One-Pan Boiled Brats with Sweet Onions & Hard Apple Cider | The Rising Spoon

Saturday, August 4, 2018

One-Pan Boiled Brats with Sweet Onions & Hard Apple Cider

An easy recipe for savory, juicy bratwurst browned & boiled all in one pan on the stovetop with sweet onions and hard apple cider. This is a tried-and-true technique for cooking brats all-year long without a grill. {gluten-free & grain-free} 

One-Pan Boiled Brats with Sweet Onions & Hard Apple Cider (Gluten-Free)

Today I'm sharing one of my favorite comfort food meals from my early college days: boiled bratwurst. If you're from the Midwest (proud Kansan here) you know what I'm talking about. Even if you've never eaten them, you've probably hung out with folks while they're grilling brats. It's a beloved warm-weather pastime. For everybody else, the idea of boiling fresh sausage might sound odd, but it is THE BEST way to cook brats. Pinky promise.

Whether you boil the brats on the stove then finish them on the grill, start them on the grill & finish them on the stove, boil them then sear the outside in a separate pan, OR (like I did here) brown them first then boil 'em all in the same skillet...all these techniques have one thing in common--boiling!

Why Boil Brats Instead of Only Pan-Frying or Grilling Them?  

Boiling ensures bratwurst (and other fresh sausages in casings) stays moist and flavorful on the inside. The average brat is a 1/4-1/3 pound each, so it typically takes 20+ minutes to reach the ideal temperature with no pink left on the inside. Cooking them start to finish without liquid increases the likelihood that you'll burn the outside of the brat by the time the inside cooks properly. I've made that mistake before and won't do it again.

Ingredients For One-Pan Boiled Brats with Sweet Onions & Hard Apple Cider

What's The Best Liquid For Boiling Bratwurst? 

The most popular & well-known is definitely beer. Especially if a grill is involved.

(Sidenote: I love my new charcoal grill with a built-in thermometer. It makes fabulous smoked ribs when I have 5-6 hours to spare, which is a nice change from my usual crock-pot bbq ribs.)

For folks who are avoiding gluten or aren't big fans of beer, hard apple cider (today's ingredient of choice) is an excellent & tasty option.

If alcohol is a no-go, plain water (I typically season mine with onion, garlic & hot sauce) or chicken, beef, or veggie broth works great, as well. I bet you could even try fresh apple cider (non-alcoholic) from a local cider mill.

If you try that, please let me know how it turns out. And save any leftover fresh apple cider to make my apple cider sangria (I even include a mocktail version in the post). 

One-Pan Boiled Brats
Boiling Brats On The Stovetop with Onions & Hard Apple Cider
Reducing Hard Apple Cider in Sweet Onions For Stovetop Boiled Brats

What Type of Hard Apple Cider Should I Use For Brats? 

Whichever one tastes the best to you. Why buy something you wouldn't drink? Same goes for beer. There aren't a ton of options for hard cider, but amongst what's available, you're really choosing sweetness level & intensity of the apple flavor. 

They range from very sweet (Angry Orchard) to super dry (Argus Cidery's Ciderkin - pictured). I've also seen big wine bottle-sized hard apple ciders (I think they're French?) at Trader Joe's if your local store sells alcohol. 

For drinking, I typically go for hard ciders that are medium-dry, naturally fermented, and don't have any added sugar. Two of my favorites are Crispin and Austin Eastciders Original Dry Cider. If this is your first go with hard cider, I'd say go for Crispin if you can find it. 

The one I used today from Argus Cidery was very drinkable to me but the dryness meant there wasn't a ton of apple flavor in the onions. Next time I want to try their Apple Bomb, which is supposed to have way more apple flavor + a bit more sweetness.

Sauteed Sweet Onions & Hard Apple Cider For Boiled Brats

How Long Should I Cook The Onions? 

How much time do you have? Do you like your onions sweeter & more caramelized? This time around, I cooked the onions until almost all of the hard cider had evaporated, then stopped. I was feeling a bit impatient & figured y'all might appreciate a shorter cook time on a busy weeknight. 

