How to Make Caramelized Onions
Sweet, savory and jammy, the best Caramelized Onions are simple to make and a terrific addition to many of your favorite dishes. Amp up a grilled cheese sandwich or top a burger, make a big batch to keep on hand to jazz up just about any dish.
I feel like this Caramelized Onion recipe is kind of a cop-out….like telling you how to make a sandwich. But really, there is a technique to making the best Caramelized Onions and when done correctly you are rewarded with something short of miraculous.
I love to slow cook things…like braised beef or slowly stewed chicken. There’s something therapeutic about coaxing out the flavor of a food slowly….lovingly…..methodically. Stirring at just the right time, cooking over just the right temperature and using just the right ingredients.
Caramelized Onions are definitely a reward in patience and you can then use them to amp up the flavor of so many more things without too much work.
Ingredients You Will Need
When you learn to make the best Caramelized Onions with just a few humble ingredients, you will be amazed at how flavorful your onions will actually become. Sweet, jammy and buttery. The key is not really in the ingredients but in the time it takes to cook them.
To fast and you have fried onions…with a slight bitter char from the pan. I like to start with a combination of really fantastic olive oil and a bit of butter. The butter adds a rich flavor which is tempting to use just on it’s own…but the oil is necessary to keep the butter from burning or browning too quickly. Plus, I love the earthy, mellow flavor it adds to the recipe.
Adding wine adds a rich, tangy flavor that we just love. You can skip the wine if you prefer not to cook with alchohol.
How to Make Them
I like to caramelize about 3-4 onions at a time….it sounds like a ton but it will cook down to about a cup of caramelized onions when you’re done.
Heat the oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat.
Add the onions to the pan and toss to coat with the butter/oil
Cook the onions over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until they begin to soften.
Continue cooking, and stirring every 5-10 minutes or so, until the onions begin to brown scraping up any brown bits that begin to form on the bottom of the pan.
How Long Does It Take To Caramelize Onions
The whole process of caramelizing onions takes approximately 1 hour. This does depend on how many onions are in the pot. More onions will take a bit longer just because you need the onions to be in contact with the bottom of the pot so they become golden brown.
To make a quick caramelized onion, less onions (like one or two), will work best and take much less time but be careful of temptation to crank up the heat. You’ll just end up with fried onions at that point.
The Best Onions for Caramelized Onions
We love to make this recipe with a sweeter onion like Vidalia or Walla Walla but it’s fun to experiment with other varieties, as well.
Caramelized Red Onions have a deeper hue and make a great topping for burgers or grilled cheese.
What Pan To Use
Your best best for maximum caramelization is with a cast iron or stainless steel pan. Both pans (or pots) allow the sugars from the oven to caramelize on the bottom of the pan which turns into a sticky glaze when liquid is added to the pan. These glorious brown bits are called fond and add a ton of flavor to your onions.
Add water, stock or wine when your onions start to release less of their own liquid and scrape those bits up with a wooden spoon or spatula.
How To Use Them
Before you know it….voila, the BEST Caramelized Onions ever. Perfect for topping your favorite French Dip Burger or just a cracker for an easy appetizer. They’re also the base for my favorite French Onion soup!!! So, see…maybe this wasn’t a cop out post…maybe this was the beginning of a beautiful life together. You and the onions, of course. 🙂
Get the Recipe: How to Make the Best Caramelized Onions
- 3-4 yellow onions, Vidalia work best, sliced 1/8 inch thick
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons red or white wine
- kosher salt
- Heat the oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add the onions and stir to coat.
- Cook the onions, stirring every 5-10 minutes until softened and deeply caramelized, approximately 1 hour cooking time total.
- Stir in the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to release the brown bits. Cook for an additional 10 minutes.
- Season with salt, to taste.
Alternatively, the onions can also be frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.