Balsamic Glazed Pearl Onions

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  • 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!

    balsamic glazed onions in a white bowl

    They are perfect for a holiday meal or random night of the week and can be easily made ahead.

    Cooked Onions

    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.

    close up overhead of glazed baby onions

    Furthermore, some are onions only, like this dish or my French Baked Onions (basically onions that taste just like French onion soup).

    Pearl Onions

    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.

    spoon with balsamic pearl onions

    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.

    balsamic onions served with roast chicken and bread

    The Sauce

    The sauce is a amped up balsamic reduction that edges between sweet and jammy with a little tang. Here is what you’ll need;

    ingredients for making balsamic pearl onions
    • 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.

    Make Them!

    1. 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.
    2. In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard. Set aside.
    3. 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.
    4. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper.
    step-by-step how to make balsamic pearl onions

    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.

    collage of balsamic glazed pearl onions

    More Delicious Holiday Side Dishes

    Monday Holiday Side Dish Recipes:

    overhead balsamic pearl onions
    spoon with balsamic pearl onions
    Print Recipe
    4.50 from 16 votes

    Balsamic Glazed Baby Onions

    These EASY Balsamic Glazed Pearl Onions are great for a simple side dish. Elegant enough for the holidays, but also for weeknight meals!
    Prep Time5 mins
    Cook Time20 mins
    Total Time25 mins
    Course: Side Dish
    Cuisine: American
    Keyword: pearl onion recipe
    Servings: 6
    Calories: 84kcal
    Author: Jessica Formicola



    • 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!


    Calories: 84kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 219mg | Potassium: 108mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 117IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 1mg
    image of jessica formicola

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