How to Caramelize Onions

Quantities depend on how much caramelized onions you wish to make. In this example, 5 large raw onions yielded about 2 cups caramelized onions.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes


  • Several medium or large onions, yellow, white, or red
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Butter (optional)
  • Salt
  • Sugar (optional)
  • Balsamic vinegar (optional)


1 Cut the onions root to tip: Slice 1/2-inch off the stem ends of the onions and the roots off of the root end. Place the onions cut side down on the cutting board. Cut them in half through the root end. Peel back the peels from the onions.

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Lay the onions cut side down and make angled cuts into each onion, aimed at the center, cutting almost all the way, but not completely through the root end.  Make the cuts to your desired level of thickness.

The root end will help hold the onion together as you cut it, making it easier to cut. Then cut a V in the root end to cut out the tough root holding the slices together.

2 Heat olive oil and butter, add onion slices: Use a wide, thick-bottomed sauté pan for maximum pan contact with the onions. Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil, or a mixture of olive oil and butter (about 1 teaspoon per onion). Heat the pan on medium high heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion slices and stir to coat the onions with the oil. Spread the onions out evenly over the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally.

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Depending on how strong your stovetop burner is you may need to reduce the heat to medium or medium low to prevent the onions from burning or drying out.

After 10 minutes, sprinkle some salt over the onions, and if you want, you can add some sugar to help with the caramelization process. (I add only about a teaspoon of sugar for 5 onions, you can add more.) One trick to keeping the onions from drying out as they cook is to add a little water to the pan.

3 Cook, stirring every few minutes: Let cook for 30 minutes to an hour more, stirring every few minutes. As soon as the onions start sticking to the pan, let them stick a little and brown, but then stir them before they burn.

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The trick is to leave them alone enough to brown (if you stir them too often, they won't brown), but not so long so that they burn. After the first 20 to 30 minutes you may want to lower the stove temperature a little, and add a little more oil, if you find the onions are verging on burning.

A metal spatula will help you scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan as the caramelization proceeds. As the onions cook down, you may find you need to scrape the pan every minute, instead of every few minutes.

Continue to cook and scrape, cook and scrape, until the onions are a rich, browned color. At the end of the cooking process you might want to add a little balsamic vinegar or wine to help deglaze the pan and bring some additional flavor to the onions.

Store refrigerated for several days in an air-tight container.

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  • Christie Knust

    Perfection! I have to stop my husband from eating them because I wanted to use them for vegetable chicken quinoa soup.


  • Adriana

    amazingly simple


  • Marylu

    I love these on my eggs, in green beans, and almost anything except cake! I also add garlic, but I am old fashioned and still use bacon grease for everything! Yummmmm!

  • Vickie

    My first time every cooking caramelized onions. They are awesome on my turkey burger. Great flavor


  • Mark

    Recipe worked great I’ve used them on burgers and steals i tried them on pizza awesome.


  • Debbie

    Thank you making now for patty melts

  • Sharlene

    We like them with sweet potato fries and German sausage

  • Sheryl

    Easy peasy! Thank you for the straightforward steps :)


  • Nicole Holton Alvarado

    I like to make carmelized onions with fresh white corn off the cob and brussel sprouts. Season how you would like. I use sea salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Yum!


  • Mae Beigh

    As far as I know, any onion—except, maybe, green spring onions (I don’t think they contain enough sugars)—can be caramelized using this method or its slow-cooker cousin. Caramelized red onions, though, are extra special: they hold a surprise inside! When allowed to chill overnight, then cooked again in a bit of oil and sea salt, “twice-cooked red onions” taste just like bacon!


  • Deb Dench

    My favorite caramelized onion recipe is Chicken, Corn and Carmelized Onion Tacos!

  • Mary

    Worked out great!! I tried caramelized onions before. Your recipe was easy to follow we loved them


  • Stephanie

    I make these french dip sandwhiches cooking flat iron steak cut up two ways in the crock pot i put the met on steak rolls top with cheese melt under the brolier and topped them with these caramelized onions. thank you!!


