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Caramelised Onion Chutney

Delicious Caramelised Onion Chutney is sweet and sticky and so much better than shop bought ! The perfect accompaniment to a cheeseboard, Boxing Day table or barbecue.

Each year at the Kitchen Shed, October sees the start of preparing our Christmas hampers. And Caramelised Onion Chutney is one of the first recipes we make.

So if you’re making chutney for yourself, why not rustle up an extra batch and give a delicious edible Christmas gift to family and friends ?

Five jars of onion marmalade with a tag and Christmas ribbon and a pen.

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My chutney is made with deliciously sweet caramelised red onions, flavoured with bay leaves and gently spiced with chilli flakes. In fact, the secret to the perfect onion chutney is slowly caramelising the onions in butter and oil before adding the other ingredients.

When making chutney for hampers, I double batch by using both the hob/stove top and the slow cooker. Bearing this in mind, I’ve also included instructions for making the chutney in the slow cooker. The slow cooker really does such a perfect job when caramelising onions that I always use it for my onion gravy

A spoon of onion marmalade over a jar.

What is Onion Chutney ?

A chutney is a preserve made with fruits or vegetables (sometimes both), vinegar and sugar. In this recipe, we’re using onions with sugar and vinegar.

The ingredients are slowly cooked together to form a jam like consistency which is why you’ll often see Onion Chutney labelled as Onion Marmalade or Onion Jam but essentially they’re a chutney.

A basket of onions with jars of chutney.

What equipment do I need ?

  • Whilst not essential, I find it much easier and quicker to get through a lot of onions using a mandoline. This way of processing also gives uniform slices of onion which helps with even cooking. I use my de Buyer mandoline, which I invested in years ago, and I have to say it’s also great for coleslaw, dauphinoise potatoes and slicing vegetables for stews and casseroles. As an alternative to a mandoline you could use a food processor or simply a sharp knife.
A collage of images showing how to prepare onions using a mandolin.
  • You will need a large, heavy stainless steel preserving pan or a heavy based saucepan. If you make a lot of chutneys and jams it’s worth investing in a good solid preserving pan – I use an 8.5 litre Penguin Home Professional pan.
  • A saucepan lid or similar, large enough to cover your preserving pan.
  • If you are choosing the Slow Cooker method, you will need a 6 person (6 litre) slow cooker. I used a 4 person (4.7 litre) CrockPot and halved the recipe.
  • A ladle.
  • A jam funnel – it’s something I wouldn’t be without and saves a lot of mess. I prefer to use a stainless steel funnel because it is better suited to resist the acidity of the vinegar.
  • 4 to 6 jam jars with screw top lids. Make sure you are using vinegar proof lids – generally plastic coated on the underside to prevent any acid reaction with metal.
  • Adhesive labels.

If you’re giving Caramelised Onion Chutney away as gifts and need some lovely shaped hexagonal jars to show it off, I bought a box of 24 by Nutleys. They’re good value and you get a handy specifically designed and reusable cardboard jar box.

A stack of six jars of caramelised onion chutney.

How to sterilise jars

Sterilise your jars shortly before they are to be used as this minimises time in which the jars might pick up new bacteria and ruin your chutney. Make sure your jars are dry when you come to fill them.

I like to sterilise jam jars in the microwave. Simply clean your jars as normal and rinse but whilst they are wet, pop them in the microwave for two minutes on full power. Remember the jars will be very hot, so remove with care.

Alternatively, wash jars in the dishwasher on a hot cycle.

Always sterilise more jars than you think you will need.

Glass jars in a microwave.

What ingredients do I need ?

You will need two kilos of red onions. I know this might sound like a heck of a lot of onions to get through but if you’ve ever cooked onions for hot dogs you’ll know where I’m coming from.

What might have started out as a great pile of freshly sliced onions can soon cook down to “Where have all the onions gone ?” I’ve used red onions for sweetness but brown or yellow onions work well.


I’ve found you can often pick up net sacks of onions from a market, farm shop or cash and carry for a lot less than supermarket pre packed or bought by the pound. Choose firm fresh onions for best results and easier slicing.

A basket filled with red onions.
  • Rapeseed/Canola oil
  • Unsalted butter – I used Guernsey butter this time but I use whatever butter I have in the fridge. If you want to make your onion chutney vegan use all rapeseed oil (100 ml) instead.
  • Bay leaves – you can use fresh or dried.
  • Light brown muscavado sugar – it’s less refined than brown sugar with much or all of the molasses still remaining. Brown sugar tends to be white refined sugar with molasses added. Light brown muscavado is a much better flavour and works well with the onions to give the sweet and sticky finish essential in a caramelised onion chutney.
  • Chilli flakes – you only need one teaspoon of chilli flakes as we’re looking for a gentle heat not a spicy hit. You can of course omit the chilli altogether or use half a teaspoon. Alternatively, you can use 1 tablespoon of yellow mustard seeds – the ones used in mustard. They aren’t quite as fiery as black or brown mustard seeds and will give a warm spice tone which is slightly sweet.
  • Sea salt.
  • Red wine vinegar – adds a tang to your chutney. Using equal amounts of red wine and Balsamic gives a balanced flavour.
  • Balsamic vinegar – it’s sweeter than red wine vinegar and adds a mellow tartness to the chutney. You don’t need to buy an expensive aged Balsamic but do check the acetic acid content, see note below.

