Caramelized Onions are a naturally sweet and savory addition to your favorite steak, chicken, or dip recipe. Learn how easy it is to make by sautéing them in a pan with only a few simple ingredients.
Caramelized Onions – Naturally Sweet and Savory
There is something so addicting about perfectly caramelized onions.
Oftentimes I find the sweet and savory flavor in this recipe makes my taste buds dance even more than a perfectly cooked filet mignon.
And while yes, there are methods for quickly caramelizing onions…
The true magic happens when you give it a little time and have a bit of patience.
Adding sugar to sweeten the onions does not even compare to the flavor found when the natural sugars are released.
So while this is not a technique that can be done last minute, it is a super simple and easy way to add a depth of flavor to your favorite recipes!
One of the best things about this cooking technique is how few items you actually need.
There are only a few simple ingredients required to make this flavorful recipe at home:
- Onions – Sweet, red, or yellow can all be used but will give you a different finished product.
- Oil – Any type of oil can be used when caramelizing onions.
- Opt for a more mildly flavored oil so it does not overpower the sweet flavor of the onions.
- They are cooked over relatively low heat, so an oil with a high or low smoke point may be used.
- Butter – A high-quality butter is added towards the end of cooking for an extra depth of flavor.
- Feel free to leave this out if you are dairy-free or vegan.
- You can also substitute the butter for a vegan butter alternative or ghee if you are on a Paleo or Whole 30 diet.
- Salt – Add just as much salt as you need to taste.
Any type of onion can be caramelized, but a sweet onion is the best type of onion to use.
Not only does a sweet onion have more naturally occurring sugars (up to 7 grams per onion!) but it is also not nearly as pungent as the other onion varieties.
Red, yellow, and white onions can also be used, but you may need to add a touch of white sugar to get them to the level of sweetness you desire.
The thinner you slice the onions, the faster they will caramelize in the skillet.
Typically, you’ll want to slice them about ¼-inch thick for the best results.
You can either slice the onions lengthwise as in the top image, or make shorter slices as in the bottom image above.
Before adding to the skillet, make sure you separate them from each other. This enables them to have even contact with the skillet and the heat so they cook at similar rates.
You can learn more about how to cut an onion in this article.
Best Skillet To Use
A large, stainless steel skillet is the best to use when making this recipe.
Stainless steel is a wonderful conductor of heat and will cook the onions more evenly than a non-stick skillet will.
Additionally, make sure you use a large enough skillet so all of they all fit.
Towards the end of cooking they will have lost a lot of moisture and you should have plenty of space.
How to Make
There are not too many steps to this sweet and savory onions recipe.
While it does take almost an hour to get them to turn a beautiful golden color, and have a wonderfully sweet taste, it is totally worth the time!
- Thinly cut onions into ¼-inch slices.
- Add olive oil and onions to a large stainless steel skillet over medium-low heat. (About a 4 out of 10.)
- Cook for 40-50 minutes, stirring every 3-5 minutes.
- In the beginning you can wait a little bit longer between stirs.
- Towards the end you will want to keep a pretty close eye on them.
- After about 30 minutes the onions will start to become a light yellow color.
- Add butter and stir to combine.
- You’ll know the onions are done cooking when they reach a caramel color and have a natural sweetness to them.
What type of onion are the best for caramelizing?
Sweet onions are the best onion to use when caramelizing due to their natural sweetness.
What do I do if I burn my onions when caramelizing?
Making sure your heat is low enough that it does not scorch the onions, but hot enough that it cooks them is the most important part of the caramelization process.
If you happen to burn some of the onions you can save them by adding a few tablespoons of water to the skillet. Scrape the bottom of the skillet to remove any loose bits or pieces and continue cooking as directed.
Will sugar speed up the process of caramelizing?
No. Adding sugar will not speed up the caramelization process of onions but will make them slightly sweeter.
How do I quickly make caramelized onions?
To reduce the cook time by about 10 minutes, add 1/4 cup of water to the skillet full of onions and cover with a lid. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Continue cooking uncovered for an additional 20-30 minutes or until caramelized.
This sweet delicacy is most often known for accompanying a juicy piece of steak or a filet mignon.
There are also quite a few other dishes that can be taken over-the-top with just a bit of caramelized onions:
- Honey Balsamic Chicken
- A baguette with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
- Caramelized Onion and Sausage Quiche
- Filet Mignon
How to Caramelize Onions
Caramelized Onions are a naturally sweet and savory addition to your favorite steak, chicken, or dip recipe. Learn how easy it is to caramelize onion slices by sauteeing them in a pan with only a few simple ingredients.
- 2 lbs. sweet onions about 4-5 small onion
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- ½ tsp. salt to taste
- Sugar optional*
- Water optional*
Thinly cut onions into ¼-inch slices.
Add olive oil and onions to a large stainless steel skillet over medium-low heat. (About a 4 out of 10.)
Cook onions for 40-50 minutes, stirring every 3-5 minutes.*
(In the beginning you can wait a little bit longer between stirs. Towards the end you will want to keep a pretty close eye on the onions.)
After about 30 minutes the onions will start to become a light yellow color. Add butter and stir to combine.
You’ll know the onions are done cooking when they reach a caramel color and have a natural sweetness to them.
Serve caramelized onions with your favorite filet mignon or baked chicken recipe.
- This recipe yields 1 cup of caramelized onions.
- To reduce the cook time by about 10 minutes, add 1/4 cup of water to the skillet full of onions and cover with a lid. Cook the onions over medium heat for 10 minutes. Continue cooking uncovered for an additional 20-30 minutes or until caramelized.
- Too high of heat can end up scorching your onions and evaporating off all of their natural liquid. If this happens simply add a couple tablespoons of water and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen up the bits that are stuck.