Pearl Onions Sephardic Style

Pearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit PensoThis simple yet complex side dish is typical to traditional Sephardic cooking: very few ingredients and seasonings, slowly cooked and caramelized in the oven, creating a fragrant and tasty dish.
Granted, this is not a dish you would quickly make, but if you’re home on a cold winter’s day, just place it in the oven and wait for the wonderful results.

The naturally sweet pearl onions’ flavor is enhanced by the “Dulce Y Agro” (sweet and sour) sauce, which is subtle and not as bold as the more familiar Asian sweet and sour sauce, as it relies on tomato paste and lemon for acidity and on a bit of sugar for the sweetness. The finished dish has wonderful deep color and a concentrated sweet-sour-salty-caramelized flavor.

The onions are perfect as a warm side dish with roasted meats, chicken or fish. They can also be used at room temperature as a crostini or sandwich condiment, with cheeses or cold cuts.

A few notes:
* Soaking the pearl onions in boiling water makes peeling them much easier. I highly recommend not skipping this step.
* If you can’t find fresh pearl onions, frozen peeled pearl onions can be used. However, the onion flavor will be less pronounced, the texture will be softer, and they most likely will not keep their shape as shown here.
* The dish can be made a few days in advance and kept in the fridge, in an air-tight container. Bring to room temperature and reheat very gently, so that the onions keep their shape.

More information about Sephardic cooking can be found in THIS POST.

Makes: 4-6
Soaking time: 15 minutes
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 1 ½ hours

10 oz (285 grams) gold pearl onions
3 Tbs tomato paste
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 cups water
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs light olive oil

1. Place the pearl onions in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let cool to room temperature and peel carefully, keeping the onions whole. Place the onions in a wide pot, in one layer.
Pearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit PensoPearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit PensoPearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit PensoPearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit Penso
2. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and pour into the pot.
3. Bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Pearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit PensoPearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit PensoPearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit PensoPearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit Penso
4. Preheat the oven to 320F (160C). Place the covered pot in it and bake for 1 hour. Uncover the pot and keep on baking for half an hour, or until most of the liquids have evaporated, and the onions are caramelized and soft, but still keep their shape. Serve warm.
Pearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit PensoPearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit Penso Pearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit Penso


45 thoughts on “Pearl Onions Sephardic Style

  1. judilyn says:

    I used them yesterday on an ad hoc pizza made on tortillas (an experiment!), but I sautéed them first. They weren’t at all strong after having been cooked. I may give it a try.


  2. Nancy says:

    I imagine the aroma in the kitchen is intoxicating from the roasting… yummy. A huge thank you for the peeling tip…I never knew that one! I had given up on the fresh variety due to frustration. Time to toss the frozen ones. 😉


  3. Cecile says:

    I was never a big fan of pearl onions – but I think I will become a BIG FAN now!! Great post, as always!! (I’m gonna read ‘about Shephardic Cooking’ – I know it’ll be very interesting.)


  4. Frugal Hausfrau says:

    Oooh! Just yesterday I was cleaning out and organizing my freezer and thinking that I have to do something with the pearl onions in there. Mine were bought frozen. I think I will have to try this recipe, they look so perfect!


      • Ish says:

        A simple recipe of pearl onions sambhar… would be to cook about 1 cup of toor dal in a pressure cooker or masoor daal (pink lentils) in a stockpot/ and adding your pearl onions just the way you cooked them with tomatoes and brown sugar to the cooked dal. Adding a teaspoon of tamarind paste and a tablespoon of MTR sambhar powder (the powder and the daal is available in a lot Indian stores online such as Although I do make my own too.. will post it in blog sometime 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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