It's onion butter jelly time!!! (...insert dancing onion animated gif here...)
July 24, 2010 10:03 AM   Subscribe

How do I make the sweet, pink caramelized onions I've been seeing on expensive burgers lately?

Fancy, expensive burgers seem to be in abundance lately. Great but I'd like to recreate some at home.

My favorites have been big, dark burgers on oatmeal buns with bacon, blue/goat cheese / wasabi-ish mayo zing and -- most importantly -- caramelized onion jelly, onion jam or onion marmalade. I'm not sure what folks call it but it's on all the best burgers I've had this year. It's sweet and rich, and pink or at least a dark, purple-brown.

I'm not a chef but I have caramelized onions before. This has got to be different. It reminds me more of pickled sushi ginger. But it ain't like that -- it's firm, minced and greasy.

I've Googled around but I only seem to find, literally, onion jelly recipes -- which I would think would be too sweet or not oniony enough.
posted by metajc to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I'd bet the pink part has to do with using red, bermuda onions. These are more mild than the common white or the yellow skinned spanish onions.
posted by crunchland at 10:07 AM on July 24, 2010

Best answer: Are you thinking of pickled red onions? Like these? I've seen them on fancy burgers, sandwiches, and tacos recently.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:12 AM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Unless it's at extremely fancy restaurants, chances are they are just adding something to their caramelized onions.

This recipe (the first google hit for "onion marmalade") adds red wine, dark brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar.

I'm a little unclear, though - when you say it reminds you of pickled sushi ginger, do you mean it had a pickled flavor? Or a spicy kick too it? Or are you not talking about the flavor at all?
posted by Sara C. at 10:13 AM on July 24, 2010

Thinly slice red onions.

Add 1/2 oil and 1/2 butter to a saute pan and bring up to a medium heat.

Add the onions so they sweat, not saute. Saute for 10 to 15 minutes until they cook down and start to caramelize. Add salt and pepper and sweat for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and a little sugar and saute for another 10 minutes or so. they should be nice and caramelized.
posted by TheBones at 10:15 AM on July 24, 2010

It also could have been caramelized red onions, as crunchland suggests. Though you'd think that would be mentioned in the description of the burger - red onions have a very different flavor from yellow onions.
posted by Sara C. at 10:17 AM on July 24, 2010

Here is the recipe:

Finely chop a red onion. Add 1 Tb of butter, 1 teaspoon of ground coriander, 1 cup of water and combine in a sauce pan. Season with some salt and pepper. First bring this to a boil and then simmer on medium with some occasional stirring till the whole thing is reduced to about half a cup (takes a little over a half hour).

This dark red onion jam is what you get on fancy burgers.
posted by special-k at 10:23 AM on July 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: All excellent, drool-inspiring answers!

I think maybe one place I had the pickled onions ... and another Sara C.'s type of onion marmalade, but with red onions.

Or maybe one could caramelize the pickled onions?
posted by metajc at 10:39 AM on July 24, 2010

I had those recently at a BBQ, and the chef told me thatshe used white onions, but they turned pink through the use of champagne vinegar. I don't ahve a recipe, but that might help your searching.
posted by fermezporte at 10:42 AM on July 24, 2010

One other thing, that might give you a quick-fix if you just want some sweet/tart pickled onion flavor: thinly sliced onion soaked in about half a lemon's worth of lemon juice, a couple Tablespoons white sugar, and a couple pinches of salt for a couple hours or overnight makes a delicious burger topping that's sweet, sour, crunchy, and onion-y but mellow rather than sharp. I use white onions for this, but I imagine red could work, too.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:43 AM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The carmelized onion stuff In-N-Out uses on their burgers is described in full detail here. The guy actually shows how to recreate the entire burger...pretty cool.
posted by circular at 1:18 PM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

The pickled red onions are amazing on many things. Try them on homemade tacos and you'll never look back. They are quick and easy to make and everybody will be wondering where you got them from because nobody thinks to make them.
posted by Elminster24 at 3:15 PM on July 24, 2010

Pickled onions with thinly sliced roast beef tongue on a hard roll rock my world. No need to any condiment.
posted by onhazier at 5:05 PM on July 24, 2010

I asked a local chef once, and he cooks beets and then braises small onions in their juice.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:55 PM on July 24, 2010

I have been able to buy a jar of carmelized onions in my local gourmet shop. The onions are dark brown in colour and very sweet (and delicious!)

The link I gave you is British, but I live in SW Ontario. If you are in Ontario, I can tell you where to get them!
posted by Ladysin at 6:22 PM on July 24, 2010

You might also want to check out recipes for red onion chutney (like this one, for example, which looks delicious!).

Chutneys have that combination of sweet (caramelised onion, sugar, fruit) and sour (vinegar) that you're describing. They're also a doddle to make and keep for ages as long as you sterilise your jars first.
posted by dogsbody at 6:44 AM on July 25, 2010

Red Onion Mojo

Goes well with carne asada and the like.

Yield: Makes 8 servings


1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 very large red onions, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise (about 5 cups)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 cups (loosely packed) fresh cilantro leaves (from 1 large bunch)


Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until tender and translucent but not brown, about 10 minutes. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm over medium heat before continuing.)

Add lime juice to onions and simmer until liquid is slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove onions from heat. Stir in cilantro leaves.
posted by notyou at 8:53 AM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

A Turkish recipe I've been using for years gives you that pink colour simply by combining some apple cider vinegar with thinly sliced red onions (I skip the dash of salt) then letting them sit for a few hours.
posted by squeak at 9:39 AM on July 25, 2010

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