How to Caramelize Onions

January 3rd, 2008

Caramelized Onions Recipe

Caramelized onions are one of my favorite things to eat and a weakness of mine. Dark, sweet, and browned, that’s exactly how I like my… Well ever mind, we won't go there.

Contrary to belief, caramelized onions is pretty easy to make, you just need time and a little bit of patience. If you are not used to chopping mass quantity of onions, from start to finish will take about an hour or so. But your time will be greatly awarded with finished product that will help you jazz up any where from your omelet in the morning, sandwiches for lunch, mashed potatoes for diner, heck pizza topping for home made pizza, and tasty onion dip for a little beer snack. Heck, you can even make French onion soup with it if you like.

Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Roasted Red Peppers - Photo by by <p>by <a href=Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Roasted Red Peppers - Photo by Ben Golub

As a matter of fact, my favorite camping food is caramelized onions, warm deli ham, and good blue cheese melted on a bagel toasted over a camp fire. Yes, I make a batch of caramelized onions the night before I leave to the wilderness if you can believe that. I am a dork but my friends usually love me for it.

Caramelized Onion Recipe

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 pounds of onions(4~5 medium sized onions), halved and sliced thin
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
Black Pepper

How to Caramelize Onions

1. Add butter and oil to a cold non-stick skillet; melt the butter over high heat.

2. Once the butter melts, stir in the onions, brown sugar, and ½ teaspoon of salt.

3. Let it cook, stir on occasion until the onion softens down and is slightly wilted. This should take about 5~10 minutes.

4. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stir often until the onions turn to deep brown color. It usually takes me about 40~50 minutes to cook down and caramelize the onion but be patient.

TIP: Don't start staring at the clock and wait for it to tick away, rather pay close attention to the pan. If you want caramelized onion and not burnt food, keep stirring often and check to make sure it is that the onion is not getting burned. I can't stress this enough, once the onions start to brown, it can burn quick and I mean it. Consider your self warned.

5. Once you achieve the color and caramelization that you are looking for take off the heat. I like mine mahogany colored. Add a dash of water, season it with salt and pepper.

You can just about add this labor of love to anything you can imagine, add it to your sandwich, top off your hamburger, smear it on some crackers with cheese to go with a nice glass of wine. Oh the possibility is endless!  I also recommend making some French Onion Dip.

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32 Responses to “How to Caramelize Onions”

  1. JemmaNo Gravatar Says:

    I love caramelized onions but I tend to burn them. If you don’t want the hassle of stirring constantly and require as little attention as possible like me you should caramelize the onions in the oven.

    Here is what you do – throw the entire list of ingredients in a Dutch oven that’s well greased with a nonstick cooking spray. Covered it with a lid and cook in the oven at 400 degrees and wait for about an hour or so until the onions are moist and reduced a bit in volume. Remove the pot from the oven scrape all sides and make sure you get all bits and pieces, stir like crazy, throw the lid back on and put it back in the oven. Rinse and repeat the process for couple hours until the onions are caramelized to golden brown and delicious. Forget constant stirring on the stovetop!

    Either way caramelized onions are good and if every one took the time to caramelize onions for their loved ones the world will be a better place.

  2. JonathanNo Gravatar Says:

    The way heat changes sugar really is a minor miracle.

    Add heat and you caramelized onions and dulce de leche from onions and condensed milk, so cool!

  3. Miguel SalcidoNo Gravatar Says:

    What a great post,carmelizing is such a simple technique amongst cooks. But not alot of people know how to do it right. Thanks for the tips!

  4. Pam HoffmanNo Gravatar Says:

    I’m not a big fan of onions but I love onion rings – go figure.

    Not sure I’d like this recipe though, I’m willing to try (and i’m very good at stirring constantly or flipping constantly, etc.)

    I wanted to mention though that I read the package of onions once and they had some interesting pointers.

    One of which was never cook onions on high heat! They claim that it will make them taste bitter. Don’t have any personal experience, I just cook them on medium-high now.

    Also, they say not to cut off the end with the roots as that is where the oils are concentrated that make you tear up.