  • Lori Dickson

    I’m making them now to serve with Pieogis.


  • Eric

    Wow! Thank you for this. I had nothing to put in my wrap but a chicken patty and thought of this. It was the perfect combo. I added green and red peppers, some mrs dash and Worcestershire. I wrapped the carmalized medley up with a sliced chicken patty and a drizzling of ranch. I dont usually post on these sites but this was so good I had to thank you. A little hack for those breaded chicken pattys: I warm the patty in the microwave for a minute and then put it in the toaster. It crisps it up like it just came out of the oven. Or you could just do a double toaster run.


  • Kyle

    Great walk-through. The balsamic near the end is a nice touch. I was thinking of experimenting with maybe some worcestershire sauce and red onions. We’ll see how it goes. These turned out great though and are good enough to eat by themselves for sure. I just used some last night on some ‘in-n-out’ inspired burgers. Roll your ground beef (I use a mix of ground chuck and ground sirloin) into 2″-2 1/2″ balls. Get your skillet ripping hot (preferably cast-iron), add a splash of vegetable oil, and using a non-slotted spatula and something else to push down (you’ll need to push pretty hard for best results. Big burger nerds use a good sized dowel, I just use a large wooden spoon). Season with kosher salt and ground pepper and let them sizzle for a minute (do not ever season before you have at least formed the patties. This allows your burgers to sear properly and hold in their natural flavors. Adding salt in the mix with break down muscle fibers when cooking which causes crumbly, dry burgers. You don’t want that), until the browning begins to creep up around the sides. Then right before you flip, top each patty with able a tablespoon sized dollop of good old yellow mustard. I know, it sounds weird, but trust me, it’s amazing. Lay on a slice of cheese and let it melt nicely. Toast your buns in butter, add one patty, a spoonful of caramelized onions, a second patty, and then special burger sauce (equal parts ketchup and mayo, a few dashes of garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and a little bit of sweet relish). You can add whatever accouterments you’d like, but depending on size of the cheese slice, patty size, and whatnot, this burger can get a little messy. So, I like to keep my garden to the side and have a nice salad to balance out the tender, juicy, melty, slight crunch of the burger. Try it out, and thank me later.

    • Eric

      Saved to pocket! Im definitely going to try this…to the letter which is rare for me. You listed all of my favorite burger things. Although I probably wont spring for ground serloin. I didnt know that about the spices. Good tip.

    • Christina

      Ahahaha yes! I’m going to try these burgers right now! That’s what I was gonna make the onions for.

  • Gail

    Oh honey, I was extremely pleased at the way these carmelized onions turned out. I am now looking for recipes to put them in … Just yesterday before I got started, I had a 10 lb bag of extra large bulb yellow onions, and it was my very first time trying this recipe. now I’m down to only three onions; must head over to Costco! Before I knew about this recipe my family and I would always have to throw onions out, or else we’d be growing a tree in the kitchen. Thank you so much for this never fail recipe; my life has changed for the better!

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Gail, caramelized onions are the best! Great as a side to chicken or steak. Great in a soup. You can spread them out over puff pastry, sprinkle a little cheese and herbs and bake. You can chop them, add sour cream and make a dip. So wonderfully versatile. So glad you like them!

    • Stephanie

      i make these french dip sandwhiches cooking flat iron steak cut up two ways in the crock pot i put the met on steak rolls top with cheese melt under the brolier and top with the caramelized onions

  • Tyler

    Made this with ciabatta flatbread crust from Trader Joe’s and I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten


  • Luanne

    Need to store them in the refrigerator for a day. How do recommend I reheat them for about 20 beef sandwiches?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Luanne! I’d warm them up in a saucepan or deep saute pan over medium-low heat. If they start to seem dry or like they’re starting to get crispy, stir in 2 to 4 tablespoons of water. (Then again, some crispy bits wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing!) Enjoy!

