Caramelized Onions

Onions have a lot of water in them. Take away all the water and you are left with amazing flavor and sweetness. Of course the process to do this takes some practice and a lot of time.

Trust me, it is worth it.

The start

Red onions will give the best result when they cook down, but any type can be caramelized. Make sure to slice the onion as thinly as possible. I find cutting it in half and then slicing makes it easier at the end, but you can slice it whole as well.

No one said this was going to be low in fat

Melt two tablespoons butter and two tablespoons olive oil for each onion in a large pan over medium heat. The oil will keep the butter from scorching, while the butter will make everything taste better.

For a size comparison that is a four-quart sauce pan and one large red onion

Add onion to melted fat breaking it apart as much as possible. Mix well coating the slices in fat. Turn heat to a very low simmer.

Wow that has shrunk a lot

Stir the onions every five minutes or so to keep them from sticking.

Are we done yet?

Keep stirring  and pressing the onions into an even layer over the bottom of the pan. The picture above is 20 minutes into cooking.

Close but no cigar

Keep stirring and spreading the onions until they are a deep dark reddish brown. The picture above is about 45 minutes in and the onions still need about 10 minutes.

That plate is only three inches wide

As you can see the finished product is quite small, but the flavor contained in each auburn thread is enormous. The onions can be refrigerated for at least two weeks safely.

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About Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

This blog attempts to collect some of the things I try to create with food and booze. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. My hope is to entertain and maybe help people think a little harder about what they decide to eat and drink.
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78 Responses to Caramelized Onions

  1. Great instructions, these look perfect!

  2. Amazing! Makes me hungry just looking at them. Hungry for steak with your onions!

  3. rutheh says:

    What a terrific progression to perfection! Wonderful photos. If only there were a scratch and sniff capability on the blog. Mmmmmm.

  4. A_Boleyn says:

    Those onions look so mouthwateringly delicious. I tried to caramelize onions a few weeks back and didn’t have a lot of luck as they got a little more ‘done’ than I would have liked. (One batch went into beef stew and the last one ended up on a pizza with rosemary, goat cheese/smoked provolone and romano and piles of shaved prosciutto.) Will have to try a different pan and more fat and give it another shot one weekend.

  5. ChgoJohn says:

    Great “how to” post! Learning to caramelize onions was a real revelation for me. I’m certain that you’ve just done some beginner cooks a great service.

  6. Love caramelized onions! That and batter-dipped & fried are the only two ways I’ll eat onions.

  7. I can smell them from here! I love how caramelized onions can transform a dish. Great post and reminder to make these. They’re a great addition to Thanksgiving menus!

  8. rsmacaalay says:

    Great instructions, every good stuff needs a lot of patience

  9. Love the color of those fresh onions.

  10. Lasts 2 weeks in the fridge you say – they won’t last 2 days in our home! Love caramelized onions and usually have to have a little taste through the different stages of cooking so don’t always land up with the quantity I should – oh well.
    Have a super week. :-) Mandy

  11. Forgive me for saying this.. but this is the equivalent to a wet dream for a young boy lol. I LOVE onions.. on a burger, in chicken broth, in soups.. I just love it. Great post you guys

  12. Tandy says:

    delicious! I love the sweetness of well cooked onions :)

  13. Great tutorial! I love onions like this, it is a labour of love making them though. And just wen you think you might as well give up on them…the magic happens!

  14. Other than wearing a full face mask, goggles and snorkel, do you have any secrets for keeping the tears away while cutting up onions? Your onions look delicious! Take Care

  15. Charles says:

    “Make sure to slice the onion as thinly as possible”
    Ah, a perfect use for my mandoline. I’d always wondered what the secret was to caramelised onions – seems I just wasn’t cooking it for NEARLY long enough! Could just grab a handful of that and eat it… nom!

  16. Great tutorial. There’s no flavor quite like it!
    And it makes the house smell all warm and cozy in the process…

  17. Lea Ann says:

    I love caramelized onions!

  18. Kelly says:

    wow, this is really neat – were you able to get that colour without adding sugar?? (or did I miss that part?). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a caramelization recipe that doesn’t call for sugar. I guess the trick here is sufficient time. The picture of the butter is gorgeous and my favourite line: “the oil will keep the butter from scorching, while the butter will make everything taste better.” Agreed! :)

  19. Love that picture of the butter — all of them actually are wonderful shots. I love carmelized onions; never thought of preparing them ahead to refrigerate. Nice!

  20. ceciliag says:

    Oh i do this too and aren’t they just DIVINE, sometimes I add a few drops of balsamic vinegar! I am going to make these today, i still have a few homegrown red ones in the bottom of a basket, just waiting.. c

  21. Wow! This is such a great post, thanks for sharing. I want to bookmark it for future use! :D

    …gosh, so fatty, though!

  22. Sissi says:

    I usually stop in the middle of the onion slow frying process, but your caramelized result is so appealing I think I’ll see next time how it tastes and fry it for longer.

