At DelightedCooking, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What Is Onion Relish?

Megan Shoop
Megan Shoop

Onion relish is generally a condiment made of onions, spices, and cooking oil. The onions are usually caramelized until they’re sweet and tender. Spices and other flavorings are often added to make the relish spicy, extra sweet, smoky, or savory. It may be served hot on top of chicken, steak, pork, or fish. Some people prefer it cold, on top of sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, and even certain kinds of tacos. There are many recipes for onion relish, each with a few variations. Some cooks like to change up the recipe each time to keep their taste buds guessing.

Most onion relish recipes start with raw onions of some kind. Sweet Vidalia, yellow, red onions or even shallots may be chopped into small pieces for this relish. Some cooks enjoy combining different kinds of onions to liven up the flavor. Leeks and chives may even show up in some recipes, and their sharply acidic tang often keeps onion relish from becoming too sweet. Cooks may slice the onions into half-moons or chop them up into tiny pieces. Larger pieces usually create a thicker relish, while small pieces work better for spreading and scooping.

Chopped shallots can be used to make onion relish.
Chopped shallots can be used to make onion relish.

The chopped onions are usually added to a hot pan that has been coated with cooking oil. Many cooks like to use canola or peanut oil, but olive oil is also a popular choice. Infused olive oil can add an extra touch of flavor to an onion relish recipe. Cooks may choose from garlic, chili, and lemon-infused olive oils. Lemon olive oil might taste good in a tropical or fruity-tasting relish, while the other two flavors mingle well with sweet, savory, and smoky flavors.

Hot dogs, which are often served with onion relish.
Hot dogs, which are often served with onion relish.

When the onions are limp and translucent, the cook may add the other relish ingredients. A fruity or tropical relish might include pineapple, mango, papaya, or even coconut. Apples, pears, and a spoonful of brown sugar might make a tasty autumn relish. Ginger and soy sauce often show up in savory Asian onion relish, while paprika and liquid smoke typically taste good in smokier versions. Many cooks also add a spoonful of sugar to the pan, whether or not the relish is supposed to be sweet. This often makes the recipe less acidic and more palatable.

Onion relish may feature red onions.
Onion relish may feature red onions.

The onion relish typically simmers until all of the ingredients are well-browned and soft. The cook may then pour the relish right over the meat or scrape it into a dish to cool. Once cool, it may be popped into the refrigerator to chill overnight. Many people believe onion relish tastes just as good hot as it does cool.

Discussion Comments


@ddljohn-- I think I like mine better cold. Once I open a jar, it usually stays good for a week and up to two weeks. So there are plenty of opportunities to eat it. If you use small jars, it will be easier.

Yes, onion relish goes great with cheese. I highly recommend eating this way. I've not tried it with cream cheese but I don't see why not. I have eaten it with goat cheese and feta cheese. Both turned out very good. I've even put it on homemade pizza as a topping before and that was good too.

So feel free to experiment. I'm sure that there are many other great ways to consume this relish. It's a favorite of mine. My aunt makes some great variations, her pear and onion relish is wonderful.


How do most people prefer their onion relish -- warm or cold?

I haven't decided yet. They both taste quite good. I made a batch recently and tried it both warm and after it was refrigerated. I'm not sure how long it will last in the fridge but I think I will use it up soon. I might make steak tonight and add the onion relish as topping. I have a theory that it might make a good dip with cream cheese but I'm not sure.


I dislike raw onions and could never eat them. I find the smell of raw onion unappetizing and it always upsets my stomach. I was at a very good hamburger place a few weeks ago though and they had put onion relish inside. I bit into it and really liked the taste. I was surprised to know that I was eating onions. Somehow, sweet, cooked onion relish is nothing like raw onion. It's delicious and doesn't upset my stomach. Now I go to that restaurant all the time, partly for the delicious onion relish. I think I need to learn to make it myself. I never thought that I would like onion.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Chopped shallots can be used to make onion relish.
      Chopped shallots can be used to make onion relish.
    • Hot dogs, which are often served with onion relish.
      By: Natika
      Hot dogs, which are often served with onion relish.
    • Onion relish may feature red onions.
      By: bergamont
      Onion relish may feature red onions.