Red onion marmalade

Red onion marmalade

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(79 ratings)


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Cooking time

Ready in 2¼ hours, plus cooling time

Skill level

Moderately easy


Fills about four 500ml jars

Soft, sticky onion marmalade - great with pâtés and terrrines or a ploughman's lunch

Nutrition and extra info

Additional info

  • Vegetarian
Nutrition info


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  • 2kg red onions or regular onions
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 140g butter
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 140g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaf
  • pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
  • 75cl bottle red wine
  • 350ml sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 200ml port

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  1. Halve and thinly slice the onions, then thinly slice the garlic. Melt the butter with the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a high heat. Tip in the onions and garlic and give them a good stir so they are glossed with butter. Sprinkle over the sugar, thyme leaves, chilli flakes if using and some salt and pepper. Give everything another really good stir and reduce the heat slightly. Cook uncovered for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions are ready when all their juices have evaporated, they’re really soft and sticky and smell of sugar caramelising. They should be so soft that they break when pressed against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon. Slow cooking is the secret of really soft and sticky onions, so don't rush this part.
  2. Pour in the wine, vinegar and port and simmer everything, still uncovered, over a high heat for 25-30 minutes, stirring every so often until the onions are a deep mahogany colour and the liquid has reduced by about two-thirds. It’s done when drawing a spoon across the bottom of the pan clears a path that fills rapidly with syrupy juice. Leave the onions to cool in the pan, then scoop into sterilised jars and seal. Can be eaten straight away, but keeps in the fridge for up to 3 months.

Recipe from Good Food magazine, October 2003

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Comments, questions and tips

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Show comments
Haywam59's picture

This is fabulous!! I've made another of chutney over the years. For the adventurous swap out some if the liquids for other vinegars. Balsamic with a teaspoon of tomato puree works well. And yes it does take a lot longer get to reduce but we'll worth it.

Iris19's picture

This recipe is fantastic (though a little sweeter than I thought it would be). The previous posters' tips were very helpful. The second stage did take much longer (maybe 2 x longer and probably should have cooked it down about 15 min more) than stated maybe because I have an electric range instead of gas. I made this condiment to go with a beautiful roast I was cooking and to compliment a horseradish sauce I had made. The two condiments were a wonderful contrast to each other. I might cut back on the sugar a few grams and use balsamic vinegar instead. Thank-you very much for sharing this wonderful recipe. My office mates are looking forward to sampling this treat!

bobbieray's picture
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After reading some comments I was a little dubious about trying this recipe - however I shouldn't have been! I went ahead and on the advice of other users I halved the amount of butter. It is true that it takes a lot longer than the recipe says to reduce; you need to set aside a good 3 hours or so to make this recipe. I had to cook for at least double the time to get the marmalade to the right consistency. But... this is delicious!!! I have bottled some up to give away as presents and I have had no problem with the butter as other people have said. It is a really tasty marmalade that goes well with anything - My father in law also claims it to be his favourite!! We worth it!

eppie123's picture

Use a wider/shallow pan rather than a taller/wok shaped one (I burned my first attempt horribly and has to toss it because my wok wasn't big enough to distrubute the heat evenly). I used half of the butter, added two bay leaves, and used a port I actually drink (helps you relax as you wait and gives it a better flavor). Although I don't think my using yellow onions affected anything, this only really made 2 x 8 oz jars, not 4 as the recipe states. My end result was a purple/red (again probably because I didn't use red onions). Total cooking time was about 55 minutes for the first part and 40 for the second. Tried it on the chicken liver pate I made the other night and it is amazing! Can't wait to try it on burgers and toast and eggs...and whatever else I can put it on!

Charlie24.93's picture

So scrummy, added a few good pinches of ground spice and clove. Yes it did take a long time to cook down but it was so worth it, one big preserving jar full did not last long!

seanmason's picture
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This is an amazing recipe, ignore the doubters. Yes I had to cook the onions down for a lot longer than it says you need to cook out the butter and oil till all the liquid has gone. Similarly when the wine, port and vinegar was added it took ages till scraping the spoon along the pan cleared a path and then the juice rushed in. It take a lot lot longer than the times given, but be patient, be brave, don't let it catch and the results are amazing.

trcy1066's picture
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I used this recipe as I wanted one with port in. Never having made red onion marmalade/chutney before I need a a recipe and a site I could trust.

