Rooibos Onion Jam

Rooibos Onion Jam

“Ogres are like onions. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. You get it? We both have layers.”

~Shrek (2001)~



I very often have this conversation between Shrek and Donkey running through my head when I am peeling and cutting onions. They always make me cry and give me stinky fingers afterwards. But I am quite lost without onions in the house. I dare say the first thing I take out most nights when I start cooking supper is an onion! Most cooks seem to have a threshold as to how many onions they can process before the crying gets too bad. My dad could easily peel and slice an onion without a single tear shed. I am now on a similar level – possibly on the two-onion level!


It’s worth every single tear and your sinuses are cleared!

My husband only has one use for onions – fried in lots of oil to stick on burgers and hot dogs. But my favourite way of having onions is in the form of onion jam. And not just any onion jam… Rooibos Onion Jam – homemade and delicious. You need to get a whole pile of onions peeled and sliced for a meagre four small bottles of jam, but it’s worth every single tear! You have sweet, caramelised onion flavour at hand for whatever you want to cook. I use this Rooibos Onion Jam as a spread on bread, as a condiment with burgers, hot dogs and pizza, or on cheese platters. You can even sweeten stews and sauces with it. And the bonus? Your sinuses are clear for at least a few days after peeling that mountain of onions!!


Sliced onions being caramelised


Why Rooibos Onion Jam?

When I decided to try making my own onion jam, I started with a simple search on Pinterest and found a lovely recipe from a food blog called Whisk Affair by Neha Mathur. She calls it onion marmalade and adds a cup of apple juice to the caramelised onions. When shopping for apple juice to try her recipe, I found a typically South African boxed apple juice that has rooibos tea added. My onion marmalade according to Neha’s recipe turned out great, but I decided to play around with it and go all the way South African by replacing the apple juice with unsweetened rooibos tea. The onion and rooibos go well together, both having an earthy, grassy flavour. It just adds another layer of complexity to the flavour. See what I did there? Onions with layers!


Rooibos Onion Jam


Rooibos Onion Jam

Sweet, caramelised onion jam infused with earthy Rooibos Tea flavour
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time2 hours
Course: Side Dish
Keyword: onion jam, rooibos onion jam
Author: Melby


  • Food processor or mandolin slicer
  • 4 to 5 small, sterilised jars with lids


  • 2 kg onions, peeled and thinly sliced use a food processor or mandolin slicer - see note
  • 2 tbsp butter leave out if you want to keep it vegan
  • 2 tbsp olive oil double the olive oil if you don't use butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 t black mustard seeds optional
  • 1 t red chilli flakes or more if you like it spicy
  • t salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • c light brown sugar
  • c unsweetened rooibos tea made with 3 - 4 tea bags and left to draw
  • ½ c balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ c red wine vinegar


  • Heat the butter and olive oil in a large enamel pot on medium heat.
  • Add the onions and caramelise over low heat without browning the onions.
  • Add the mustard seeds, chilli flakes, sugar and salt & pepper and mix well.
  • Let the onions cook over low heat, covered with the lid for an hour, stirring often. Be careful not to let the mixture burn.
  • Add the rooibos tea and both types of vinegar and let the onion mixture cook for another hour, uncovered. Keep on stirring and cooking until you have a thick jam-like consistency.
  • While the jam is cooking, wash the jars and lids in warm soapy water and rinse them in boiling water from a kettle - I do this in the sink. Let the jars and lids dry upside down on a clean kitchen towel until needed.
  • Once the jam is done, spoon it into the jars while still hot. Fill the jars to the top and close tightly. Wipe down the jars with a damp cloth to clean off any spillage.
  • Jars can be kept in a cool food cupboard for about 4 weeks. Store in the fridge once opened.


  • I really can't peel and slice 2kg of onions without my eyes burning. I quickly peel all the onions, half or quarter them and then slice them in my food processor using the slicing attachment. You can also use a mandolin slicer if you don't have a food processor. 
  • I have made the jam without butter for a vegan family member. I just used more olive oil and it seemed to need longer cooking time to get to the right consistency. I am sure you can also use coconut oil instead of butter.
  • The mustard seeds are there for texture and spicy flavour, but if you down have any in your store cupboard it's not that serious. Try adding some dried thyme instead.
  • I used sweetened rooibos tea the first time I tried it and it was just too sweet. There's plenty of sugar in this recipe - the tea just adds flavour, not sweetness.
  • Always be very careful when filling jars with hot sugary jam. Jam splattered on your skin can burn badly and the jars get too hot to handle very quickly.

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