How to Caramelize Onions (Easy and Life Changing)

By Jessica Hylton - - Updated

Learn how easy it is to Caramelize Onions! The rich and deep flavours are the perfect complement to many of your weeknight meals!

How to Caramelize Onions

Let me start by saying that if you’ve never tried caramelized onions, you need to make these and change your entire life. Caramelized onions are one of my favourite things to add to my meals. There is something about the rich, sweet flavour of caramelized onions on a savoury burger or a briny, cheesy sandwich that really makes my day. One of my fave meals (this is about to get hype) ever is a slow cast iron made grilled cheese with caramelized onions, my fave vegan cheese, seasoned sea salt and balsamic glaze drizzled all over it with a glass of red wine, watching Chef’s Table. Ya, I know, but friends, it’s life-changing. 

How to Caramelize Onions

Let’s make this clear: you can’t rush caramelized onions. Trust me, I’ve tried, and it never turns out the same. This will take you about 40-45 minutes. WAIT! It’s very inactive time. I made two other recipes while these were slowly caramelizing on my stovetop. You want to go low and slow with these so that the deep flavours truly developed. When finished, the brown translucent appearance of the onions is extremely beautiful & indicative of how flavour packed they are.

So simply put, to caramelize onions:

  • you slowly heat them in your pan.
  • You start with heating your oil, then add in your onions. You start to saute low and slow, for about 10 minutes.
  • Then, you just keep going for about 40 minutes.
  • If your onions begin to dry up, add some tablespoons of water at a time. Swirl to mix and continue to let the onions caramelize. You’ll start to notice the colour go from white to blond to golden to dark.
  • When it’s at that last 10 minutes, I love to splash in some red wine vinegar to add an incredible flavour. It’s totally optional, but up to you.

Caramelized Onions Ingredients

This is pretty easy – onions! Onions, especially yellow onions, have high sugar content, so all you really need apart from this is a pinch of salt, some oil to start the onions off, and one of my favourites, a splash of red wine vinegar.

Tips on how to make Caramelized Onions

While this is super easy, I still wanted to share some times to ensure you get this perfectly.

  • Use the best yellow onions you can find. These hold the most sugar and really gets a good deep flavour. 
  • When the onions begin to caramelise, they’ll start to leave a fond on the bottom of the pan. Scrape this fond constantly (a splash of water helps to release it) and swirl it back into the onions. This contains the greatest flavours from the recipe, and helps the onions to darken in colour!
  • Use a wide pot instead of a narrow one this allows the onions to spread out and cook evenly.
  • This may be the hardest tip, but go nice and slow. Don’t heat the pan too high in an effort to finish them quickly. A nice medium heat is perfect. If it helps, turn on a video on your phone to help pass the time.

How to Caramelize Onions

What to Serve Caramelized Onions With

My favourite go-to recipe would have to be a savoury burger. The sweetness is the perfect accompaniment to the pickles and salty burger. As I mentioned earlier another favourite is on a melted cheese sandwich. The briny cheese melds perfectly with the sweet onions it’s a must-try! Another favourite is using it in a caramelized onion dip! I love serving this for Superbowl or when friends come over.

 

Enjoy friends! If you make this post about how to caramelize onions, please snap a photo and tag #jessicainthekitchen on Instagram! We’d also love if you would leave a comment below, and give the recipe a rating! Thanks so much!

How to Caramelize Onions (Easy and Life Changing)

Learn how easy it is to Caramelize Onions! The rich and deep flavours are the perfect complement to many of your weeknight meals!
by: Jessica in the Kitchen
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Sides
Cuisine American, Italian, Universal
Keyword Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Nut Free, Soy Free, vegan, Vegetarian
Ingredients
  • 2-3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 lb onions about 5 large yellow onions, sliced
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • water see instructions
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or red wine optional
Instructions

Instructions

  • In a large pan over medium heat, heat the oil.
  • Add the onion slices and stir together to ensure the onions are fully coated. Add a pinch of salt and stir again.
  • Saute the onions for about 5-8 minutes until the onions begin to slowly become translucent. Reduce the heat to medium low.
  • Continue to stir onions every now and then. If/when the onions begin to get dry, add a splash of water (about 2 tablespoons of water a time) to deglaze the pan and ensure onions don't stick.
  • While stirring, ensure you're always scraping the fond off the bottom and swirling it back into the onions! This gives it beautiful flavour. Continue to scrape for about 30 more minutes until the onions are the colour and texture you desire.
  • In the last few minutes, add a splash of red wine vinegar for a flavour burst, swirling it into the onions. Remove from the stove and allow to cool.
  • Serve immediately or store in a tupperwater container in your fridge for up to a week. Enjoy!
NOTES
I personally love making these in a cast iron pan or pot, such as your regular cast iron pan or a Le Creuset! It’s way easier to get the fond off the bottom that way!

Nutrition

Calories: 46kcal
by Jessica

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Recipe Rating




10 comments

  1. Pat says:

    5 stars
    Finally, the TRUTH about caramelizing onions. So many recipes say 10 minutes. They lie!!! Thank you!

  2. Cap'n Dave says:

    5 stars
    YES!!! This is how I was initially taught; however, the restaurant where I worked needed them done in large batches and as quickly as possible. Melt the butter in the pan, add the sliced onions, sauté them with a regular stir on medium-high heat, de-glaze the pan with Chardonnay, let boil down, remove from heat, allow to cool, and package them up for the fridge until they were needed on the line.

    That’s not caramelized onions. That’s sautéed onions. Sigh…quantity over quality, I guess. Bleh.

    • Gavin | Jessica in the Kitchen says:

      Thank you Cap’n Dave! We’re so happy that you approve!

  3. Kay says:

    How long can they be in the fridge? Or can they be frozen? We only have them once a week.

    • Gavin | Jessica in the Kitchen says:

      Hi Kay thank you so much for reading. Caramelized onions last for 2 – 3 weeks if you use fresh onions. I hope this helps.

  4. Shakti R. says:

    5 stars
    Okay, this one is super simple that it may seem strange to have used it – but I actually got restaurant-style caramelized onions by trying this! Beforehand, my onions would randomly look burnt in places and I wasn’t drawing out the sweetness. Now they are a rich brown, sweet, and the red-wine kick helps (though most times I just add a spoon of sugar to give me the sweetness)

    • Jessica says:

      Aww yay this is exactly what I was hoping!! So happy you got some amazing quality caramelised onions with this!! Thanks so much for your comment Shakti!!

  5. Meaghan says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I also love caramelized onions, especially in dip, and this recipe was perfect!!

    • Gavin | Jessica in the Kitchen says:

      Thank you so much Meaghan! We’re so happy that you enjoyed the recipe, we love putting this in our dips!

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