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Spicy Tennessee Onions

Featuring the cheesy and spicy Tennessee Onions, the ultimate side dish for your barbecue.

Add a Southern flair to your upcoming barbecue with this easy recipe for Spicy Tennessee Onions, oozing with molten cheese and smoky flavor. These are perfect as a side dish or a zesty condiment. Pile them high on a smoked burger, serve them next to a juicy reverse-seared tri-tip, or dive in and eat them with a fork. Just be warned, these are deliciously addictive.

It’s a proven fact all good things come in a casserole dish. It’s almost a universal sign of comfort, nostalgia, and downright deliciousness.

This Tennessee onion casserole takes the humble onion that usually plays back up in savory dishes and turns it into a star. Drenched in a cascade of two types of cheese and sweet butter, this easy BBQ side dish will instantly satisfy all of your cravings.

Try topping a burger with the cheesy 
Vidalia onion casserole, it will change your life.

Why This Recipe Works

Related: Try pairing this with Smoked Brisket, Smoked Rack of Pork, Reverse-Seared Tri-Tip, or even Smoked Prime Rib.

Featuring the cheesy and spicy Tennessee Onions, the ultimate side dish for your barbecue.

Classic Tennessee Onions Recipe

Don’t be misled by the name. This nostalgic southern recipe with the Volunteer State name firmly celebrates the pride of Georgia, the Vidalia onion. Vidalia onion casserole traditionally has layers of sliced sweet Vidalia onions, simple seasonings like salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and one or two cheeses like cheddar or mozzarella. This dish fits into a church potluck just as much as a backyard barbecue.

This version of spicy Tennessee onions embraces the traditional flavors while amping them up with both bold spices and the kick from the pepper Jack. Sedona Sand All-Purpose Seasoning gives them the warmth of guajillo chiles and cinnamon.

Alongside spicing up this cheesy onion casserole, we’re diversifying the onion selection. Sweet onions contribute a gentle flavor, while red onions bring a sharp bite and vibrant color. Shallots introduce a layer of complexity, offering a unique sweetness to enhance the dish’s depth of flavor.

Ingredients for Spicy Tennessee Onions

I bet this is one of the simplest side dishes you’ll add to your menu, especially as there are so few ingredients.

  • 3 large sweet onions
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 large shallot
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Sedona Sand All-Purpose Seasoning

It’s unlikely you’ll need additional salt as the seasoning and cheeses are both salty, contributing quite a bit of flavor. Feel free to add diced jalapenos for an extra kick.

How to Cook Tennessee Onions

This simple recipe can be prepared quickly, using your pizza oven, grill, or home oven.

  1. Preheat your pizza oven to 350°F. Set aside a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish.
  2. Slice the onions into ¼” rings. Make sure that you separate them into individual slices. Spread them out across the baking dish.
  3. Assemble the casserole. Scatter the tabs of butter over the onions. Sprinkle the seasoning evenly over the top. Let it rain cheese, making sure the onions are covered. If you need to grate a little additional cheese, go ahead.
Add the butter to the separated onions in the baking dish.
  1. Bake the onion dish. Place the cheesy onion casserole into the pizza oven and allow it to bake for about 30 minutes. Check to see if the cheese is fully melted and if the onions have softened and slightly slumped to your liking. You can always put it back in for a few extra minutes if you want additional char. 
  2. If you love crispy cheese, use the broiler. If crispy cheese is more your thing, place the casserole briefly under the broiler. Just keep an eye out, making sure it doesn’t burn. This is especially good if you don’t have a pizza oven and want to use a pellet grill to smoke these Tennessee onions.
  3. Cover with foil to keep warm. If you aren’t serving these immediately cover them with foil. They can be reheated in a 300°F oven until the cheese is remelted.
This Tennessee onion casserole is super cheesy and spicy from the pepper jack and seasonings.

Variations for this Recipe

  • Have fun playing around with different cheese combinations. Smoked gouda, smoked cheddar, or smoked mozzarella all add that additional layer of flavor that we crave in barbecue. Parmesan can add a nutty, salty note.
  • Spice things up. Like a little heat? Toss in slices of jalapenos.
  • Use your favorite combination of onions. Use more red onions or a different type of seasonal sweet onion. Walla Walla onions and Maui onions are just some of the more popular varieties of sweet onions.
  • Mix up the spices used. Want more sweet? Dust this with our Signature sweet and smoky rub to accent the flavors of the onions.
  • Kick it up with garlic. Sprinkle in a little chopped garlic into the cheese for an extra punch of savoriness.
  • Garnish with herbs. Cheese is practically a vegetable in the South, so cheesy onions are the ultimate vegetable-based side dish. But to bring a little green and freshness to this rich dish, sprinkle fresh chives or parsley over the top before serving.
This spicy Viadlia onion casserole is the best BBQ side dish.

