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.
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.
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.
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.