  • Donnae

    So good! Best thing to top a Boerewors roll with


  • Mike b

    Slow and steady is the most important part

  • Lyle

    I use this recipe twice a year – Thanksgiving and Christmas and it is well worth the time and effort!
    On both holidays I make a bread “stuffing” as a side dish. A mixture of different breads, mushrooms, raisins soaked for a while in sweet sherry, a clove or two of garlic, and the most important item – your carmelized onions!
    Thanks for making my stuffing memorable.


  • kara

    I love carmelized onion! They taste really good when they are added to my favorite pasta dish (Spaghetti aglio e olio) I also add in some broccoli rabe to the pasta. It’s amazing!


  • Dawn

    I used this receipe in stuffed acorn squash with sausage, apple and fresh spinach. Yum.


  • Vickie

    So, you don’t need to cover it?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Vickie! That is correct — no need to cover. You actually want moisture to evaporate, which aids in the caramelization process. Enjoy!

  • Emilia

    Thank you…delicious! I added them to goat cheese and asparagus on flour tortillas. Yummy!


  • Diana

    Thank you for the easy tutorial. I serve mine on bean burgers and my family loves them.


  • Donna Turnbom

    I’m making roasted tomato, garlic basil soup. Recipe called for 3 large yellow onions carmelized. They turned out fantastic. The soup was delicious.

  • Valerie

    I am cooking some right now and when they’re almost done I will add pierogi’s to them and serve with (of course) sour cream!

  • Shawn

    I don’t cook, but I just nailed caramelized onions! Well worth the time it takes to smother on my burger.


  • Vonda Morphew

    After the onions are caramelize, I take them out of the pan. Then I deglaze the pan with water and cook Brats until they are brown. I put a Brat in a bun/roll put the onions on top, then slather it all in mustard. It is so good!

  • Linda

    I’m making them for my liver and onions!! Yummy!!!

  • Lois


  • Edie

    Add 1/2 brown sugar, cook in the oven at 375 for 2 hours or stop when onions are brown. I topped my broiled lamb chops with carmelized onions. Yes!!! (6lg onions, 1/2 cup brown sugar, sprinkle lightly w/olive oil)

  • Marvin

    Been eating eggs and onions for years. Mom made them for me when I was 5 yrs old. That was 87 years ago. Still make them myself, pancake style.

  • Vin

    I use them in my mothers old Italian calzone recipe of caramelized onions raisins and sliced black olives . add a little anchovies. Believe it or not out of this world taste.


  • Tom

    My first effort turned out great. Only used 1 sweet onion for my trial run. Grilled cheese (Provolone) on multi-grain bread, tomato and onions were mouth-watering. Thanks.


  • Lauren

    Finally succeeded caramelizing onions on my super-hot electric stove! I used 4 onions and 3 tsp of olive oil and a tsp of Earth Balance. I kept the burner on 2 the entire time, stirred once every 10 minutes or so, “deglazed” my non-stick pan with balsamic vinegar, and after an hour, voila! My first caramelized onion success. I used them in a whole-wheat wrap with baked tofu, steamed broccoli and carrots, brown rice, and teriyaki sauce.


  • Casey Deguara

    Thank you for the recipe. I tried with burgers
    and added some curry powder. It tastes divine


  • Doris Agius

    Thanks for the recipe. I added a pinch of cinnamon and the aroma is heavenly…will mix it to couscous..

  • Wendy Miller

    I love caramelized onions. I have rarely done it properly which is why I’m visiting your site. I’m currently making onion dip a la Alton Brown but my favorite use for them is a sandwich from a restaurant I used to work at. A panini with apple slices, cheese, walnut pesto, and of course the onions. Delicious!

    • Vera

      That panini sounds delicious!

