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Cipollini Onions with Balsamic Glaze (Cipollini Agrodolce)

4.95 from 50 community reviews

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Italian Cipollini onions in a balsamic glaze — This sweet and savory cipollini onion recipe makes the most delicious, elegant pearl onion substitute. Serve as a side dish or topping for pizza or pasta.

Photo of skillet with cooked cipollini onions in balsamic glaze sauce, with rosemary and thyme sprigs.

Tiny, sweet Italian cipolini onions show up in the fall in farmer’s markets and grocery stores, and this is an easy, elegant way to cook them.

Because they’re naturally sweet and tender, I love to caramelize them in butter and tangy-sweet balsamic vinegar.

This is essentially a pan-roasted cipollini agrodolce recipe — sweet-and-sour baby onions, Italian-style. Think of this easy side dish as a twist on the traditional bowl of Thanksgiving pearl onions.

Photo of skillet with cooked cipollini onions in balsamic glaze sauce, with rosemary and thyme sprigs.

I have to admit I’ve never been a fan of those pearl onions – they often taste watery, bland and have an unappealing texture (I’m trying hard not to use the word “slimy”).

Instead, these onions are browned in butter, then braised on the stovetop with a little sugar, balsamic vinegar and water.

The liquid in the pan reduces down to a syrupy glaze that’s a little bit sweet and a little bit sour. You end up with little nuggets that are tender, savory and perfectly balanced with tangy sweetness.

Photo of skillet with cooked cipollini onions in balsamic glaze sauce, with rosemary and thyme sprigs.

What are cipollini

Botanically, cipollini are in the allium cepa family, just like yellow, white, red and green onions. The word for onion in Italian is cipolla.

Words with the -ini suffix in Italian describe something that is tiny, teeny or otherwise diminutive in size, which means cipollini (also spelled cipolline) are literally cute little onions.

Cipollini Onions- How to peel, cook and pan-roast with balsamic glaze.

They’re an Italian heirloom variety shaped like flat, plump discs, almost like mini versions of Vidalia onions that have been squashed.

Their papery skin comes in shades of red, yellow and white, but I’ve only ever seen the yellow and red ones.

What do cipollini onions taste like?

You’ll find that cipollini taste a bit sweeter and milder than everyday yellow onions or pearl onions. They’re definitely worth seeking out if you’re an onion lover.

How to peel:

  • Put them into a pan of boiling water for 2 minutes.
  • Drain, cool slightly and trim off the top of the onion with a small knife.
  • Slip the skins off.

What to substitute for cipollini onions:

Cipollini can be found in the produce section of most large supermarkets, usually in the early to late fall months. If you can’t find them for this recipe, you can use red or yellow pearl onions instead.

Photo of skillet with cooked cipollini onions in balsamic glaze sauce, with rosemary and thyme sprigs.

Ways to serve

This dish is a great side dish for Thanksgiving and fall feasting, but wait—there’s more!

Serving ideas:

Balsamic Glazed Cipollini Onions (Cipollini Agrodolce)

Karen Tedesco
Tender, tangy cipollini onions in a sweet and sour balsamic glaze. These caramelized nuggets are perfect for your fall holiday table. They make a delicious side dish as well as a savory topping for pizza and pasta.
Print Pin
4.95 from 50 community reviews
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 13 minutes
Total Time 23 minutes
Course Vegetables
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 servings


  • 1 1/2 pounds (675 g) cipollini onions
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or rosemary leaves


  • Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Drop in the onions and boil 2 minutes. Drain and cool slightly.
  • Use a small, sharp knife to slice off the top of the onions, then slip off the skins. Trim any hairy roots, but leave the stem end intact so that the onions don’t separate. If the onions are larger than 1 1/2-inches diameter, slice into halves or quarters.
  • Heat the butter and oil in a medium (8-10-inch) nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter stops foaming and begins to smell nutty, add the onions to the pan. Cook 5 minutes, or until the onions are browned, stirring occasionally.
  • Sprinkle the onions with the sugar and salt. Pour the water and vinegar over them (the pan will sputter). Turn the heat down to medium and cover the pan. Cook 5 minutes.
  • Uncover the pan and continue cooking until the liquid in the pan looks syrupy and has large bubbles, another 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with the thyme and serve.

Karen’s Notes and Tips

The glazed onions will keep refrigerated 3-5 days.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 132kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 310mg | Potassium: 276mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 52mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition facts are calculated by third-party software. If you have specific dietary needs, please refer to your favorite calculator.

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Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

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  1. i was just wondering if i can freeze these

  2. Tim Kline says:

    5 stars
    My late mother always did the caramelized pearl onions at Thanksgiving – your notes talk about this holiday dish served in a “bowl” and having an unappealing texture. I never had her recipe until it was discovered by a cousin last year. In my years of attempts to recreate it, I found frozen pearl onions always had a slimy texture so I switched to fresh and solved it. The other key to success was roasting the pearls in a single layer in a clay tart baking dish. Crispy edges ! If you pm me, I will send you her recipe.

  3. Shari Altman says:

    5 stars
    OMG ..so flavorful! I couldn’t stop eating them….

  4. 5 stars
    I left out the sugar but followed the rest of your recipe. Wow, just incredible! Can’t wait to make it again, thank you!

  5. 5 stars
    Hi Karen:
    I made your recipe with a few tweeks of my own. It was wonderful, but not what I remember cooking. Many (!) years ago I lived in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. My Italian mother-in-law introduced me to cippolini. However, the onions which are called by that name aren’t the ones I remember cooking. They were small, brownish/yellow in color and when we cleaned them we did it under running water because they emitted a sticky, slimy juice. They resembled small shallots. You mentioned that in your description of the recipe. I can’t find those anywhere in the U.S. Can you direct me to where I might purchase them. I live about 100 miles south of Chicago. Thanks

    1. Hi Carole – I wish I could taste those! I suggest looking in farmer’s markets in the fall. Also take a look at Etsy for a mail order option for heirloom onions – https://bit.ly/36xt7XZ

  6. 5 stars
    I am going to make these with fig glaze and a dash of cider vinegar! You always inspire me to try new things!

  7. I don’t understand the sugar. The idea of caramelizing onions is to bring out the onions own sugar. Especially since balsamic vinegar has sugar as well.

    1. A little sugar just intensifies the process of caramelizing, plus it adds some body to the glaze. Some onions are sweeter than others. You can always leave out the sugar if you enjoy their natural sweetness!

  8. I cut back by half, the sugar but if one uses a good Balsamic, one could cut the sugar out entirely. I have one more batch of onions so will eliminate the sugar next round.

  9. 5 stars
    Delicious!! I added mushrooms and sage also and the glaze was perfect not too sweet either. Thank you for sharing!

  10. 5 stars
    I only made this because I received those tiny onions from a farm share today. It was delicious and i think i could use regular onion slices in place of tiny onions. So good!!

  11. My question is that this sweet heirloom onion is “young variety of larger vidalia onion? But closer to garlic/shallot growth?”
    It is prepared with balsamic glaze and can be accompanied with porcini mushroom with wine?

    Someone made fun of me and told me that onions were not Italian! Ridiculous!