How To Make Caramelized Onions – Learn the techniques to create that amazing sweet and savory flavor right in your own home!
So many times I’ve tasted something that was out-of-this-world amazingly tasty to then find out that the secret lay in the caramelized onions. They enhance the flavor of a dish with their sweet and savory characteristics.
Since they’re so darn good, and since going to a gourmet restaurant every time you have a craving for caramelized onions can get quite pricey, learning how to make your own is definitely worth the effort.
Caramelized onions are easy to make once you know the technique. That said, you can screw them up big time if you just throw a bunch of onions and butter in a pan and hope for the best. Chances are you’ll have a sort of sweet, chewy, slightly burnt onion mixture. Still tasty, but not as amazing as they could be…
The Secret to Amazing Caramelized Onions
- The selection of the right onion(s): I always go for sweet onions for their milder, sweeter flavor. I then add a couple of shallots which gives the onions a hint of garlic. The end result is sweet and complex, without the astringency of a white or Spanish onion. Red onions can also be caramelized, but are less ideal as they contain less sugar and the end product isn’t quite as sweet.
- Butter: Butter adds great flavor to caramelized onions. Note: If your onions are easily burning and sticking to the bottom of your pan you can add a drizzle of oil, but still keep the butter the star of the show for that great flavor!
- Caramelize onions slowly: It’s important not to cook caramelized onions too quickly. Rushing them is like a get-rich-quick scheme. It rarely ever pans out. With patience they’ll be sweeter and more savory, without any chewy and unpleasant burnt bits. Read exactly how I do this in the recipe below!
- Deglaze the pan: At the end of cooking add a tablespoon or two of liquid to the pan to pull the up the flavorful bits stuck to the bottom. Depending on your intended use for your onions, you can deglaze with water, vegetable stock, wine, beer, or vinegar.
Ways to Enjoy Caramelized Onions
Now that you know how to make caramelized onions, here are some ideas on how to enjoy them…
- Sandwiches: Hot or cold. Top off beef/turkey/chicken/veggie burger. Also yummy on a grilled chicken sandwich.
- Pizza and Flatbreads: Top off pizza night with an extra dose of flavor!
- Tarts and Quiches: Add to the top or mix in.
- Pasta: Delicious with buttery or creamy pasta dishes!
- Grilled Steak or Chicken: Imagine topping off your next grilled creation with some caramelized onions and melted mozzarella…
Recipes from Simple Seasonal that Use Caramelized Onion
- 5 medium sweet onions, coarsely chopped or sliced
- 2 shallots, coarsely chopped or sliced
- 4 Tbsp salted butter
- 1-2 Tbsp of deglazing liquid*
- Coarsely chop the onion and shallots and put them into an uncoated pan or cast iron pan with 4 Tbsp of salted butter.
- Cook on medium-high heat and cover until the butter is melted, and the onions are heated through and beginning to soften and turn translucent. This will take about 5 minutes.
- Turn the heat down to medium and uncover the onions. Continue to cook the onions, stirring every 2-5 minutes. If the onions start to brown instead of caramelize, turn the heat down a little. Expect to turn the heat down a few times throughout the cooking process until you get down to a medium-low heat. This is because as the onions sweeten they will burn more easily. You will continue with the slow cooking and frequent stirring for 1-1 1/2 hours.
- The onions are done caramelizing once they are a deep brown color and taste sweet.
- Once they are done, increase the heat to medium. Deglaze the pan by adding 2 Tbsp of water to the pan and cooking and stirring until all the liquid is cooked off. Next, immediately remove from the heat and use as desired.
*Depending on your intended use for your onions you can deglaze with water, vegetable stock, wine, beer, or vinegar.
FREEZING INSTRUCTIONS: Freeze flat in freezer-safe ziplock bags for quick thawing. Or freeze in ice cube trays and then pop them into a freezer safe ziplock bag. Store in the freezer for up to 6 months. To thaw place the in the refrigerator overnight. You can also expedite the process by placing the bag of frozen onions in a dish of warm water.