    • Cathy

      That sounds delicious. What else is on the panini?

  • Terry Mellott

    I use them in my enchiladas

  • Daniel E.

    I guess since your recipe is making quite a number of onions the cook time is a good 20-30 minutes. However, since I’d most likely be making this for myself and really 1 onion would suffice, then my cook time would likely be much less? I really just want to make enough for about 10-12 oz. of chicken fajitas.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Daniel, generally you don’t caramelize onions for fajitas, but just sear them, which would only take a few minutes. As for caramelizing onions, the only way to do it is with a long cooking time.

    • beth

      Yep…I use caramelized onions in omelets as well as other dishes and I’m a single cook but even for one onion, I take 20 – 30 minutes.

  • Christopher Copp

    Excellent how to advice, the “do not stir” is primo, I add a cup of dark rum to the mix once it goes brown

    • Shannon

      Wow. I have never even considered that. Doing it tonight.

  • Ole

    Problems with painful eyes when working with Onions? Stop cutting it’s head off, that is when it becomes defensive and “Bleeds” ;)

  • Jacki Gansch

    I use caramelized onions often. I especially like them with oven roasted potatoes. It takes me about about 90 minutes to caramelized 6 onions. I prefer yellow onions, non-sweet. I think they work better. I add a tiny amount of sugar and just before they’re done I hit them with a slash of red wine vinegar. Yum. And then I mix some of them with the potatoes that have been tossed in olive oil and salted liberally and then roasted til crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Then I save the rest of the onions for later in the week. Btw, if I’m in a hurry and need a smaller batch faster, I slice my onions very thinly using a mandoline. Especially great for a traditional onion burger.

  • Liz Barnes

    Thank you so much for sharing! My caramelized onions have never turned out so well! And I can now fully understand your comment about eating them. I had to forcibly restrain myself from tasting or there would have been none left! To deglaze the pan I used cream sherry. I think it added an extra bit of sweetness.

    • Elise Bauer

      I love the idea of deglazing with cream sherry, thanks Liz!

      • Chie Potente

        Thank you for this comprehensive recipe and the idea about the sherry. I tasted a vietnamese noodle soup (Pho) and the caramelized onions in it made it so flavorful! I will make it tonight.

  • Summer

    There are few dishes for which I might feel an urgent ‘need’ to shop in the middle of the night. One of them is a full grain baguette with (starting from the top) caramelized onions, Golfetta/Salame Napoli/S Milano (pick one, they are all gorgeous in taste), ruccola, Camembert, dressing. Simple, fresh and insainly tasty.

  • Shaun

    I left the leftovers in the pan and added star anise and beef broth for an impromptu French onion soup…some croutons and cheese made for a great bowl after a few hours of simmering :)

  • Sharon

    I added a cupful of Marsala wine just before they were done. Holy smokes they are so nice and brown and soft and sweet. Going on top of Marsala burgers for dinner tonight!

  • Maryann

    If you use a cast iron pan onions never seem to stick. I love to serve sausage and onions on a hero. Yummy. I also make onion pizza. Carmelize the onions first, then I go to my local baker and ask for pizza dough. I put some oil on the bottom of the pan, add marinara sauce, you can make your own, or buy a jar sauce. Then add the onions on top and it is ready for the oven. Bake it at
    350 and time it accordingly. Check often. It is so delicious. Hope you enjoy it.

    • Ali

      Onion pizza sounds delicious!

  • Veera ghadiali

    Love caremelized onions … gives great taste to all dishes … even plain ginger lemon rice tastes rich with onions on top .
    We make stuffed puris (wheat dough ) with stuffing of onions and cheese and mashed potatoes … simply yum..

  • Shirley

    LOVE caramelized onions in eggwhite omelet with turkey crumbles, fresh spinach and feta. Also tasty without turkey. The onions change the eggwhites from bland to grand!

  • Gail Rehman

    Thank you for the time-lapse documentation!