What is the best vinegar for chutney ?

You will need a good quality vinegar with an acetic acid content of at least 5%. Most reputable brands have at least 5% acetic acid and some even go as high as 8%. If the acetic acid percentage isn’t stated on the label, there’s a fair chance it doesn’t reach the 5% level.

How to make stovetop Caramelised Onion Chutney

  • Peel and thinly slice onions, making sure they are evenly cut. I like to use a mandolin to get thin uniform slices. I slice the onion whole and then cut the slices in half.
  • Vinegar can tend to slightly harden onions so the next step is to sauté the onions in butter and oil (along with the bay leaves) until they are tender.
A collage of images showing how to caramelise onions in butter and oil.
  • Add 4 tablespoons of sugar and cook for 15 minutes on a low heat, stirring from time to time.
Sugar being added to pan with a timer showing 15 minutes.
  • Stir in the rest of the sugar along with the salt, chilli flakes and vinegars.
  • Return the pan to a low heat and let the chutney mixture simmer for at least 1½ to 2 hours, stirring every now and then to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • The chutney is ready when the liquid content has reduced so that a spatula drawn through it will leave a trail for 30 seconds before filling in again.
  • Ladle into sterilised jars and seal with screw top lids.
  • Wipe the sealed jars with a warm damp cloth. Label when cold.
A collage of images showing sugar and vinegar added to the pan and the finished ladling into jars.

How to make Onion Chutney in the Slow Cooker

Take the heat out of chutney making by letting your slow cooker or CrockPot do the work for you. I love making chutney in my CrockPot, so if you have one, I really recommend using it to deliver a fuss free chutney.

A slow cooker is the perfect appliance for caramelising onions and making chutney as the simmering down needs to be gentle. Unlike the stove top method, there’s no need to worry about your chutney catching on the bottom of your pan or of it drying out too much.

Slow cooker with onions and butter and cooked onions.
  • Firstly, cook the onions, bay leaves, butter and oil for three hours on low.
  • Secondly, add the rest of the ingredients and stir.
  • Lastly, the slow cooker lid is put back on but this time it is propped open with a wooden spoon or spatula so the chutney can reduce down until it is nice and thick. This process usually takes about 6 hours on the high setting.
A collage of images showing onions and sugar, vinegar being added and cooked Onion Chutney in the slow cooker.

How long before I can eat my Red Onion Chutney ?

Chutney improves as it matures, so leaving it in sealed jars for at least two weeks before sampling is definitely preferred.

Despite knowing I should leave chutney to mature, I have opened a jar the day after cooking and it was delicious – with no overpowering taste of vinegar.

How long will it keep ?

Your Caramelised Onion Chutney will keep for up to a year. Once opened, use within 4 weeks.

Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

What to eat with caramelised onion chutney.

A slice of bread and cheese with a spoon of onion jam.
  • Caramelised Onion Chutney is perfect on a cheese or ham sandwich.
  • Serve alongside a cheeseboard or with cold meats.
  • I love it with a slice of Melton Mowbray pork pie on Boxing Day.
  • Adds a tang to a cheese toastie.
  • Delicious with a melted Camembert and crusty bread.
  • Add a spoon to a bowl of soup to serve.
  • Great addition to your BBQ table, delicious on a burger and takes a hotdog to another level.

But don’t limit your chutney to being an accompaniment, use it in your cooking too:

  • Add a tablespoon or two to your favourite stew, casserole or tagine.
  • Perks up any gravy, especially good with bangers and mash.
  • Puree a couple of tablespoons, add a little water and use as a glaze for your Christmas ham or roast.

More Homemade Edible Gift Recipes ……..

Sweet Chilli Jam

Pickled Red Cabbage

Spicy Courgette Chutney

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Caramelised Onion Chutney

Delicious Caramelised Onion Chutney is sweet & sticky & so much better than shop bought ! The perfect accompaniment to a cheeseboard, Boxing Day table or barbecue.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate Save Recipe
Course: Jams, Pickles, Chutneys, Sauces, Dips & Spreads
Cuisine: British
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 25 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 55 minutes
Servings: 68 tablespoons
Calories: 44kcal
Author: Sarah James
tablespoons

Equipment

  • A mandolin, a food processor or a sharp knife.
  • A large, heavy stainless steel preserving pan or a heavy based saucepan.
  • A saucepan lid or similar, large enough to cover your preserving pan.
  • If you are choosing the Slow Cooker method, you will need a 6 person (6 litre) slow cooker.
  • A ladle.
  • A jam funnel
  • 4 to 6 jam jars with screw top lids. Make sure you are using vinegar proof lids – generally plastic coated on the underside to prevent any acid reaction with metal.
  • Adhesive labels.

