Elevate your condiment game with this caramelized onion and roasted garlic smoked bacon jam. It’s perfect on smoked burgers, sandwiches, or charcuterie boards. And it’s easy to make in bulk and store for later so you’ll be ready to jam at a moment’s notice.
What is Bacon Jam?
Bacon jam is a sweet, savory, umami condiment that’s a lot like relish. It comes in many varieties but at its core, we’re typically looking at cooked bacon and caramelized onions as a base with some form of vinegar and other flavors blended together in a food processor. This version combines smoked bacon, partially smoked caramelized onions, and roasted garlic with balsamic vinegar and maple syrup.
A common thread between some of my favorite burgers is some type of jam. The Peached Tortilla from our favorite Austin restaurants list, for example, has a JapaJam Burger that comes with a delicious tomato jam. Or another local favorite, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, offers a bacon jam double. So when I recently made our Traeger smoked burgers recipe, I knew I wanted a bacon jam to go with it.
How to Make Smoked Bacon Jam
It’s really simple! Let’s start with the roasted garlic and caramelized onions. The bacon is as simple as throwing it on the grill.
Traeger Roasted Garlic
If you’ve made our Traeger twice baked potatoes, you know roasting garlic is one of the easiest things you can do for seriously enhancing the flavor of just about anything. To make it, simply cut off the top of an entire bulb of garlic, drizzle oil over the top, sprinkle with salt and pepper, wrap in foil, and roast.
You can do it in an oven, on the smoker like this recipe calls for, or even in an air fryer. The time and temperature isn’t all that important, you just want it go for quite a while. When it’s fully roasted, the cloves should turn a golden brown and have an almost jam-like consistency.
Caramelized Onions on a Smoker
Making caramelized onions takes a bit more finesse. Low and slow is the key to great caramelized onions, but I wanted this to be a faster cooking recipe. So I used a guide for fast caramelized onions from America’s Test Kitchen to speed things up by starting the onions on the stovetop with water and finishing with baking soda.
According to the author, baking soda increases the sweetness by breaking down the onions’ flavorless inulin into sweet fructose. And the water obviously speeds up the softening process compared to heat from the pan on its own. In my tests of caramelizing onions on the smoker with and without starting on the stovetop, I figured using these methods saves anywhere from 45-60 minutes.
You’ll probably need to pull the bacon off the smoker ahead of the caramelized onions. You’re looking for a golden brown color and soft but not mushy onions. The beauty of making smoked caramelized onions on the Traeger is that the lower temperature limits the risk of burning the onions. You’ll have perfectly caramelized onions, you just have to be a little patient.
Blending Everything Together
First of all, be sure to get all the good bits out of the skillet. You can use the balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan, if necessary.
As far as the add-ins go, you can get creative here. You could add a pinch of rep pepper flakes like you see below or even some chili sauce like sriracha or a hot sauce. I’ve seen people incorporate things like brewed coffee, bourbon, and apple cider vinegar instead of balsamic.
Side note: If you go the whiskey route with this method, you’ll probably want to cook off the alcohol first.
The final texture of your smoked bacon jam is totally up to you. I like mine to be a little chunky where you still have noticeable pieces of roasted garlic and bacon, but there’s no harm in going to a paste consistency.
If your bacon jam looks a little slack after blending, just pop it in the fridge. It will thicken as it rests.
Don’t forget to salt to taste at the very end. Every bacon is different so some batches of bacon jam may need more salt than others. It’s an important addition to balance out the sweetness.
How to Use Bacon Jam
I’ve already mentioned burgers being the obvious pairing, but you can serve bacon jam with tons of things.
- You could add it to a sandwich like our leftover pulled pork grilled cheese or make a spin on the Elvis sandwich with peanut butter, banana, and bacon jam like the Butcher Box team recommends.
- Add it to some air fryer brussels sprouts, smoked cauliflower, or roasted veggies.
- Serve it with crackers, breads, or other charcuterie board fare. Goat cheese would be an amazing combo.
- Make bacon jam salad dressing.
- Get creative and make something like bacon jam carbonara.
I can’t wait to see what you end up doing with your smoked bacon jam. Let me know in the comments or a recipe review if you love the jam. And if you have a recipe question, you can drop it in the comments as well. I’m happy to help!
- 8 slices Bacon
- 1/4 cup (60g) Maple Syrup
- 1 Tablespoon (15g) Balsamic Vinegar
For the Roasted Garlic
- 2 small bulbs Garlic
- 1-2 teaspoons (5-10g) Olive Oil
- Pinch of Salt and Pepper
For the Caramelized Onions
- 2 large (20 oz total) Yellow Onions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup Water
- 2 Tablespoons (32g) Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1/8 teaspoon Baking Soda*
- Preheat your smoker to 275ºF with the lid closed. (I used Traeger Signature pellets.)
- Cut the tops off the garlic bulbs, exposing the tops of the cloves. Drizzle olive oil over the tops and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap in foil and place directly on the grill grates.
- Place the onions, water, olive oil, and salt in a large cast iron skillet over high heat. Cook, stirring often, until the water has evaporated and the onions have started to soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the smoker.
- Add the bacon to the grill grates. Cook the bacon for 60-75 minutes or until it's as crispy as you'd like.
- After 30 minutes in the smoker, add the baking soda to the onions and stir the onions to incorporate. Continue stirring the onions every 30 minutes or so, making sure to press them into the bottom and corners of the pan for optimal caramelization.
- Once the bacon is ready and the onions have caramelized, transfer everything to a food processor. Add the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. Pulse until the bacon jam reaches your desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.
*Baking soda helps with caramelization and added sweetness.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 28 Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon (20g)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 40Total Fat: 2gCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 1g