Caramelised Three Onion Chutney

What could be finer with a loaf of home-baked bread than a nice piece of cheese and a dollop of good chutney?

Caramelised Three Onion Chutney
Caramelised Three Onion Chutney

Today I have been making Caramelised Onion Chutney. I did my usual thing, searched for recipes, found half a dozen good candidates, and then largely ignored them all… or possibly combined a bit from each. I shall do my best to remember with accuracy.

Caramelised Three Onion Chutney


  • 45 ml Olive Oil
  • 1.5 Kg Onions, peeled and thinly sliced.
  • 300g Muscavado Sugar
  • 200 ml Red Wine Vinegar
  • 45 ml Balsamic Vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon Mustard Seeds
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
  • a good pinch of Dried Crushed Chillies
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • A good grind of Black Pepper
Spanish onion, Red onion, and Shallotts
Spanish onion, Red onion, and Shallotts

Notes on ingredients:

  • As always, the better the oil, the better the goods.
  • I used 4 large Spanish onions, a net of Shallots, and one red onion, to provide a variety of textures
  • Being short of dark brown Muscavado, I mixed some light soft brown in as well
  • Red Wine vinegar was to hand – white wine, cider, or light or dark malt vinegars would all do the job too.
  • I used the dark balsamic vinegar, but the white would be fine.
  • A source recipe used 1 tablespoon of whole grain mustard, I substituted the seeds because I have them and like to see them in the final chutney
  • I forgot to add the salt
  • My quantities of Paprika and Chillies are upsized from the source recipes
  • Cinnamon, Bay and Black pepper are my choices from various spicings in multiple source recipes. Another time, I might likely choose differently. Ginger would be good, so would coriander seed. I might not balk at cumin or fennel either. Cardamom… I’m not so sure.
Thinly sliced onions softening in the Maslin pan
Thinly sliced onions softening in the Maslin pan


  • Heat the oil in a large pan, add the sliced onions and cook over a low heat for ten minutes or so, until softened but not browned.
  • Stir in 3 tablespoons of the sugar, increase the heat, and cook for 3 – 4 minutes until the onions are browned
  • Add the remaining sugar and all the other ingredients and simmer gently for 10 – 15 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the mixture has thickened.
  • The chutney should be a dark caramel colour.
  • Fish out any whole spices used that you don’t want to see in the jars e.g. bay leaves, cinnamon sticks.
  • Spoon into sterilised jars, seal and label.
  • Mature for a few weeks before using, if you can bear to. Best used within 12 months.

My Notes

  • There is a large volume of onions here – use the broadest based pan that you can – I used my trusty Maslin “jam pan”
  • I don’t know why recipes always say ten minutes for onions. Mine were sliced thinly (in the Magimix) but took considerably longer than this to begin to soften. I’d allow 30 minutes for this stage and be pleased if I took less.
  • I added my garlic with the onions instead of keeping it for later addition.
  • We all know onions take longer than 3 minutes to caramelise. Allow longer but don’t flog it too much – you are going for the flavour, darkness of colour will come with the sugar, vinegars and longer cooking time. My onions were a kind of light straw colour after about twenty minutes further cooking.
  • I almost forgot to add my Balsamic – it went in ten minutes late.
  • For the final boiling, be led by consistency and not by the clock. The times in the source recipe all seemed a bit out to me.  When the chutney is ready, you should be able to draw a trench in it with your wooden spoon. The trench should remain and not immediately fill up with liquid. Do not overcook/over-reduce or you will end up with onion toffee. Trust your senses.
  • I filled 6 small presentation jars plus a couple of recycled jam jars, with a final dollop into a ramekin for use at tea time today.
Plenty for everybody
Plenty for everybody

Must make some labels before the day is done

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  1. spinninggill
    December 7, 2012

    … and straight out of the pan it tasted lovely! 🙂

    • December 7, 2012

      … and straight out of the pan it tasted lovely!

      If a little pungent!

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