Avocado Onion Salad with Pepitas, Cotija Cheese and a Garlic Lime Vinaigrette

Avocado Onion Salad with sweet and spicy pepitas and cotija cheese. Serve as a starter or salad. | mjskitchen.com

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Because of the nutritional value of avocados and the fact that they are available year round, I’m always looking for more and more ways to use them.   A few months ago I came across an Avocado and Onion Salad in my favorite cookbook, Gran Cocina Latina, the 2013 James Beard Foundation Cookbook of the Year.   It sounded delicious because I love the classic combination of avocado and onion, and then the addition of a garlic-lime vinaigrette just seemed to be a perfect match.  And it was.  However, in my opinion, it was missing something, primarily texture.  So the next time I made it, I embellished on the original recipe by adding sweet and spicy pepitas and cotija cheese, and by tweaking the vinaigrette a bit.  Voilá!

This avocado and onion salad is a creamy, crunchy, sweet and slightly tart salad that can be served as a starter, an appetizer, a side or a light lunch.  For a lunch, serve with a little cup of soup.  A few week ago we served it as a starter for Green Chile Stew and it worked quite well.

Be sure to check out the Kitchen Notes for more information and for the changes made to the original Garlic-Lime vinaigrette.


Avocado Onion Salad with Pepitas and Cotija

Avocado Onion Salad with pepitas, cotija cheese and a lime garlic vinaigrette. Serve as a starter or salad. #avocado #appetizer #pepitas @mjskitchen

Avocado Onion Salad with Pepitas, Cotija, and Garlic Lime Vinaigrette Recipe
15 mins
Total Time
15 mins

This avocado onion salad can be served as an appetizer or a side salad for a variety of dishes. It’s creamy, crunchy and flavorful.  It was inspired by the avocado onion salad in Gran Cocina Latina Cookbook by Maricel Presilla.

"*" See Kitchen Notes for more information or links to special ingredients.

You may need to REFRESH page to print or save.

Course: Appetizer, Salad, Vegetarian
Cuisine: Mexican
Yields: 2 servings
Recipe Author: MJ of MJ's Kitchen
There are no exact measurements to this recipe. Estimate 1/2 avocado per person.
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Several thin slices from a sweet onion
  • 2 Tbsp. Sweet and Spicy Pepitas* (Pumpkin Seeds)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese*
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tsp. honey* (optional)
  • A couple pinches of sea salt
  • 2 roasted garlic cloves*, smashed, minced (or 1 raw garlic clove, minced)
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp. olive oil (to taste)
  1. Place the ingredients for the vinaigrette into a small bowl and whisk. Taste and adjust balance to your tastes. Set aside.

  2. Prep all of the other ingredients before cutting the avocado.

  3. Slice the avocado and place the slices onto a plate.
  4. Top with onion slices, pepitas and cotija cheese.
  5. Give the vinaigrette another whisk or two and drizzle over salad.
  6. Serve immediately.
Kitchen Notes

Avocado - Whether serving this as a salad, starter, or appetizer, estimate 1/2 avocado per person, then adjust the remaining ingredients accordingly.  Also, cut the avocado after all of the other ingredients have been prepped to keep it from turning brown.


Sweet & Spicy Pepitas - For this salad I usually eliminate the lime juice in the pepita recipe.  You could also make a quick batch if you happen to have some Red Chile Spice Mix made up already.  Just toast 3 Tbsp. pepitas in a small skillet over medium heat, then sprinkle with about 1 tsp. sugar.  Stir until sugar has melted.  Remove from heat and dust with about 1/2 tsp. red chile spice mix.  Stir, transfer to a plate and let cool.  Once cool, you'll need to use your fingers to separate the seeds because they'll be stuck together.

Note:  Estimate 1 Tbsp. of pepitas per serving plus at least 1 Tbsp. to eat while prepping the salad.


Cotija Cheese - I've never made this salad with any cheese but cotija; however, you could substitute with queso fresco or possibly feta. Personally, I think feta might be too salty, but if that is what you have, give it a try and let me know how it works.


Garlic Lime Vinaigrette - The original recipe calls for raw garlic which I find rather pungent for a salad.  So I replaced the raw garlic with roasted garlic which is more savory/sweet than pungent.  If you don't have any roasted garlic already made, then just roast up a few on the stovetop.  It takes about 15 minutes and you'll have extra for another use.


Honey - The honey removes a bit of the tartness from the lime juice, but if you like a tart vinaigrette, just leave it out. 


