Tennessee Onions

Step into the heart of Southern comfort with Tennessee Onions, a cherished classic that embodies the very essence of soul-satisfying cuisine. These delectable delights are more than just a side dish; they are a comforting embrace on your plate. With their sweet and tangy profile, they’re the perfect companions to a wide array of dishes, be it the sizzle of grilled meats, the humble embrace of sandwiches, or even the humble presence of a plate of freshly baked biscuits.

Imagine this: a pan of thinly sliced onions sizzling away, gradually transforming into a caramelized masterpiece. They offer a symphony of flavors that dance on your palate, starting with the deep sweetness of slow-cooked onions, transitioning into the savory notes that only Southern comfort can deliver, and finishing with a gentle, lingering tang that adds depth and character to every bite.

These Tennessee Onions are more than a recipe; they’re an experience, a culinary journey that brings a touch of Southern charm to your table. The best part? You don’t need a road trip to savor this Southern gem. With a few simple ingredients and a bit of time and patience, you can whip up these caramelized onions right in your own kitchen. So, whether you’re a seasoned cook or a kitchen novice, these Tennessee Onions are an absolute must-try. Get ready to elevate your meals and experience the warmth of Southern hospitality, one sweet and tangy bite at a time.

Choosing the Right Ingredients:

  • Onions: Start with fresh, large onions. Yellow or sweet onions work best for this recipe. They have a milder flavor when caramelized, which complements the sweetness from the brown sugar and apple cider vinegar.
  • Butter and Vegetable Oil: The combination of butter and vegetable oil gives the onions a rich and buttery flavor while preventing them from burning during the caramelization process.
  • Brown Sugar: Opt for high-quality brown sugar. It imparts a deep, caramel-like sweetness to the onions. You can use either light or dark brown sugar, depending on your preference.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Choose a good-quality apple cider vinegar for a pleasant tanginess. It’s an essential component that balances the dish’s sweetness.
  • Salt and Pepper: Always use freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt to enhance the flavors.
  • Optional: Hot Sauce: If you like a bit of heat, experiment with different hot sauces to add a spicy kick to your Tennessee Onions.

How to Make Tennessee Onions:

  • Slicing the Onions: Start by thinly slicing the onions. A sharp knife works best for this task, and consistent thickness ensures even caramelization.
  • Caramelization: The key to great Tennessee Onions is patience. Slowly sauté the onions in a mix of butter and vegetable oil over medium heat until they turn translucent and golden brown. This process can take around 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.
  • Sweet and Tangy Magic: Once your onions are caramelized, add the brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and water to the skillet. Stir everything together and reduce the heat to low. Let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes until the liquid reduces and thickens.
  • Seasoning: Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you’re craving a bit of a spicy kick, now’s the time to add a dash of your favorite hot sauce.
  • Serve and Savor: Remove from heat, and your Tennessee Onions are ready to steal the show at your meal. Serve them as a side dish to complement grilled meats, burgers, or sandwiches.

Variations and Substitutions:

Tennessee Onions are versatile, and you can customize them to suit your taste:

  • Cheese Lover’s Twist: Add a sprinkle of shredded cheddar or Swiss cheese over the caramelized onions just before serving for a gooey, cheesy delight.
  • Balsamic Glaze: Substitute balsamic vinegar for apple cider vinegar to create a richer and deeper flavor profile.
  • Herb-Infused: Enhance the dish with fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary for a fragrant twist.
  • Vegan Option: For a vegan version, use plant-based butter and omit the cheese. The natural sweetness of the onions will shine through.

Tennessee Onions


  • 4 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: a dash of hot sauce for some heat


  • In a large skillet, melt the butter and vegetable oil over medium heat.
  • Add the thinly sliced onions and sauté them until they become translucent and start to caramelize, which usually takes about 15-20 minutes. Keep stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
  • Once the onions are nicely caramelized, add the brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and water to the skillet. Stir everything together.
  • Reduce the heat to low and let the onions simmer for another 10-15 minutes. This will allow the flavors to meld together, and the liquid will reduce and thicken.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you like a bit of heat, you can add a dash of hot sauce at this point.
  • Remove from heat, and your Tennessee Onions are ready to serve!
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