How to make Caramelized Onions

2011-04-01 14.32.44

I have been working on this food blog long enough that I have a substantial amount of content to look back upon and notice trends in what I like to cook and eat.  I’ve noticed a few things; I really like eggs, I eat multiple zucchinis each day and I love to put caramelized onions on and in pretty much everything.

In fact, I love them so much that I actually listened to a 30-minute debate on Public Radio a few weeks ago about the proper way to caramelize an onion and whether you should add sugar or not.  Since so many of the recipes I put on here are going to involve this process in some way, I feel like it is a good time to share my technique.

2011-04-29 10.13.23

Caramelized onions go well with so many things.  They can serve as the basis for a great sauce or stock, they can be put in pastas, salads, and hot sandwiches, on top of pasta, pizza, burgers, steak… you name it.  You can also apply the same technique to caramelizing shallots, red onions, leeks, mushrooms and all sorts of lovely things.  I have included some pictures to show you the different ways you can enjoy this simple concept, but first I want to share a few tips.

2011-04-02 12.14.12

1.) Do not slice your onions too thin.  Don’t worry – the caramelizing process will cook them well enough and if you leave them nice and thick, they will brown on the outside and remain super juicy on the inside.

2.) You’ve gotta have patience!  Proper caramelizing technique takes about 30 minutes from start to finish.  I promise, it is worth the wait.

3.) Depending on what type of cuisine you are serving the onions with, you get can creative with the type of oil that you use as a base.  When I am cooking Asian-themed food, I use sesame oil like in the green beans pictured above.  Sometimes when I am making curry or thai dishes, I use peanut oil. Otherwise olive oil and butter are my go-to’s.

4.) You don’t need to add sugar in order to get onions to caramelize.  There are naturally occurring sugars in

Alright, well how do we do this?  It’s super simple.

Assuming you are caramelizing one medium onion, the directions below apply.

1.) In a medium skillet, heat about 2 tbsp of oil for a  minute on high heat. Add some salt and ground pepper.

2.) Peel and cut your onion in half and then lay each half on the flat side.  Cut slices that are about 1/4 inch thick.

3.) Add your onions to the hot pan and cook on high heat for a few minutes until the edges start to get brown.

2011-04-14 10.34.57

4.)  Reduce to the lowest heat setting and allow the onions to cook very slowly.  Cook for about 5 minutes until you stir the mixture again.  Then repeat.  I usually cook the onions for another 20-25 minutes on low heat

2011-04-14 10.40.54

If you want to get real fancy…

You can caramelize a mixture of shallots, onions and garlic.

2011-04-01 13.38.22

You can also add some interesting spices on top of the onions and absolutely transform them into a specific type of cuisine.

2011-04-29 10.24.40

You can dice the onions, caramelize them and then use that as a base for a homemade pasta sauce, like I did in my Cherry Tomato Pasta recipe.

2011-04-13 15.02.46

You can actually cook them in reserve bacon grease, add some stock and brussel sprouts and make this dish.

2011-04-09 16.22.45

For some good color, caramelize a red onion and add it to a turkey panini!

2011-03-26 14.56.19

You see?  There are so many things you can do with caramelized onions.  Let me know if you have any favorite recipes!



  1. I love carmelized onions and use them when I make chicken quesadillas and of course other dishes. I never use sugar but I do use a sweet onion. They seem so intimidating at first but once you got it you are addicted!

    • Oh I am so addicted, Bernice, it’s not even funny! And yeah, I remember a time when I was super intimidated and thought they were the most complicated things ever.

  2. Mmm yum! I used to not like onions so I have a habit of cutting them really small. Usually mine would burn before they caramelized. I need to cut them larger so I can actually make the caramelized goodness. :)

    And I never thought about adding other flavors like different spices and oils. I’ll try that next time!

  3. I love caramelized onions too. I make them multiple ways depending on their use. For a caramelized onion pizza that I make I add a bit of brown sugar and red wine….yumm

  4. New follower. This is a fabulous post, a simple technique explained beatifully, and awsome pictures. I’m already in love with your blog. Keep it up!

    • Hey JC! Thanks for following, I am super pumped to have you of course. I definitely appreciate the kind words and encouragement more than I can express! Thank you so much!

  5. Laurie Hoffman says:

    Hi Allie: It’s Caitlin’s mom. She told me about your blog – it’s fantastic! You’ve inspired me, so I’m off to my stove to carmelize some onions right now. Hugs to you!

    • Awww Laurie, hi! Thank you so much for checking it out and I really appreciate your feedback. I hope the caramelized onions turned out well! Sending so much love to you and your family. I miss seeing you all around!

Leave a Reply