Avocado Onion Salad with sweet and spicy pepitas and cotija cheese. Serve as a starter or salad. | mjskitchen.com


If you have ever bought a package of cotija cheese, then you already know that a little bit goes a long way and that once it’s opened, you need to keep it airtight to prevent it from drying out and getting hard.  Therefore, when I do purchase a package of cotija, I try to use it within a week or two after opening.  After that it becomes very hard to crumble because it’s so dry.  It keeps well, but the texture does change.  Below are some ideas and recipes in which you can use cotija while it still has its original flavor and texture.

Composed Salad with Green Chile Sausage

Red Chile Chilaquiles

Posole with Chorizo and Mushrooms

New Mexico Red Chile Enchiladas

Scrambled Eggs with Roasted Red Chile and Cotija

Other ideas:  Use a a cheese topping or ingredient for a variety of salads, soups, burrito, fajitas, enchiladas, tostadas


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36 Responses to “Avocado Onion Salad with Pepitas, Cotija Cheese and a Garlic Lime Vinaigrette”

  1. Amy (Savory Moments) February 6, 2018 at 10:37 am #

    This is a gorgeous salad! It looks delicious!

    • mj February 6, 2018 at 7:47 pm #

      Thanks Amy!

  2. Katerina February 5, 2018 at 2:33 am #

    That garlic lime vinaigrette seems to be the perfect condiment for this delicious salad!

    • mj February 5, 2018 at 2:34 pm #

      Thanks Katerina! The vinaigrette is also good for other types of salads. It’s just good. 🙂

  3. Roz | La Bella Vita Cucina February 4, 2018 at 10:53 am #

    I’m like Liz (above) in that I could literally eat avocados every single day! This salad reminds me of an old class grapefruit and avocado salad but 10 times BETTEr. I love the lime vinaigrette MJ! Thank you for sharing this simple yet delicious recipe for all of your avocado lovers!

    • mj February 4, 2018 at 6:58 pm #

      Thanks so much Roz! Hope you get to try it. Sorry about the problems with printing. I’ve had to switch to a new recipe plugin. If you don’t get it to print the first time, then just refresh the screen and it should work. Thanks for letting me know that you were having problems. You’re the first person that has mentioned it, so there are probably more.

  4. Easyfoodsmith February 3, 2018 at 9:47 am #

    Love avocados! But we don’t get good ones in India. How I wish I get lucky and get some good ones and make this beautiful salad.

    • mj February 3, 2018 at 12:17 pm #

      Bummer! You don’t get good avocados? That is a very sad thing. Thanks for stopping by Darlin!

  5. Healthy World Cuisine February 2, 2018 at 2:11 pm #

    Love how simple and delicious this recipe is! We eat avocados almost every day. Just can’t seem to get enough of the good fats. We could do shots of that vinaigrette! Pinning!

    • mj February 3, 2018 at 12:16 pm #

      Thanks Bobbi! The recipe makes a little more of the vinaigrette than you need, so yes, shots are in order. 🙂

  6. Adina February 1, 2018 at 9:41 am #

    I love reading your blog because your recipes are so different from the way we usually cook here in Germany or Romania, well all of Europe actually. I’ve never even heard of the cheese you mention, but oh, how I would love to try it!

    • mj February 2, 2018 at 10:36 am #

      Thanks so much Adina! And right back at cha. 🙂 Cotija is a coat’s milk Mexican cheese, somewhat crumbly like feta, but a little drier and not near as salty.

  7. Raymund January 31, 2018 at 2:13 am #

    Now thats a salad! I love avodaoes so this is the one salad for me

    • mj January 31, 2018 at 10:43 am #

      Thanks Raymund! I think you’ll love it!

  8. Kelly@InspiredEdibles January 30, 2018 at 8:26 pm #

    Agreed, you’re definitely working all the levels and pleasure centers here :d and providing another good reason for us to get our hands on cotija! It’s amazing how much flavor a little red onion can bring. I​’m not​ familiar with Gran Cocina Latina but was just poking around some of Maricel’s recipes;​ everything looks so good! (always room for another cookbook ;-)​ )​

    • mj January 31, 2018 at 10:43 am #

      Thanks Kelly! I’m with you on the red onion. Sometimes they can be rather pungent, but they always have a great flavor. If you like Latino foods, then you really do need to check out the cookbook. It’s should be appropriate for where you are living now. Ingredients should be accessible.

  9. Evelyne CulturEatz January 30, 2018 at 6:01 pm #

    Not only does it sound delicious, it is so elegant. Perfect for guests I say. The addition of pepitas and cotija cheese is wonderful MJ. Now to find a RIPE avocado, that is the challenge.

