Peruvian Pepper and Lime Salsa Criolla

Peruvian Pepper and Lime Salsa Criolla

The Spruce Eats / Abby Mercer

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Marinate and Rest Time: 40 mins
Total: 50 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Yield: 2 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
23 Calories
0g Fat
5g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 23
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 28mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 30mg 152%
Calcium 13mg 1%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 104mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Easy to prepare, salsa criolla is an onion relish with spicy peppers that's the perfect accompaniment to so many dishes, especially butifarra, a famous Peruvian ham sandwich. Lime juice is the key ingredient—it adds a bright flavor that sweetens the onions and livens up everything else on the plate. Soaking the onions in salted water beforehand also sweetens them and adds to the flavor of this onion salsa.

For authenticity's sake, it is important to cut the onions "a la pluma" or (like feathers). Slice them into very thin half-moons, retaining the curve of the onion, so that they look like little curls on the plate. In Peru, this salsa (or criolla sauce) is made with ​ají chile peppers, but jalapeños make a reasonable substitute. (Be sure to wear gloves when seeding and slicing the peppers.) Some people also add tomatoes and garlic.

This relish can also be used as a topping or a side dish to grilled steak, fish, or chicken.


  • 2 medium red onions, sliced into very thin half-moons

  • 1 to 2 aji peppers, or jalapeños, to taste, seeded and sliced into thin matchsticks

  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped, or parsley, or a combination of both

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed

  • 1 tablespoon vinegar

  • Dash salt, or to taste

  • Dash freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Peruvian Pepper and Lime Salsa Criolla ingredients

    The Spruce Eats / Abby Mercer

  2. Soak the thinly sliced onions in salt water for 10 minutes. Drain and let dry.

    onions in a strainer

    The Spruce / Abby Mercer

  3. Mix the sliced onions with the rest of the ingredients in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the salsa marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Store salsa in the refrigerator for up to two days.

    Peruvian Pepper and Lime Salsa Criolla in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap

    The Spruce / Abby Mercer


  • Always wear gloves when handling or chopping peppers. Don't touch your nose or eyes when cutting them.
  • Red onions are a must ingredient for making this dish. Do not substitute any other onion, or the salsa will not have the same taste.

Recipe Variation

  • Substitute an orange or yellow bell pepper for the chiles to make a no-heat, milder salsa.
  • Add some tomatoes and garlic to the salsa.

How to Store

  • Leftover salsa can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two days.

How do you pick out a lime for juicing?

To get a good lime that will provide the most juice, choose one that is soft to the touch, not hard, and one that feels heavy, as that indicates there's a nice amount of juice inside. Also, don't hesitate to smell them and feel their skin.