store in the fridge for at least 12 hours before using.

Notes

  1. Habanero is quite a spicy pepper. For this recipe, I would choose 2 peppers for mild, 2.5 for normal, 3 for spicy, and 3.5 for very spicy. You can always add more pepper after making it so it’s best to start mild and build from there (especially if you’ve never had these types of peppers before).
  2. Water isn’t necessary but it helps balance the acidity. Rule of thumb: use 80-20 vinegar and water ratio.
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