Ingredients

  • 2 kg red onions
  • 50 ml rapeseed/Canola oil
  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • 2 bay leaves – fresh or dried
  • 300 g light brown muscavado sugar
  • 200 ml red wine vinegar
  • 200 ml Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes

Instructions

Stovetop method

  • Peel and thinly slice onions – make sure they are evenly cut.
  • Over a low heat, melt rapeseed/Canola oil and unsalted butter in your preserving pan/saucepan.
  • Add onions and bay leaves and stir.
  • Cover with lid and cook for 40 minutes until onions are soft but not brown.
  • Stir in 4 tablespoons of sugar and cook for 15 minutes on a low heat, stirring from time to time.
  • Remove the lid and take off the heat. Stir in the rest of the sugar along with the salt, chilli flakes and vinegars.
  • Return the pan to a low heat and let the chutney mixture simmer for at least 1½ to 2 hours, stirring every now and then to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • The chutney is ready when the liquid content has reduced so that a spatula drawn through it will leave a trail for 30 seconds before filling in again.
  • Ladle into sterilised jars and seal with screw top lids.
  • Wipe the sealed jars with a warm damp cloth. Label when cold.

Slow Cooker / Crockpot method.

  • Peel and thinly slice onions – make sure they are evenly cut.
  • Add the onions and the bay leaves to your slow cooker and top with the butter and oil.
  • Replace the slow cooker lid and cook on the low setting for 3 hours so your onions are soft and cooked through.
  • Stir in the sugar, vinegars, salt and chilli flakes.
  • Replace the slow cooker lid but this time prop it open a little with a wooden spoon or spatula. Cook on High for 5 or 6 hours.
  • Check after 5 hours and if it’s not ready, replace the lid propped open by the wooden spoon and leave for another hour or so.
  • The chutney is ready when the liquid content has reduced so that a spatula drawn through it will leave a trail for 30 seconds before filling in again.
  • Ladle into sterilised jars and seal with screw top lids.
  • Wipe the sealed jars with a warm damp cloth. Label when cold.

Notes

The recipe makes enough (approximately) to fill 5 or 6 x 226 g (8oz) jars. One serving is 1 tablespoon (20 g)
Keep at least 2 weeks before eating.
Caramelised Onion Chutney will keep for up to a year stored in a cool dry place.
Once opened, use within four weeks.
Serve with cheese, cold meats or your favourite burger.
Add a tablespoon or two to your favourite stew, casserole or tagine.
Perks up any gravy, especially good with bangers and mash.
Puree a couple of tablespoons, add a little water and use as a glaze for your Christmas ham or roast.
Puree a few tablespoons, add a little water and mustard and use as a dipping sauce.
Spread some on toast, layer with cheese and grill.
Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only.
Nutrition Facts
Caramelised Onion Chutney
Amount per Serving
Calories
 
44
Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
1
g
2
%
Saturated Fat
 
1
g
6
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Cholesterol
 
2
mg
1
%
Sodium
 
72
mg
3
%
Potassium
 
54
mg
2
%
Carbohydrates
 
8
g
3
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
Sugar
 
6
g
7
%
Protein
 
1
g
2
%
Vitamin A
 
28
IU
1
%
Vitamin C
 
2
mg
2
%
Calcium
 
12
mg
1
%
Iron
 
1
mg
6
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Top image is of cheese and bread with a spoon of onion chutney. Bottom image is of red onions with jars of chutney.

I have linked this recipe to #CookBlogShare run by Sisley & Chloe which was hosted by Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen.

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Recipe Rating




Janice

Wednesday 20th of October 2021

Such a wonderful flavourful chutney and I love how you make it in the Slow Cooker.

Sarah James

Wednesday 20th of October 2021

Thanks Janice, the slow cooker does make an easy job of the chutney.

Rebecca - Glutarama

Wednesday 20th of October 2021

This recipe found me at just the right time! My son has autism and goes through fazes as far as his favourite foods are concerned. Recently he's developed a love for caramelised onion chutney and I know he's going to love making his own with me.

Sarah James

Wednesday 20th of October 2021

Thanks for popping by Rebecca, I'm glad it was good timing. I used to love making this chutney with my boys, I hope your son enjoys it as much as we did. Our two were always impatient to wait for it to mature but luckily it tastes great on the same day.