  23. Judy says:

    Caramelizing onions takes patience, but so worth it. That’s the way it is with good food, time is your friend, can’t get in a hurry :)

  24. Thank you for the step by step instructions and photographs. I would have kept wondering…are they done yet?

  25. Amy says:

    I can never caramelize onions correctly…thanks for the tutorial! I think maybe I just wasn’t doing it for long enough. Patience is not my strong point ;)

  26. nrhatch says:

    Thanks, Greg. Love the smell of onions carmelizing. :D

  27. Great step-by-step. Caramelized onions are one of my favorite things!

  28. Oh trust you I do! I honestly don’t think there is any other veggie that can be so versatile and flavorful in so many dishes but the fact that you can caramelize onions in butter is my favorite way to eat them and perfect as a topping for anything (yes i said anything- at least to this cook) LOL!

  29. Kristy says:

    Wow! I could completely dig into this and eat it all myself. I never realized it took so long to caramelize onions, but you’re right – it’s so worth it. I’ll have to give them a try myself sometime. :)

  30. I love the progression of photos (and those sweet, sweet onions)! Great post!

  31. egg me on says:

    Great tutorial! And excellent slicing skills, too. Now — what amazing recipes are you going to make with these onions??

  32. crustabakes says:

    right on on butter making everything taste better!!

  33. I’ve never carmelized onions! It might have something to do with always failing at making caramel. Not that they’re related, completely. ;)

  34. Yum! I want that on every sandwich ever!

  35. Caroline says:

    Great step-by-step tutorial. Caramelizing onions really does bring out such amazing flavor. Can’t wait to see what you make with the onions. Though, I’d probably be happy just eating them plain. :)

  36. I can imagine the richness of that flavour, and what a great colour.

  37. Patience and a few beers is never a bad thing when caramelizing onions. :-)

  38. peasepudding says:

    Love caramelised onions, I am hoping to make a tart with them this weekend.

  39. spicegirlfla says:

    Wow…I was drooling thu each photo! I could literally top anything with carmelized onions!! Not to mention just eating them straight up!!

  40. Caramelized onions are lovely aren’t they. Great tutorial.
    I make a caramelized onion tart to go with some goat cheese.

  41. Eva Taylor says:

    I absolutely love caramelized onions, we use them on pizza in dips — lots of wonderful uses. I usually make an enormous batch and freeze portions in little baggies — it works out really well. The recipe I use slow bakes it in a big dutch oven with a piece of parchment cut to fit the pan, with a hole in the middle. It also has champagne vinegar and wine which gives the sweetness of the onion a wonderful balance. Our recipe came Michael Chiarello on Food Network US. Here is a link, in case you might be interested http://kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com/2008/11/13/sweet-onion-confit/.
    Great photos, the step by step is very helpful if you are unsure of how ‘dark’ the caramelization should be!

  42. nancyc says:

    Carsmelized onions are the best–I need to make them more often for sandwiches!

  43. niasunset says:

    This is what I love so much! So delicious. Do you know what you reminded me now, there was a little bakery in Milan (around the Porta Genova) and there was a little pizza with just onion… I think it was cramelized too… how delicious. No there wasn’t nothing, I mean cheese etc. Only onion… I am hungry now, at the very lat nate… You did great dear Greg, I am on diet! Thank you, with my love, nia

  44. Excellent post! Everything that is extraordinarily good takes time!

  45. Courtney says:

    Wow, you have some patience! And time. :) Those look fabulous.

  46. Yum, I am drooling.. they are the best, aren’t they? :)

  47. seabeegirl says:

    Thank you so much for the step-by-step instructions AND pics. They are very helpful, especially in determining what color they should be when done. I didn’t know that adding the oil to the butter would keep it from scorching. No wonder my onions never turned out well! My mom should have let me in the kitchen more when I was growing up!

  48. Alison says:

    There is nothing better than onions. And caramelised onions… amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  49. Love onions any way you fix them and in everything.

  50. Love the step by step photo’s!

  51. Thank you for the step by step..
    I am ashamed to say I usually fry the onions instead of caramelizing them

  52. Joanne says:

    LOL! “No one said it would be low in fat” hahaaha. I love caramelized onions…they are one of my favorite things in the whole world.

  53. Jessica says:

    Man, I feel like I’ve done slacker caramelized onions in the past. Must correct this…these look amazing!

  54. Mel says:

    I always enjoy caramelised onions so much whenever it is present on the menu in a cafe, and I have never thought about making this at home! Your pictures are great, I can nearly taste and smell them… yum!

  55. Amazing. Your persistence is the stuff of culinary legend.

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  59. Charles says:

    Goddamn man, I’m making these right now… Midnight, they’ve been cooking for about 2.5 hours and they’re only now reaching the stage of “Are we done yet?”, the caption under your photo above! Smells wonderful, looks wonderful, but my God it takes AGES! Want them to be done now so I can go to bed :p

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  65. A_Boleyn says:

    It’s been a while since you posted this but I gave caramelized onions another try and the cliche must be right, the third time’s the charm, because today I made a great batch. It took about 50 minutes of SLOW cooking and 4 huge sweet Vidalia onions (I haven’t tried red onions yet) were transformed into about 2 cups of meltingly delicious red brown goodness. I’m about to use them on one of my new favourite types of pizza. Thanks for the inspiration.

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