Sweet and Sour Stuffed Onions

Before I moved to Israel, the extent of my experience with stuffed vegetables was peppers and cabbage, and it was limited even at that. Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine has opened me up to a whole world of vegetables that can be stuffed with a variety of meat or vegetarian fillings and simmered in any number of sauces. Stuffed peppers and cabbages appear, but not nearly as often as stuffed zucchini, eggplant, artichokes, and even carrots. And onions – what a revelation stuffed onions are! They’re not stuffed whole. Instead, the entire, skinned onion is simmered until tender, and the individual layers are separated and wrapped around a savory filling.

Sweet and Sour Stuffed Onions

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I came up with this recipe for the Jew and the Carrot to serve over Sukkot (read the original article here), but truly it’s good any time of year and for any occasion. Sweet, sour and savory flours often come together in stuffed vegetables, and so I turned to my mother-in-law’s sauce for sweet and sour meatballs as a base, to which I added tangy pomegranate molasses. A common ingredient in Syrian, Lebanese, and Persian cooking (often used with stuffed onions), I also added the thick pomegranate syrup to the filling, along with ground beef, spices, raisins and rice.

Sweet and Sour Stuffed Onions

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is one of my favorite recipes that I’ve ever made, let alone come up with. The flavors are pure magic. It’s bright and comforting, and makes good use of a humble staple like the onion.

5.0 from 5 reviews
Sweet and Sour Stuffed Onions
Prep Time
Cook Time
Total Time
Stuffing these onions takes a little time, but it is well worth the effort.
Recipe Type: Entree
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
  • 3 large white or Spanish onions
  • 1 (14-ounce) jar plain tomato sauce
  • 1 (14-ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce
  • ¼ cup pomegranate molasses*
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup long grain rice
  • ¼ cup golden raisins (soaked in hot water for 5 minutes if very dry)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped parsley or cilantro, for garnish
  1. Cut a deep slit down the side of each onion from top to root end and peel off the outer skin. Put into a large pot of water and simmer for 20 minutes, until softened. Remove and pat dry.
  2. Once cool enough to handle, carefully separate the onion layers and leave to dry. Roughly chop the middle section that can’t be stuffed and reserve.
  3. Put the tomato sauce, cranberry sauce, 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, and all but ¼ cup reserved chopped onion in a deep saucepan with a lid and heat until fully combined and just simmering.
  4. Thoroughly mix together the ground beef, breadcrumbs, rice, cinnamon, cumin, remaining 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses and reserved ¼ cup chopped onion. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Take one onion layer and put a small amount of meat filling in the center. Roll tightly and place in the sauce, seam-side down. Repeat with remaining onion and filling. (If you have any meat leftover, form into meatballs and place in the sauce as well.)
  6. Cover the pot and simmer for 90 minutes, shaking occasionally (do not uncover).
  7. Remove from the heat and serve (or allow to cool, refrigerate, and heat up before serving – the flavors only get better). Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro.
*Pomegranate molasses, also called pomegranate syrup or concentrate, is available in many supermarkets and most Middle Eastern stores. Alternately, you can make your own by boiling down pomegranate juice until thick and syrupy. Tamarind concentrate would make a good alternative as well.

Kosher meat

Can be made gluten free with gf breadcrumbs or alternative

34 thoughts on “Sweet and Sour Stuffed Onions

  1. Liz

    Oh, I adore onions…what a marvelous recipe! I’m linking a mushroom-shallot quiche. Please feel free to delete if the shallots don’t fit the onion category! Happy weekend, my friend!

  2. Jessica | Oh Cake

    Stuffed onions are a revelation to me as well! I really never would have thought of this! What can one sub for pomegranite molasses? I see there is an asterisk next to it but I didn’t see a note (or didn’t read carefully enough to find it!). I love the cranberry-tomato idea for sweet & sour and hello! I have 2 bags of cranberries in my freezer. 😀

    • Katherine

      Thanks Jessica!! And thanks for asking about pomegranate molasses alternatives – I totally forgot to add in the little note about it. You can easily make your own by boiling down pomegranate juice until it’s thick and syrupy – seriously that’s all there is too it! Tamarind concentrate would be a good alternative as well. I think even lemon juice would work – just something to provide that slightly sour counterpoint. Finally, you could just omit it and it would still be great.

  3. PolaM

    I knew you could stuff onion that way, but I never really tried. Seeing these makes me think that it would be a great dish my BF could really love!

  4. Judee @ Gluten Free A-Z

    Stuffed onions ( stuffed “basal” as we call it) is one of our favorite holiday recipes. We stuff them with meat and rice or a vegetarian stuffing… but we have never made a sweet version. Your recipe looks good and your onions look perfect!

  5. Kimberly

    Oh my goodness … I love onions in pretty much anything, but rarely are they the star of the show in my house … but this recipe will change all that!

    These look and sound absolutely divine, Katherine … great recipe!

  6. mjskit

    After looking at the pictures (which are delicious!), I did not expect to see even half of the ingredients that you have listed! What a unique combination! What a great use of jellied cranberry sauce! Being an onion lovers, I definitely will have to try this and what a great idea for a hop! Thanks for hosting!

  7. multikulinaria

    That sounds delicious. If only I wouldn’t dis-like raisins. Is there anything you would suggest as replacement?
    Actually I’ve never had filled onions before but just recently discovered 2 promising recipes for it in cookbooks covering french country style cousine. Yum!

    • Katherine

      Thanks! You could totally omit the raisins and the dish would still be quite spectacular. Alternately, currants, cranberries, or even finely chopped prunes might prove to be nice substitutes. I love the sound of French country style stuffed onions!

  8. Eha

    Oh me, oh my! Have not stuffed onions for ages, but this I just have to taste!! OK, a fair amount of love poured into cooking: stupid Q . . . this would not freeze, would it?

    • Katherine

      Thank you! Not a stupid question at all, Eha – I was just pondering the same thing. I haven’t tried freezing it, but I suspect that it would freeze quite nicely. I’ll have to save some next time and try.

  9. kitchenriffs

    This is such a cool recipe! I don’t believe I’ve ever had stuffed onions (I certainly haven’t made them), and you’ve got a really good sweet and sour thing going. How many recipes require canned jellied cranberry sauce and pomegranate molasses? Not many, I’ll wager – in fact this may be the only one! I actually have some pomegranate molasses in the refrigerator that needs to be used, so this really sound great. Excellent recipe – thanks.

  10. Donna

    I made these yesterday as a side dish for our Thanksgiving meal. They were amazing. I love cabbage rolls and make them often, and as Polish girl, I have to say, I think I love these even more. I love the sauce, but the stuffing in those sweet delicious onions is just amazing. This will be a recipe that will get used very often in our house and I just wanted to thank you so much for sharing it!

    • Katherine

      Donna I’m so excited that you made these stuffed onions and even more excited that you loved them as much as I did. Thanks for reporting back! I love the idea of serving them at Thanksgiving – might have to do that next year 🙂

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