Buttered Onions Another Way

Eighteenth-century cookbooks sometimes listed a mother recipe followed by several variations. Here, the original recipe was simply called “Buttered Onions.” This one combines onions and apples which sweeten while they cook. Serve it as a side dish with roasted chicken or over pork chops as a chutney.

18th Century

Slice some Apples, and mince your Onions, but more Apples than Onions. Bake them with Bread, tying a Paper over the Pan: When baked butter them, adding Sugar and boiled Currants. Serve them on Sippets, and strew over them fine Sugar and Powdered Cinnamon.

“Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery: Or, The Kitchen-Garden Display’d . . .To Which is Added the Physical Virtues of Every Herb and Root.” pg.150

21st Century

  • 3 medium Granny Smith or other baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/3 cup fresh currants or dried currants plumped with boiling water
  • 2 medium onions, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1-2 tsp. cinnamon
  • toast points, for serving
  1. Combine the minced onions, apples, currants, sugar and cinnamon in a buttered ovenproof pan with lid. Dot the top with butter. Bake covered in a 375-400°F oven for 15—20 minutes or until tender.
  2. Serve hot with toast points.

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18 Responses to “Buttered Onions Another Way”

  1. December 3rd, 2011

    Ed says:

    Simple and tasty, might be good to take the cover off for a few minutes towards the end. I’ve got some leftovers – might be good with sausage or with bread for stuffing too. I can see making this again and again. Thanks Frank.

  2. December 5th, 2011

    Jay J. Bratt says:

    Some might object that the 18th century recipe would result in a variety of flavors while the ‘modern’ recipe might promote uniformity, me thinks that the spice truly would be in the varity

  3. December 5th, 2011

    Diana Ashkenasy says:

    Thank you for what looks to be a likely easy and tasty side dish. I’ll try this on the weekend. Always looking for gluten free period dishes. It’s been very difficult to cook some of the dishes as they seem to need flour as a staple. I’m wondering, could a rice flour work as a substitute?

    • December 5th, 2011

      Historic Foodways says:

      You should be able to substitute rice flour. They had rice flour in the period and there are a number of rice fritters and other recipes that call for it. The other option might be almond flour. I think that is gluten free, but you may want to double check that.

      Let us know how it comes out.
      Frank Clark

  4. December 19th, 2011

    Diana Ashkenasy says:

    Well, the Buttered onions another way were a hit! Our re enactment group (400AD-1600AD) had our Yule Celebrations this Saturday last with a groaning board overfull of dishes period and non period.
    This dish was very easy, I even got it all together the night before and put it in the fridge, took it out in the morning and in the early afternoon baked the dish. VERY well received by those who were interested in the “apple/onion” mix! The main meats for the evening were turkey and tri tip, this dish went very well with both.
    This is going to be a staple in our home.
    Many Thanks!

  5. December 20th, 2011

    D. Smith says:

    My familial roots are Swedish and German. Both sides have always had fried apples n’ onions, especially when we had roast loin of pork.

    I still make stewed apples with fried onions to this day. Sometimes I’ll add a pear or two, if I have them. LOTS of real butter (mine is homemade) and slightly browned. Dash of cinnamon, a little more than a dash of nutmeg. YUM!

  6. December 27th, 2011

    Judy says:

    My family (which includes 3 grown children) loves fried apples and onions. We serve it with ham or pork chops. I found your page in a google search. Enjoying it very much! thank you.

  7. January 29th, 2012

    Terry Sargent says:

    Great recipe, I was one of 3 cooks that cooked for our 1752 Winter Garrison at Post des Miamis (Fort Wayne, IN)we cooked 2 full meals in one day for 50, all period correct. the buttered Onions, Another Waywas loved by all, everyone really liked the name and wanted to know its origin. Thanks all.

  8. January 29th, 2012

    Terry Sargent says:

    A closer look

  9. September 11th, 2012

    Lacey says:

    In the video you bake the dish covered with a layer of parchment paper. Do you use what’s commercially marketed as such in the grocery store – ie the stuff coated with silicone? Or do you get it else where? I have also been looking for an acceptable, as close to period as possible, paper to use for cake hoops.

    • September 12th, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      We use a commercial type of baking paper because it is cheaper. It is the kind that is very thin and it is used to line the bottom of cookie sheets, etc. For this recipe you probably shouldn’t use any silicone-coated product. If you can find that sort of plain baking paper, that is fine. As a last resort you can use aluminum, foil shiny side up. All this will do is keep the top from scorching when in the oven. If you just want it to line cake hoops, use something like a thick newsprint and take soft butter and thinly spread it on both sides before lining the hoop. Set the hoop on a sheet pan before going into the oven. Hope this helps. Thanks for your questions.

    • September 12th, 2012

      D. Smith says:

      @ Lacey: Most health food stores (and some grocery stores) carry Natural Parchment Paper, which is brown and usually isn’t waxed or treated with anything. You can also order it online.

      The product name for mine Unbleached Natural Parchment Paper and the brand name is Natural Value. If you can’t find it online or locally, ask your grocer or your health food store to order it for you. On the box it says it’s good for steaming foods, you can use it in the oven up to 400 degrees, etc.

      • September 16th, 2012

        Lacey says:

        Thanks to both of you for the recommendations on paper both for the buttered onions and for the cake hoops. Very helpful!

  10. January 13th, 2013

    E. Cooper says:

    With Buttered Onions as a “mother” recipe with different variations could mushrooms be an ingredient instead of the apples? Were mushrooms very practical and often used in colonial times? My thinking is that they would’ve been but yet can’t seem to find very many recipes using them as an ingredient during this time period. Would love to see a variety of recipes using mushrooms on this wonderful site. Thanks for your help.

    • January 14th, 2013

      Historic Foodways says:

      The reason that this combines the onions and the apples is for balance of
      flavors, one sweet the other savoury. This type of recipe works well with
      cooked pork as a side dish. Although you could replace mushrooms with the
      apples it would not give the flavor balance. I’ve not seen anything from the
      18th century that matches that. Thanks for the query.
      Dennis Cotner

  11. August 24th, 2013

    Lizzie Cooper says:

    I made this recipe for the second time last week and served it to guests. They (as well as myself) thought it was outstanding. I love this recipe! P.S. I was at Colonial Williamsburg a couple of weeks ago and throughly enjoyed stopping by the kitchen at the Governor’s Palace and the one at the armoury. Your staff is wonderful — I learned a lot!

  12. July 21st, 2014

    Alex Colvin says:

    These were so much fun to make, and were very much enjoyed by guests. Who knew apples and onions could be so tasty?!

  13. January 8th, 2019

    Malyson Haight says:

    I made this dish for our reenacting units’ holiday party. I cooked it a bit longer until the onions were more caramelized. Everyone enjoyed it as a relish for the ham.

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