    I’ve personally come up with a little trick with onions too.

    Although I don’t like onions directly, I like the flavor in a lot of my cooking and food. We used to get a whole bag, dice them up and freeze them because we just don’t go thru them very fast.

    That was a lot of work and SLOW!

    So, I fixed it. Now, I get out the slicer (mandolin, whatever you call it) and only cut off one end of the onions (which goes into a bag for the stock pot!) then I slice them up until I get to the root (which also goes into the stockpot bag).

    I almost never cry anymore – I don’t mess with the root area until the end.

    Then, all that sliced onion goes into a freezer-type bag, and when I need onion, I pull out the bag and dice or chop or whatever (usually dice for me!).

    This is also great since they are frozen, they really don’t make you cry!

    This doesn’t work too well for onion rings though – I tried to defrost them and make onion rings and yuck.

    I haven’t tried to use them frozen though.

    The beauty of freezing the onions cut into rings is that they are in a form that is useful for a variety of things.

    And this is SO MUCH faster than dicing onions a bag at a time! It goes very quick with the mandolin tool! And very little mess or crying. :)

    Pam Hoffman

  5. Juicy Moist Hamburgers Says:

    […] Bleu Burger consisting of patties stuffed with French country ham, havarti & Swiss cheeses, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms and homemade dijonnaise served on a butter grilled baguette. Ed, the sushi chef […]

  6. MarshallNo Gravatar Says:

    I can personally attest to the beauty of this recipe. The aforementioned combo of carmelized onions, with warm deli ham and bleu cheese on a bagel, whilst camping is nothing short of breath-taking. Well-played.

  7. adminNo Gravatar Says:

    Thanks Marshall! It was pleasure meeting you this weekend. Feel free to share the recipe and the website with all of your friends. Perhaps you can do a guest post in the near future?

  8. French Onion Dip Recipe Says:

    […] formula 1 recipe of caramelized onions 1 1/2 cups sour cream 3/4 cup mayonnaise 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 1/4 teaspoon […]

  9. MarshallNo Gravatar Says:

    Right back at you! Would love to…these are big shoes to fill, though!

  10. adminNo Gravatar Says:

    @Marshall we need to have a dinner party soon. Been so busy since I last seen you. Hope you are doing well.

  11. Blue Cheese Dressings | Bleu Cheese Dressing | Blue Cheese Salad Dressing Recipe Says:

    […] it up on a rare ribeye, with wine, on a salad, wings or my favorite campfire breakfast; a ham and caramelized onion bagel sandwich. Who knew I would grow up to enjoy this stinky delight? In fact, the stinkier, the […]

  12. mattNo Gravatar Says:

    thanks for the caramelized onion recipe! just made these for some veggie burgers and they were super tasty. :)

  13. adminNo Gravatar Says:

    @matt – Give love to the onion and it will pay you back in 10 folds :)

  14. Heidi @ Carolina DreamzNo Gravatar Says:

    OH My goodness! I finally was able to try this. As I put this bite into my mouth, I’m here to thank you! Wonderful recipe!

  15. Fumi MatsubaraNo Gravatar Says:

    @Heidi Thank you for taking a moment to share us your feedback! It is much appreciated.

    I am going camping this weekend so most likely I will be making some my self tomorrow or on Thursday. Cant wait, I love this stuff with cheese and wine :) :) :)

  16. RebekahNo Gravatar Says:

    I don’t normally add sugar and i cook at a medium high heat for a while. But carmelized onoins make a graet pizza topping with ricotta cheese! yum!! last time i made a huge batch and froze them.

  17. Fumi MatsubaraNo Gravatar Says:


    Hi Rebekah! Welcome and thanks for stopping by for a comment. I haven’t froze them but now I know I can. Tanks for the great tip!

  18. Young ChefNo Gravatar Says:

    I’m thirteen years old, and I’ve been exploring recipes with my favorite food: Onions. I always tend to fry or burn onions when I try to caramelize them, which is why this recipe was perfect. I succeeded! Thank you. These onions are delicious alone as well as a topping.