I couldn't have been more disappointed. Far too much butter/oil and once I realised just how much liquid was required compared to other similar recipes, I left out the wine all together. It also took an extra 75 minutes to reduce.

Hopefully the flavour will make up for the problems in the cooking.

Next time, I shall use a recipe with less liquid and substitute some of it for port.

Chrissie Cook's picture

This tastes awesome and I will definitely be making it again. Used the stated amount of butter and it didn't split or solidify in the jars. In NZ we don't have golden castor sugar so substituted raw sugar and used half balsamic and half white wine vinegar as I didn't have red wine vinegar. I will wow my guests with it on a cheese platter this weekend.

MealoL's picture

Made this and was disappointed sadly. I noted other comments about butter separation issues, and despite adding less butter myself, and working the pan for hours to ensure full coking and evaporation of liquids... I still had some butter solidifying in my jars the next day. It has made for a grainy texture, so for me, it's not usable. Such a waste of a bottle of wine ;-) Will search for another recipe sadly and not repeat this one

Kevinstokes's picture

I made this, this morning. Just followed the method and it's great. No buttery residue in the jars, tastes great, just like the one I had with my lunch yesterday at a farm shop. Don't be put off it tastes great.

bstanford3's picture

I was just wondering if anyone knew how long this lasts for? Wondering how far in advance I can make it before Christmas? :)

RandomT's picture

Delicious- just followed this recipe for the first time and very pleased so far :) I read through all the comments before starting so didn't use as much butter and my timings were longer than in the recipe as I followed the descriptions for how things should look at each stage rather than the time. Tastes fab, think next time I may double the amount of onions. Brilliant recipe

thaliar's picture

I'm just making this for the third Xmas in a row - it's delicious!! Takes ages but worth it....

To all those concerned about the butter. This tastes divine when slightly warm, so I always pop a few spoonfuls into the microwave for a few seconds to warm it through first. Makes it nice & glossy & no hardened butter to spoil the look..... won't be much longer & I'll be enjoying my brie, ciabatta & onion marmalade for supper!!

richkw's picture

This is the fourth year I've made this with absolutely no problems and no butter separation. Other members of my family have also made it regularly and without issues.

Absolutely delicious and well worth the little bit of effort involved effort.

janfoweraker's picture

I didn't read the comments unfortunately! I thought at the time that it was a lot of butter but stuck to the recipe. It was a mistake, as the butter separated on cooling and didn't look at all nice in the jar. Also it had a very buttery smell, so much so I through the jars away before trying. I will not be using this recipe again.

Lou2461's picture

I think I should have read a few more previous comments before embarking on this recipe, I used half of everything as I had fewer onions than required but it still took well over an hour for the onions to reduce dwn in the first stage, even then I had to turn up the heat on the stove to get rid of the liquid. In the second stage I must have left the saucepan on too high a heat because after nipping to the bathroom on my return the pan had caught on the bottom so the mixture has a slightly burnt taste to it!! I've made three small jars so will try one out first before giving any away just in case it tastes too burnt!!

dianest's picture

Hi, Always looking for new food ideas as gifts and this looks like a good one but I have a quick question before jumping in. Here in New Zealand I have not come across "golden caster sugar". My options are raw sugar - golden but coarser or cater sugar - fine but not golden. Suggestions please.

MOD 54's picture

Simply blitz golden sugar in spice grinder

trcy1066's picture
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or use plain caster.

Paul Howland's picture

Interesting comments.... I made this with about 4Kg Onions leftover from a BBQ this afternoon and did the same last year and down to my last Jar. The vinegar means it will keep and my view is it does not need to be refridgerated. A cool place is sufficient, that is why pickles exist, preserving before refrigeration . The butter separating is due to it not being reduced far enough, and also stir every now and then during cooldown. This will enable the gloss finish. Could also be using too much butter, the recipe calls for just enough to gloss the onions so will be a lot less than 140g. Olive oil on its own will work though. I used Creme de Cassis instead of Port, adds a nice fruity note, and Christmas spices will give it a wintery shot in the arm. Like all recipes it is only a guide :)