    • mj January 31, 2018 at 10:41 am #

      Thanks Evelyne! I know what you mean about finding ripe avocados. Luckily, they do ripen but you never know when and how long so it’s hard to plan. I try to buy several at different stages and that seems to work well.

  10. Cecilia January 30, 2018 at 12:09 pm #

    What a great recipe, I love all its ingredients.

    • mj January 30, 2018 at 3:53 pm #

      Thanks so much Cecilia!

  11. Sissi January 30, 2018 at 8:44 am #

    Lovely winter – and all year round – salad, MJ! And what a nice new way to serve avocado. And the pepitas… I must remember adding them to dishes (not to mention snacking on the spiced ones).
    The book is a real jewel, you are so right; I’m always lost reading more and more recipes which make me dream of exotic flavours and… I finally cannot decide which one to cook! Stupid, isn’t it? It happens with so many cookery books I own… I realised a long time ago my favourite use of cookery books was reading them and dreaming, not necessarily cooking!
    One of my new year’s resolutions is to cook more from all the cookery books I have (and keep on buying or receiving….) and your post will certainly help me to choose the one I’ll open very soon!

    • mj January 30, 2018 at 3:52 pm #

      Thanks Darlin! Those sweet and spicy pepitas are addicting so be warn. 🙂 So glad you are enjoying the cookbook! I gave it to my BIL this year for Christmas as well. Like you, it’s an interesting and educational read. I haven’t made a lot of recipes from it, but have gotten many ideas as well as learned a lot about all types of Latin cuisine. So we can count reading cookbooks as reading non-fiction – right? 🙂

  12. Jan January 30, 2018 at 8:23 am #

    Can I have lunch with you? I would absolutely love your salad with a bowl of green chile stew! Love the way you plated this!

    • mj January 30, 2018 at 3:49 pm #

      You can join me for lunch anytime Jan! Come on down!

  13. Deb|EastofEdenCooking January 30, 2018 at 7:40 am #

    I agree, avocados are wonderful! Your addition of “crunch” elevates this already great recipe. Serving on a bed of crisp, flavorful greens would be perfect lunch or light dinner.

    • mj January 30, 2018 at 3:49 pm #

      Thanks Deb! Yes, serving this on a plate of mixed green would be one more level of texture and flavor. Great idea!

  14. Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch) January 30, 2018 at 5:09 am #

    Your presentation for this salad is perfect. The first time I ever used pepetas in a salad was due to a recommendation from Rick Bayless. Seems like their thin shape is easier to eat than other nuts when there’s a fork involved. Not to mention they’re delicious. And thanks for the reminder that I’ve been slacking in the Avocado area, I need to get back in the habit of eating them more than I do,

    • mj January 30, 2018 at 3:46 pm #

      Thanks Lea Ann! It’s hard to make a salad without adding seeds or nuts and pepitas is actually our favorite. Toasted pinon runs a close second. Because we basically eat 3 meals a day at home, I try to keep avocados. They make a great lunch or addition to a lunch, as well as a nice garnish for so many dishes. Gotta love Costco for its relatively inexpensive avocados. 🙂

  15. wimpy vegetarian January 29, 2018 at 10:43 pm #

    A simple salad like this is the best!!! I love this. And I’m with Liz. I think I’ll need 1 cup for snacking. I keep a jar of spiced pepitas by the sofa in the TV room, and they never last long. I love that you first apply sugar. I want to try that in my next batch!

    • mj January 30, 2018 at 3:44 pm #

      Thanks Susan! Bobby and I go through a lot of sweet and spicy pepitas. Like you, sometimes I’ll just make them for snacking.

  16. Angie@Angie's Recipes January 29, 2018 at 10:01 pm #

    A delicious and versatile avocado salad! I have never had cotija cheese…need to look out for them!

    • mj January 30, 2018 at 3:42 pm #

      Thanks Angie! Cotija is a Mexican cheese that I discovered a few years back and now I’m totally addicted.

  17. John / Kitchen Riffs January 29, 2018 at 6:33 pm #

    Love cotija cheese! So good, isn’t it? And this salad looks excellent — you have a ton of terrific flavors working here. Good grub — thanks.

    • mj January 30, 2018 at 3:42 pm #

      You and me both John! I always have it in the fridge. Thanks!

  18. Liz January 29, 2018 at 5:32 pm #

    I eat avocados every day, but I need to up my game and make your gorgeous salad! P.S. I had to giggle at your tip for making the pepitas. I have a feeling I’d snack on more than a tablespoon 🙂

    • mj January 30, 2018 at 3:41 pm #

      Thanks Liz! I can’t toast any type of seed or nut in this kitchen without adding extras. They are usually half gone by the time I put them in the dish. 🙂

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