Making caramelized onions doesn’t have to take hours. Bring out the naturally sweet, rich flavors of onions by caramelizing them in just a few quick steps.
There’s endless ways to use caramelized onions, from burger or sandwich toppings, on pizza, steaks or Pork Chops, in Omelettes, soups, pastas and more! The typical sticking point is that most recipes call for slow-cooking onions until they brown. There’s two reasons why I don’t do this. First, it takes a long time! Who wants to wait over an hour for caramelized onions? Secondly, cooking onions slowly causes the onions to disintegrate into a mushy pile. Faster cooking keeps the onions intact!
So it’s a win-win situation here. Let’s make caramelized onions in half the time, with much, much better results.
How to Caramelize Onions
Full instructions in the recipe card; this is just an outline!
Slice onions into roughly ¼-inch thick slices.
In a large pot, add butter and olive oil. Heat over medium-high until butter is melted. Add onions.
Cook the onions, uncovered, over medium-high heat for 20-35 minutes. Stir every 3-5 minutes and scrape off any browned bits that stick to the bottom of the pan as they cook. Watch carefully to prevent burning.
Season with salt, toss, and serve.
Caramelized Onions Recipe Ingredients
- Yellow onions – your standard yellow onions have less water content than sweet onions and therefore, they’re a great onion to caramelize! They become sweet and stay intact when caramelized.
- Butter – butter adds richness and helps you achieve those caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan that are a signature when caramelizing onions.
- Extra virgin olive oil – olive oil adds flavor and moisture. You can use all butter if preferred.
How to Serve Caramelized Onions
Caramelized onions have endless uses. Here are some of my favorite ways to serve caramelized onions!
- Best Easy French Onion Soup
- Burger, sandwich and panini topping: caramelized onions complete most any sammy.
- Pizza topping: scatter caramelized onions over your pizza, along with other toppings, for a sweet and savory twist.
- Steak, Air Fryer Pork Chop, or Grilled Pork Tenderloin topping: Serve a mound of caramelized onions on top of a steak or pork chop to enhance the flavor of the meat.
- Omelette addition: fold caramelized onions into omelettes alongside your other favorite mix-ins.
- Hot Dog or sausage topping: Elevate your hot dogs or sausage grinders with a spoonful of caramelized onions for added flavor and sweetness.
- Fajita filling: Add caramelized onions to your fajita filling for a sweet and savory component.
- Pasta addition: add to Mushroom Pasta or Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta.
- Crostini or bruschetta: spread caramelized onions on crostini or bruschetta as an appetizer with some Whipped Ricotta.
- Sauce Base: use caramelized onions as a base for sauces and gravies.
How to Store Caramelized Onions
Make ahead: make caramelized onions up to 5 days in advance!
Storage: store them in an airtight container, in the refrigerator, once cooled completely.
Reheat: the best way to reheat caramelized onions is in the microwave, in increments of 30 seconds. Stir every increment!
Freeze: freeze caramelized onions after they’ve cooled completely. Place in airtight, freezer-safe contains and place in the freezer for up to 6 months! Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The best onions for caramelizing are yellow onions. They have a lower water content than sweet onions, and therefore caramelize faster and stay more intact than sweet onions. And believe it or not, yellow onions are sweet when caramelized!
These quick caramelized onions take 20-35 minutes to caramelize over medium-high heat, depending on how deep golden you like.
Cut onions into roughly ¼ inch slices.
Sautéing onions means cooking them very quickly (about 5 minutes) to just cook them through, whereas caramelizing onions takes longer and requires browning to release natural sugars and deep flavor.
Absolutely not! Caramelizing onions releases their natural sweetness; no sugar needed.
More Onion Recipes You’ll Love!
- Pasta alla Genovese (6-Hour Beef & Onion Sauce)
- Best Easy French Onion Soup
- Pasta With Caramelized Onion and Sausage
- Best Easy Pot Roast With Onion Soup
- Large pot
- 4 pounds yellow onions about 7-8 medium onions
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Slice onions into roughly ¼ inch thick slices.
- Add the butter and olive oil to a large pot. Turn heat to medium-high and let the butter melt. Add onions.
- Cook the onions over medium-high heat, uncovered, for 20-35 minutes. Toss onions every 3-5 minutes, scraping down brown bits that form on the bottom of the pan as they cook. Watch onions carefully to make sure they don’t burn on the bottom of the pan. Cook time (20-35 minutes) depends on how golden you like your onions!
- Once onions reach desired caramelization, remove from heat, add salt to taste, toss and serve.
- Make sure to not remove too much of the outsides of the onions to keep the original 4 pounds intact!
- Watch onions carefully to make sure they don’t burn once they start caramelizing. The key is to not toss them too frequently so they brown, but to not let them go too long without a toss, to prevent burning!
- Different types of onions (sweet, red, etc.) will caramelize, but they require different cooking times.
- Caramelization times is based on a number of factors, including the size of the pan and heat source. Choose a large pot and medium-high heat for this recipe to work for you!
- Halving the recipe will require less cooking time!
- Raw onions will shrink to about half their size when caramelized.
- Want to deglaze your pan to make more of a sauce? Toward the end, add ¼ cup of cognac, wine, beer, or broth of choice. Season with herbs and black pepper if desired.