Red onion marmalade

Red onion marmalade

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(80 ratings)

Ready in 2¼ hours, plus cooling time

More effort

Fills about four 500ml jars
Soft, sticky onion marmalade - great with pâtés and terrrines or a ploughman's lunch

Nutrition and extra info

  • Vegetarian


  • kcal-
  • fat-
  • saturates-
  • carbs-
  • sugars-
  • fibre-
  • protein-
  • salt-
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  • 2kg red onions or regular onions
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 140g butter



    Butter is made when lactic-acid producing bacteria are added to cream and churned to make an…

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
    olive oil

    Olive oil

    ol-iv oyl

    Probably the most widely-used oil in cooking, olive oil is pressed from fresh olives. It's…

  • 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


  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.

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Comments (159)

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

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 :)

1cookx10's picture

Sounds yummy. Will make it for Christmas gifts this year, but will try it for me first!

clarkeyclarke's picture

Loved making this and gave some as presents. Great with our cold ham on Christmas eve. Would be lovely with warm goats cheese and toasted bread. Highly recommend. :) made me feel like a real cook ha ha.

nicolajones_20's picture

I used a proper jam pan and this does seem to help with the cook down if the onions.
I also followed advice and used less butter and only 100ml of wine vinegar.
Went down very well and have been asked for more.

jacquierabbit's picture

thanks for all your comments - it's great that you all road tested it before I found the recipe ! I left out the butter and vinegar and used 3kg onions (but didn't increase the wine and port), which meant i had to start off the process in two pots. I also added a fair amount of chilli I got 4 large jars and a small one out of the mixture ( it took more like 3 hours from the time i started cooking it till i spooned it into the jars).
We are going to start eating ours tomorrow with ham, and the rest are gifts. Hopefully i don't have the separating issue,can't imagine i will as there is no butter. Now i just have to find another 3 hours to make another batch!

Paul Howland's picture

I am sure you know, but with out some vinegar, It will not keep so well..

meshelleywelley1984's picture

Made for Xmas presents a few years ago, went down an absolute storm and has been requested again this year. So simple to do but so tasty when done. Excellent!

swetmanje's picture

This is a stunning recipe, no need to alter any of the ingredients. It goes really well with pate.

hrandle's picture

I left out the butter after reading reviews. Have had the same problems with timings and liquids as everyone else. Plus the problem of burnt pans. The end result is ok, but not worth the money, time and effort. I won't bother with this again!

cblizzard19's picture

Not sure what I did wrong but it just did not work, I followed all the instructions to the dot and put it in the jar, once cooled it has a thick layer of what looks like butter on the top? Was making for xmas gifts but it does not look appetising at all? Tips needed please! Thanks x

Jetlaggedpom's picture

I had exactly the same problem Blizzard. I didn't have the internet the day I was doing it, a friend had written the recipe down for me, so I didn't see the problems people were having with butter.
I have all my best jars filled with a buttery onion gloop & I am so disappointed. I'm glad onions are cheap but wine isn't! I will be trying again, though I may try Riverside cottages recipe next time!

mummy32's picture

My family always know that we are starting to get ready for Christmas when I make this because it is the first thing that I make every year. Always fantastic, used to halve the recipe but it disappears so quickly that it is always the full 2kg of onions to be sliced now! Mine always takes longer to cook but that is because of the pan that I use I think. Only pan that I have which is big enough to hold the onions is quite deep so it takes longer for the liquid to evaporate. Not complaining though as it fills my kitchen with such a yummy smell! Xx

emma1706's picture

I make this recipe every year on Christmas Eve to have on boxing day with cheese and cooked's an absolute winner! Now each year I get orders from friends and family for it....Started making it this year in the summer for BBQ's as well. I LOVE IT!

jalehishani's picture

I made this last Christmas as part of the christmas hampers of hand-made goodies I gave out as gifts. Everyone raved about this marmalade; it is really delicious. I left out the thyme and the chilli. It looked like masses of chopped onion, and took ages to chop but actually cooked down a lot. The cooking took longer than stated in the recipe and I was worried that I was doing it wrong but went with my gut instinct and what resulted was a seriously gooey, unctuous, sticky marmalade. I intend to do it again this year and will double the ingredients. It's definately worth the tears.

bethaneyj's picture

I loved it. Really easy to do. To those struggling with the butter I have found a really easy solution! Mine started to separate, so whenever I saw butter blobs, I shook the jars until it went. I find after 1 or 2 shakes it goes away completely and you still get the lovely buttery flavour.

stewart1962's picture

can anyone tell me how long this will keep in the jars onopened an opened thank you Anne :)


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