Caramelized Onion Marmalade

You can never have too much of this in reserve as there are many dishes with which it can be used. However, my favorite application is on top of focaccia. It takes about an hour to make so don’t wait till the last minute if you plan to use it that day. It will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator (and for months in the freezer) so it’s okay to make it up ahead of time and have it ready and waiting.

You do not need to use sweet onions for this, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla’s, as the cooking

will sweeten the onions. Save those special, sweet onions for other uses, such as in salads and sandwiches, and use regular yellow or white onions for this recipe.

4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) olive or vegetable oil
4 large yellow or white onions, sliced into thin
strips (aka, julienned)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method of Preparation:

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, skillet, or heavy bottomed soup pot, over medium-low heat, and add the onions. (You can also divide the onions into two batches and use two smaller pans.

Stir intermittently, and cook the onions for about 15 minutes, or until they begin to sweat and turn limp. (Do not cook over high heat, as the outside of the onions will brown too quickly before the insides have softened and sweetened.) Once the onions have gone limp, increase the heat to just above medium and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the onions turn translucent (again, not brown, just translucent). Then, add the sugar.

Continue stirring for a few minutes until the sugar melts and begins to bubble.  Clear a space in the center of the pan and pour the balsamic vinegar directly onto the hot pan and then stir it into the onions. Keep stirring until the juices start to boil and onions are coated with the sugar/vinegar syrup. Then, turn off the heat.

Transfer the onions with a slotted spoon into a colander or large strainer that is sitting over a pan or pot (you want to capture all the juice dripping off the onions--this is the magic ingredient). While the onion juice is dripping into new pan, begin cooking whatever juice was left in the original pan over medium heat, bringing it to a simmer (if you used two frying pans, combine the juices into one). Keep adding the drippings from the draining onions into the cooking juice (keep doing this until the onions have stopped dripping, which could take 5 minutes or so).

Keep cooking the juice until it reduces and thickens to a syrup, the consistency of honey (don’t leave this unattended as it will quickly turn from syrup to hard candy as the water evaporates). The goal is create a dark reddish brown “onion honey.”  Once you have achieved this, turn off the heat, add back into the syrup all the onions (they will cook down to a much smaller mass), add the salt and pepper, and stir to coat the onions with the thick syrup.  (Note: the onions will look caramelized but, technically, they really aren’t--only the syrup is caramelized--the onions themselves will caramelize later, when you cook them on top of a pizza or focaccia.) The onion marmalade is now ready to use or store. You can transfer it into freezer sandwich zipper bags and keep it in the freezer for months, or in the refrigerator for at least two weeks.

To Use on Focaccia:
My favorite application is to use this on top of focaccia (I’ll post my recipe for the dough next week, or you can get it from American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza) and, just before putting it into the oven to bake, sprinkle walnut or pecan pieces over the top, cover them with a generous amount of the onion marmalade,  and then dot the surface with pieces of firm blue cheese, such as Bel Gioioso Gorgonzola or blue cheese crumbles. Bake at 450 degrees (400 degrees in a convection oven) for about 20-25 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and springy in the center, and the onions have caramelized, but not burned. You may have to rotate the pan after 10 minutes for an even bake.

Other uses for the onion marmalade include: as a pizza topping (naturally!); or, served over grilled chicken or salmon; as a sandwich condiment on any number of sandwiches, including the usual suspects like roast beef, turkey, and chicken, but also with peanut butter (think of it as the “jelly”), and also by itself on breakfast toast. You can just eat it with a fork, too!!  In fact, if you come up with any clever uses please send it to us via the Comment button below--I’d love to discover new applications.



#1 Eric Hanner 2011-01-20 06:34
Great recipe Peter! I have also used this marmalade as a flavor boost for cheese fondue. I top every bite with a small amount of onion. Delicious!
#2 Janine 2011-01-20 07:50
can't wait to try it all!
when you post the Focaccia recipe can you include any special details you might use when baking the focaccia in a brick oven.

#3 JP 2011-01-20 11:36
Dear Mr Reinhart
How would one go about preparing Onion Marmalade for diabetics - no sugar, honey fructose etc.?

Regards from South Africa
#4 Nancy Sullivan 2011-01-20 18:39
Peter, I have been making this since American Pie first came out, and it is a huge hit everywhere. Our favorite way to use it is on a pizza with goat cheese and smoked duck (or any other good smoked poultry meat). It will knock your socks off... BTW, I really appreciate the expanded instructions. I'll do the strain thing next batch!
#5 Peter Reinhart 2011-01-23 20:41
Goat cheese and smoked duck--yummm!!!!
As for diabetics, you can use Splenda chrystals or Z-Sweet (an erythritol/stevia blend), or simply few drops of stevia liquid.
#6 S. Elliott 2011-01-24 10:34
Used something similar with local lonza for our pizza special last Friday. Wonderful. Glad to see less sugar in this recipe compared to the one in American Pie-always thought that was too much :-) . I cut it even more, most often. Haven't tried the liquid reduction, but will next time. Love the new site!
#7 Hagit 2011-01-31 08:17
I'm doing it the other way round...
First caramelizing the sugar,then adding the onions letting their liquids "open" the caramel...adding some olive oil and letting it cook together to nice color ending with balsamic,black-peper and some atlantic sea-salt.
#8 Kevin OConnor 2011-01-31 11:49
The onion marmalade was wonderful in a bacon and cheese omelet. I added it with the fillings but it would probably been as good as a garnish.
#9 michal 2011-02-02 03:29
sounds wonderful, and can be used also on Crostini. yumm
thank you
#10 Jackie 2011-12-22 07:58
I was just checking out alternative recipes for onion marmalade and found this one. I haven't tried it yet - but usually I use onion marmalade and grated gruyere cheese in puff pastry tartlets. Very light, very tasty and very moreish.

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