    While I am carmelizing my onions, I cook lentils until they are soft but not mushy. Also cook (separately) whole wheat pasta and jasmine rice. I mix, uncooked, a bit of tomato paste (or the juice left from diced tomatoes in can that I have used in something else) with small bits of lemon juice and olive oil. I guess you can tell I don’t measure! The lemon and olive oil is to flavor and thin the tomato paste enough to make a sauce that can be drizzled. You can keep this prepared mixture (uncooked) in a glass jar in the refrigerator for several days
    to use fresh when serving leftovers of the solid, cooked portion. Mix cooked lentils, cooked pasta and rice, and carmelized onions together, then drizzle sauce and heat slowly to serving temperature. When fixing this for a large group, you can serve the separate items and let people mix what they want (make enough onions!), and warm the sauce. This is an Egyptian recipe I learned from a friend, and it is called mojahdra (spelling?): savory dish that is always a hit!

  • Mark Ellis

    My caramelised onions look absolutely nothing like the ones in the video. I cooked them on the lowest heat possible on a gas stove, using the smallest gas jet, covered the pan with foil tightly around them to keep the moisture in, and I have a burnt offering in the pan. No idea what I am doing wrong.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Mark, it could be that your pan doesn’t do a good enough job redistributing heat, resulting in hot spots. I recommend adding a little water to the pan.

      • Mark

        I added water too ! I’ve ordered a diffuser, so maybe that will make a difference.

        • Susan

          I would say that the fact that you were not constantly, or at least every minute or so, stirring the pot! I had a bit of trouble cleaning my pot, but it was worth it!

      • Tom

        Mark, don’t cover the pan.

    • AmericanToolbox

      More heat. More oil. No foil.

    • Philip Butoyi

      Covering with foil will yield something very different, you need to stir it once in a while to keep it from burning and sticking to the bottom. I don’t know at what point I should add the sugar because in my experience sugar caramelizes really fast like when I am cooking meat in it.

    • PJ Mitchell

      Hi Mark

      I agree with those that say leave the foil. In my experience, one of the tricks to stop stuff burning is to stir often. I make a tomato dip (matboucha) and if I leave the heat on low, I only need to stir it ever half hour or so, if the heat is higher, I find I need to stir more. Same with onions that I want to soften/brown, that if I can stand over them and turn them, I put the heat on high and if I want to do something else, I lower the heat.

    • james pert

      you may need to let the moisture out. the pans in the video are uncovered.
      also maybe a thicker pan would allow more even distribution of the heat.

    • Derek

      You might want to try following the directions. Your method is nothing like what is described above. :-/

      • dan

        if you are willing to be attentive to the THICK WIDE pan u can not only do this easily but also in 30 min or less

    • Jennifer

      Don’t cover the pan. The recipe doesn’t say to and you’re essentially steaming them which has nothing to do with caramelization.



  • Nina Kitchingman

    Very helpful added these to some floured braising steak and mushrooms with beef stock and lea and Perrin added cooked long and slow delish

  • Margaret

    By stirring these into a wok of any fried rice, you will greatly enhance the flavor. I’ve been doing this for years and it’s soooooo delicious!

  • Justin Goldberg

    I love putting these in the blender with Mississippi comeback sauce. It’s the perfect dip for chips and also works great as a wing sauce.

  • TC

    I made some simple caramelized onions but added some turkey meat to the mix, it was quite good.

  • Hayley

    Thanks for the in depth directions on how to caramelize onions. They definitely helped with my French Onion Soup recipe!

  • Terrie Flemig

    Add a bit of apple cider vinegar towards end of cooking time. Place cartelized onions on crostini with a dollop of goat cheese on top, run under broiler til soft. Also great with balsamic reduction drizzled on top. Yummy

  • Robin

    Caramelized onions are excellent in fajitas with a variety of colored bell peppers, delicious!!