  19. keitayaNo Gravatar Says:

    This is a wonderful way to dress up plain meals like sausages or add to a gravy for a bit of a wow factor at dinner.

  20. Gretchen WilliamsNo Gravatar Says:

    @Young Chef
    So glad to hear that you found the recipe useful. Even happier that you love onions at such a young age – that’s quite unusual :)

  21. Gretchen WilliamsNo Gravatar Says:

    @keitaya – Agreed. If you haven’t already checked it out, our friend Jami has handed down a great Caramelized Onion Balsamic Gravy Recipe.

    @Young Chef – You would probably like that recipe as well, considering you are a lover of onions. Give it a try and let us know what you think.

  22. Mary PrevostNo Gravatar Says:

    I always carmelize my onions in the oven pretty much like Jemma does. My family loves them in Mash potatoes. I also freeze mine with my seal a meal so I can use them anytime I want. I cannot take credit for the oven technique as I found it on line!!! Thanks for all the great ideas.

  23. Harry B. ChefNo Gravatar Says:

    Love all these ideas but here is what has worked for me best.

    Thinly sliced onions amounts vary by dish so i’m not including ounces or #’s of onions ect.

    Using a nonstick pan start with high heat till the pan starts to heat. add a nice drizzle of olive oil to slightly coat the pan and toss in your onions.

    once your onions start to turn clear add enough whole unsalted butter to coat the onions you have in the pan.

    Toss onions till coated then sprinkle the top with RAW Sugar… just enough to coat the top.

    Reduce heat to medium and toss onions till they are now coated with butter and sugar.

    at this point you need to keep a close eye on them as the brown and carmelise really quick!

    Turn off the heat when you achive the desired consistency. i like mine a bit more done than most folks. Salt and pepper to taste at the end.

  24. PriceNo Gravatar Says:

    Once you have made a large volume of carmelized onions(and the oven is the greatest) You’ll find they go well in a ton of recipes. Two of my favorites: Warm german potato salad. Being able just to add the carm onions to the bacon, warm potatoes, etc, makes this double quick. But my favorite, quesadillas with grilled chicken, greem chilles, carm onions and Mexican cheese. Awesome!

  25. MtnGal25411No Gravatar Says:

    Having a food orgasm just reading the recipe and the posts following it. Whew! This is some good cooking.
    Making Carmelized onion to go with the steak and fresh mushrooms I just got from the store.

  26. KarenNo Gravatar Says:

    Great recipe, I have a pan full of caramelizing onions as we speak!

  27. anthonyNo Gravatar Says:

    Just stopping by to reaffirm by onion-caramelization technique. To add my own two cents, the salt at the beginning helps to draw out the water from the onions, which speeds the evaporation of the onion’s water, necessary before the sugars can caramelize. i also add some fresh black-pepper at the beginning to let it bleed into the taste (as i appreciate it that way).

    Further, instead of water, i usually add a jigger of apple-cider vinegar after i kill the heat to scrape up some fonde and brighten the taste. A little more vinegar – as one wishes – can help to store the extra onions, which is never my problem. (Balsamic can also fill out the sweetness nicely.)


  28. giselediazNo Gravatar Says:

    45 minutes! When its ready it’s not a vegetable anymore ;)

  29. giselediazNo Gravatar Says:

    45 minutes! When its ready it’s not a vegetable anymore ;)
    But I understand lot of time and little heat is needed with so little amount of grease and sugar. This makes it a low calorie recipe.

    Thanks anthony for the salt at the beginning tip!

  30. JenNo Gravatar Says:

    I just made these and they are really good! I’m planning to have them with my steak and mushrooms.

    Thanks for this recipe!

  31. Courtney S.No Gravatar Says:

    I have made these delicious carmalized onions numerous times since I was introduced to them at the blogger’s wedding this summer. Amazing! Most recently I canned them with balsamic vinegar and cherry tomatoes in this recipe:

  32. adminNo Gravatar Says:

    Thanks for the Love Courtney! Hope you are enjoying our cookbook :) Hope to see you guys soon, want a full fish fry tour via your hubby!

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