Some people look at me funny when I tell them I like serving onions as a side dish. The honest truth is that they are amazing if cooked properly, like with these Balsamic Glazed Pearl Onions!
They are perfect for a holiday meal or random night of the week and can be easily made ahead.
What's In This Article
There are so many varieties of onion and they all carry a very distinct flavor profile with some being super onion-y and others more mild.
How you cook them also makes a big difference. Caramelized onions take on a sweet note while quickly sauteed will have a little more onion bite. Some dishes even rely heavily on the base flavors for all of the seasoning.
Furthermore, some are onions only, like this dish or my French Baked Onions (basically onions that taste just like French onion soup) or Creamed Onions, another family favorite.
The pearl onion is a small white onion with many names, some depending on geographic location. Other names are button onions, baby onions, creamers and in French, oignon grelot.
Popular in soups and stews, these little onions have a milder flavor profile more reminiscent of a leek. When cooked they release their flavors and softens lightly so the outside is tender but the inside has a little tooth to it.
White Pearl onions are crunchy and mild with firm, juicy, and crisp flesh. Perfect for an onion-centric dish. This is a purely glazed pearl onion recipe.
Frozen vs Fresh
I am generally all about fresh foods… unless we are talking about fresh pearl onions. I’ve bought fresh before to make Beef Bourguignon and let me tell you- they are a pain in the butt to peel!
Little cuts under my nails from the papery skin and it burned. Ugh. You can’t cut off the tops and bottoms like you would to peel a regular onion because then they just fall apart. What a mess. So for these glazed pearl onions, I use frozen.
So now I buy the frozen white pearl onions. Don’t diss frozen veggies! If frozen correctly, they actually retain nutrients really well. And here, they save you oodles of time. You can also use quartered white onions.
If you are using fresh, cut them at the stem end and the root end and then use a paring knife peel the outer layers.
The sauce is a amped up balsamic reduction that edges between sweet and jammy with a little tang. Here is what you’ll need;
- Unsalted Butter- Brands have different amounts of salt, so I nearly always go for unsalted so I can control the saltiness. If you do use a salted butter, simply omit the coarse Kosher salt in the recipe. Olive oil can be swapped, but butter is much richer.
- Light brown sugar- Aids in the caramelization process. Dark brown can also be used. I love the molasses undertones and deep caramel colors it brings to the dish.
- Balsamic Vinegar– Co-host to the baby onions, I strongly suggest not swapping this for other types of vinegar because they simply won’t caramelize the same. However, don’t grab the expensive, aged versions. We are adding enough other flavors that you don’t need to elevate there and spend the money.
- Dijon mustard– Dijon is always my go-to, but feel free to use other flavors of mustard or even dry mustard powder.
- Coarse kosher salt & ground black pepper– For seasoning.
- Low Sodium Vegetable Broth- I use low sodium so I can control the salt. You might not need any of this ingredient it is simply to prevent the onions from totally drying out and burning while they simmer down and let the balsamic vinegar caramelize. Low sodium chicken broth and water can also be used.
- Parsley– Just for garnish and color.
- Use a large saute pan so there is as much surface space as possible. I love my cast iron! Melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat, then add the onions, stirring and cooking for 15 minutes so they start to soften. They will likely absorb much of the butter.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard. Set aside.
- Stir the brown sugar into the hot onions until fully coated, then add the vinegar mixture. Cover and reduce the heat. Cook for another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the onions get too dry, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable broth. You may not need any the broth.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper.
What to Serve Them With
This is a great side dish for nearly any meal, but here are a few of my favorite dinner ideas.
Make Ahead & Storage
One of my favorite things is that glazed baby onions can be made up to 2 days in advance. Simply make the whole recipe and refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve. Heat in the microwave or on the stovetop in a baking dish (preferred). Onions will stay good for up to a week in the fridge.
This recipe can also be frozen and thawed for a later occasion. I add a small amount more balsamic vinegar while cooking in a skillet or in the oven.
More Delicious Holiday Side Dishes
Monday Holiday Side Dish Recipes:
- Bacon Wrapped Green Bean Bundles by House of Nash Eats
- Balsamic Glazed Baby Onions by Savory Experiments
- Best Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe by The Fresh Cooky
- Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Stuffing by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes with Sausage Crumbles by Food Lust People Love
- Cauliflower Gratin by Lemon Blossoms
- Cheese Herb Potato Gratin by Shockingly Delicious
- Cheesy Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole by Blogghetti
- Cranberry Fluff by An Affair from the Heart
- Easy Chorizo Cornbread Dressing by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
- Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Cranberries & Pecans by Sweet Beginnings
- Holiday Side Salad by Our Good Life
- Honey Roasted Carrots by Devour Dinner
- No Knead Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls by Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Roasted Buttercup Squash by Palatable Pastime
- Roasted fingerling potatoes with Parmesan by The Foodie Affair
- Sauteed Spinach with Bacon by Kate’s Recipe Box
- Slow Cooker Cheesy Vegetables by Cheese Curd in Paradise
- Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans by West Via Midwest
- Sweet Potato Salad by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Traditional Cranberry Sauce by Family Around the Table
- Twiced Baked Sweet Potatoes by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
Balsamic Glazed Baby Onions
- 14.4 ounces frozen pearl onions
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter , divided
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3-4 tablespoons low sodium vegetable broth
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- fresh parsley , chopped and optional
- In a large skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, stirring and cooking for 15 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard. Set aside.
- Stir in the brown sugar until fully coated. Stir in the vinegar mixture. Cover and reduce the heat. Cook for another 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the onions get too dry, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable broth. You may not need the whole amount of broth.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve hot.
- If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or ratings!
I could eat these every day for the rest of my life and be happy! Pearl onions are my favorite.
I love the glaze on these – so much yum!
I have only put pearl onions in soups and stews and not as a side dish on their own. There’s some in the pantry. These are going on the menu to try!
A great side dish idea for any protein!
Love how easy this recipe is and it sounds like it packs a ton of flavors in that glaze!
I saw your recipe on pinterest and had to learn more. I’m glad to see you used frozen pearl onion because I don’t see them often fresh. Adding these to my menu this year. Thank you!
My daughter adores onions. I need to make this for her sometime.
This sounds so good. I’m pinning to make soon
These look amazing. And I hear you about peeling tiny onions!
I have been looking for some new and exciting side dishes. This is perfect!
what a delightful side to add to the dinner table!
Yum!! These had such great flavors, can’t wait to make again!!
When I first saw the title I thought fahgeddaboutit because those little buggers, though delicious, truly are a pain in the neck. Using frozen makes all the difference. I look forward to trying these.
Agreed!!!!I hate the fresh ones!
These are just perfect for the Thanksgiving table! The glaze is so amazing!
I can see me snacking on these all day! They look so delicious and easy to make!
I’ve never tried pearl onions before, but these sound delicious! We usually do a “cowboy” Thanksgiving with bison steaks instead of turkey, and these would go so well!
These would be great with bison steaks!