At this level they're mildly sweet with flavors from the cider; however, if you have an extra 15 minutes or so, keep cooking them until all the liquid is gone (watch to make sure they don't burn at the med-high heat) and they start to turn darker brown with a concentrated sweetness.  

Acceptable Toppings For Boiled Brats

Mustard, sauerkraut, onions, and more mustard. I especially like spicy brown or Dusseldorf

Perhaps pickle relish and cheese, too.

I will even accept barbecue sauce for the mustard haters out there but if you put ketchup on your brats and you're over the age of 12...we can't be friends. You might as well give up and eat a hot dog. Clearly, I have strong feelings about this. ;)

What To Serve With Brats

This will depend on the time of year you're fixing the brats, but here are a few ideas to get you started! (Psssst...don't forget the sauerkraut or even kimchi for something fermented, crunchy & tangy to go with the brats.)

One-Pan Boiled Brats with Sweet Onions & Hard Apple Cider (Gluten-Free)

Looking for more recipe ideas? Check out my pork recipes index and main dishes recipes index

(Note: I first published this recipe on The Rising Spoon back in October 2012 and am resharing it today in a new post with updated pics. See photographic evidence here on my blog's main Pinterest board. My photo skills have definitely improved since then.) 

boiled brats
German & American
Yield: 4-8 servings
One-Pan Boiled Brats with Sweet Onions & Hard Apple Cider (Gluten-Free)

One-Pan Boiled Brats with Sweet Onions & Hard Apple Cider

prep time: 5 minscook time: 40 minstotal time: 45 mins
An easy recipe for savory, juicy bratwurst browned & boiled all in one pan on the stovetop with sweet onions and hard apple cider. This is a tried-and-true technique for cooking brats all-year long without a grill. {gluten-free & grain-free}


  • 2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil (like butter, ghee, avocado oil or olive oil) 
  • 2 medium sweet onions, peeled & thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper
  • 8 pork bratwursts (fresh, not pre-cooked)
  • 1 (12 oz) can or bottle of hard apple cider (sub chicken broth, fresh apple cider or water for a non-alcoholic version)
For Serving (optional):
  • cooked sweet onions
  • Mustard (spicy brown, stone ground, or yellow)
  • Sauerkraut
  • buns (hot dog or hoagie - look in the freezer section for gluten-free options) 


  1. Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large (12-inch) skillet.  Stir in the sliced onions, sea salt, and pepper.  Cook the onions for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Use a wooden spoon to remove the onions from the skillet & set aside in a bowl. 
  2. Increase the heat to medium-high, add another tablespoon of butter, followed by the brats.  Cook the brats 1-2 minutes per side (or until they've formed a nice brown sear - this should happen quickly). 
  3. Add the onions back to the skillet, spreading them in between all the brats, and slowly pour in the hard apple cider.  Bring the cider to a simmer, cover with a lid, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the brats are no longer pink (you can check their internal temp to be sure - 160 degrees or more). 
  4. Remove the cooked brats from the skillet and set aside to rest. Keep the skillet uncovered, crank the heat to medium-high, and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until most or all of the liquid has reduced (about 10 minutes).  If you have an extra 10-15 minutes, continue to cook the onions until they are dark & caramelized. 
  5. Place the brats back into the skillet (with the heat off) to keep warm until you're ready for the meal.  Serve the brats in a bun OR bunless with the warm onions and your favorite condiments & toppings (I recommend lots of mustard & sauerkraut). 


If your pan doesn't come with a lid (my big cast-iron skillet doesn't), cover it with a metal sheet or cookie tray instead. Or use a 12-inch Dutch oven lid. Pretty great kitchen hack, eh? 

For meal prep, boil the brats a few days before, gently reheat on the stove or in the oven (covered at 350-375 degrees), then brown the outside before serving for quick weeknight meals.
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Click Here To Pin This To Your Pork or One-Pan Recipes Board On Pinterest!

An easy recipe for savory, juicy bratwurst browned & boiled all in one pan on the stovetop with sweet onions and hard apple cider. This is a tried-and-true technique for cooking brats all-year long without a grill. {gluten-free & grain-free}

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