Important Tips

  • No pizza oven? Don’t worry. If you don’t have a pizza oven, you can make this Tennessee onions recipe in the oven. The time and temperature will be the same. Bake it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • These cheesy Vidalia onions still have a little integrity to them. If you prefer a softer onion cover the casserole dish with foil for the first 20 minutes of baking and then uncover it so the cheese can properly melt and brown.
  • Make sure that you separate the individual onion rings. This will allow them to cook evenly. 
  • There is plenty of seasoning between the spice blend and the natural saltiness of all the cheese. Make sure that you are using unsalted butter, allowing you to maintain control of the final dish. 
  • Don’t be afraid to mix up the combination of cheeses, but make sure one of them is a good melting cheese like pepper jack.
Bake the smoked Tennessee Onions in the pizza oven so the top gets nice and browned.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I serve Tennessee onions with?

Tennessee onions are as much a topping as they are a side dish. Serve these alongside a coffee-crusted ribeye, smoked chicken halves, or butterflied chicken drumsticks. Use them to top a simple pulled pork sandwich or grilled tri-tip sandwich. The possibilities are endless!

What type of onions are Vidalia onions?

Vidalia onions are a type of sweet onion grown specifically in Georgia. The low sulfur in the soil contributes to its naturally sweet, less pungent flavor. They were historically grown in Vidalia, GA but now are grown in multiple surrounding counties. The Vidalia is the official vegetable of Georgia.

Do I have to use a pizza oven to make baked Tennessee onions?

No. This same recipe can be made in the oven or on a grill or pellet grill. They will bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. If you’re making these on the pellet grill you may want to place them briefly under the broiler to further brown the cheese on top.

How do I store smoked Tennessee onions?

Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap or foil and keep it refrigerated for up to three days.

How do I reheat cheesy Tennessee onions?

Reheat the casserole in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheese has remelted.

When are Vidalia onions in season?

Vidalia onions are typically in season late April through August/September.

SMoked Tennessee Onions RECIPE

Fire up your pizza oven or smoker and get ready for the simplest, most delicious BBQ side dish. At Chiles and Smoke, we’re here to bring people together with bold flavors, using spice and flames to ignite the food and friendships.

If you try this recipe, please consider leaving an honest review below. You can also find more content by following Chiles and Smoke on InstagramYouTube, and Facebook.

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Featuring the cheesy and spicy Tennessee Onions, the ultimate side dish for your barbecue.

Spicy Tennessee Onions

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Add a Southern flair to your upcoming barbecue with this easy recipe for Spicy Tennessee Onions, oozing with molten cheese and smoky flavor. These are perfect as a side dish or a zesty condiment.

  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: About 6

Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 sweet Vidalia onions
  • 1 large shallot
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2 tablespoons Sedona Sand All-Purpose Rub
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced thin (8 pats)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups shredded pepper jack

Instructions

  1. Preheat your pizza oven to 350°F.

  2. Slice onions to about ¼-inch thick rings, separating all of the layers. Lay them into a large casserole dish about 9 x 13”.

  3. Prepare the casserole. Add the slices of butter evenly over the top. Sprinkle the seasoning evenly over the onions and butter. Add the shredded cheese on the top, completely covering the onions. Use additional cheese if needed.

  4. Bake the onion dish. Place the casserole dish into the oven and cook for about 30 minutes.

  5. Check the doneness, cooking for a few more minutes if the cheese needs to melt more, or if you prefer additional char on the top.

  6. (optional) Use the oven broiler for a crispy crust. This is especially helpful if you are not using a pizza oven, and are using a pellet grill instead.

  7. Cover with foil to keep warm until serving. The onion casserole can easily be reheated in the oven at 300°F for a few minutes.

YouTube video

Notes

  • Make sure you separate the onion rings before adding them to the casserole dish.
  • Use more cheese if needed, 2 cups is a recommended minimum guide.
  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Smoking
  • Cuisine: Side Dish
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