  • GrampaBear

    I would usually caramelize these onions in a much quicker process which doesn’t pull as much sugar from the onions relying on added sugars. Thought I might try these as I was diagnosed with Diabetes and need to explore different options in recipes but still maintain their integrity. I’m planning on using them to top a Slow Cooked Chuck Steak recipe I am putting together. I think they will enhance the meat while cooking and will blend well with the Tamarind and Soy Sauce in the final step!

  • Vera

    EXCELLENT simply way to caramelize onions. I did add some balsamic vinegar which gives the onions a nice finishing touch. We made a rare eye round roast yesterday and today the leftovers will become sandwiches topped with these fantastic onions. Thanks!

  • Lynn Mowrey

    Love caramelized onions and mushrooms over grilled chicken breast and Swiss cheese!

  • Marilyn Morahan

    I like caramelized onions on a Caprese salad … Tomato slices, mozzarella slices, pesto (instead of the usual basil)’ and raspberry vinaigrette (instead of olive oil) and the caramelized onions spread on top.

  • Sandy

    My girlfriend and I love liver and carmelized onions. I could not eat the liver if I did not have equal amounts of liver and carmelized onions per bite.

    • Elise Bauer

      I love liver and onions too, and yes, you really need a LOT of onions to go with the liver.

  • Jason

    Making a swedish meatball stuffed pita bread with lettuce and topping it off with these onions . yum!

  • Leo

    These onions go GREAT on a grilled cheese sandwich: Sourdough bread, fontina, gruyere, and crispy bacon. OMG.

  • Patti

    My Mom accidentally caramelized onions one Christmas along with green beans and salt pork. After that, we made it a tradition. So good! Try this, you’ll love it.

  • Jane Streeter

    My favorite is the American Classic, Liver, liver gravy with caramelized onions over the meat and shot through the gravy, my preferred sides with liver are baked and then mashed skin-on sweet potatoes instead of white, red or russet potatoes (richer and higher in nutrients) and fried cross-cut squash (yellow or zucchini), plus yellow cornbread, Sometimes we also put an onion ‘bloom’ on the table with this meal.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Jane, ah, liver and onions, a classic indeed! We had it at least once a month when I was a kid.

  • Trevor Hudson

    I put in a star anise whilst cooking the onions then add extra butter and/or balsamic vinegar or even soy sauce, to make them a little runny. I then add cooked sausage cut into pieces before pouring into a pot full of fresh pasta and serving with a tossed salad. It’s delicious!

    • Elise Bauer

      What a great idea! Love the the star anise in with the onions, and tossed with pasta and sausage? Yum!

  • Derek

    Great recipe! Love these on a delicious turkey burger. Pour in a little bit of beer (I like Boston Lager) while they are cooking for some extra flair and flavor!

  • Monica Rampo

    Hi Elise, thanks for the recipe
    I tried it and served it with my beef burger, love the taste.
    I have posted the recipe on my blog and link back to simply recipes.

    Thanks again,

  • FlyInTheOintment

    These are a pain in my arse, but you have to have these if you are making potato perogies, they would not turn out correct otherwise.

  • Izzydoesit

    I’ve been on a carmelized onion kick since I moved to California three years ago. (Also, making balsamic glaze with different red wines and infusing them with bay leaves, cloves, rosemary etc.) I’ve made them many ways, and although they always turn out yummy, I have yet to have them turn out dark brown with slightly crispy black edges. Today I tried another tack: sauteeing the onions in a dry pan and adding EVO after they cooked down for about 15 min. They turned out well, thanks to your advice about deglazing with water which I’ve never done before. Next time I’ll use balsamic glaze.

    One of my fave ways to eat them is to bake a sweet potato, cut almost in half, top with carmelized onions and goat brie, and drizzle balsamic glaze over the top.

  • Heather

    Liver and carmelized onions is the best

  • Linda Richter

    Do caramelized onions freeze well? I would love to do this when the Vidalia’s come in season.

  • Marubi

    Liked the idea of using balsamic vinegar for deglazing, adds a lovely flavour!
    Currently making them in a tart – a bed of caramelized onions, topped with spinach and mushroom. So delicious!

  • Sahbumnim Drew

    Wow… So many people love Carmelized onions… I ran across an interesting method cartelizing onions.” Fill a crock pot up 3/4 the way to the top, 1 cup of chicken stock, close it up and cook for 10 hrs on low…. I remove the cover after 8 hrs and keep on low to eveoporate the fluid…They come out golden color & sweet as sugar and I have enough of onions for different uses for about 10 days….If they last that long…..
    Sahbumnim Drew

    • Howard Crossman

      can you use Vidalia sweet onions? how many?

  • Carly

    Deglaze the pan with a little Marsala wine. DELICIOUS!! I could eat them straight out of the pan!

  • Carla Jackson

    I have bought a caramelized onion mustard that is so good that I have spent hours trying to find a recipe to make it myself. I have yet to find one.
    If anyone knows where I could find it, please let me know.

  • irene b

    I love them carmelized onions too…… try them with Salmom seared ……… it

  • Sam

    Scrambled eggs. It’s delicious.

  • Bruce H Alexander

    I’m not an onion person except for when caramelized. Yes, I now see that your advice to continually stir and scrape the onions is key. Wonderful addition to life itself.

  • Brooke

    The mushroom bhaji recipe above sounds delicious. I’m going to try it!

    I make a huge pan of onions, usually end up eating way too much by themselves, then separate into small servings in baggies and freeze. I use them for pizza, quiche, anything I can think of. Pull out of fridge and they defrost pretty quickly or you can drop the bag in warm water.

  • John

    What are your favourite dishes to make that use caramelized onions? That’s an easy one Elise; I have friends and family beating my door down to get at my mushroom bhaji.

    I first found this ‘side dish’ recipe in one of Pat Chapman’s curry books (please seek them out, you will not be disappointed) with the usual first instruction of one medium Spanish onion diced and fried for 10 minutes until golden, so not what you would call caramelised then! Over the years my onion content, and the frying time, have increased tremendously. Now it’s three medium onions fried very gently for well over an hour until caramelised to a tiny fraction of their original volume.

    By the way, you suggest olive oil but if you can find ghee (clarified butter) that increases the richness tremendously.

    Next you add 2 or 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped, ½ tsp of turmeric and ½ tsp of chilli powder. Stir for a few minutes adding some water if needed to keep it mobile.

    Then add 1 tsp of ground cumin, 1 tsp of ground coriander, 1 teaspoon of salt and a generous tablespoon of tomato puree, once again adding some water if needed to keep it mobile and stirring for a few minutes.

    Finally add 250g of quartered mushrooms (or cut into more pieces if the mushrooms are large.) I like chestnut mushrooms in this as they tend to keep their shape and texture.

    Another 5 or 10 minutes of gentle simmering should do it. The sauce should be fluid without being runny, and your guests should be salivating from the spice-enhanced onion aromas drifting across the dining table.

    Don’t plan on serving this as a main dish though; the volume reduction is huge so it probably works best as very tasty side dish to another ‘main’ curry.

  • Martha

    Thank you for the time lapse photography showing the carmelization. It was very instructive.

  • Ruth MacWilliams

    I make a grilled cheese sandwich with Gruyere cheese and caramelized onions. It is like French onion soup in a sandwich! Delicious!

  • Helen

    I add some garlic and when the onions are caramelized I throw in some chicken, pasta, parmesan and a little extra olive oil. We call it Helen Hair Pasta because I usually use Fusilli noodles and they look like my ringlets.

  • Kate @

    Caramelized onions are just. the. best.

    I love the idea of adding butter and balsamic vinegar!

  • lynn @ the actor’s diet

    Caramelized onions make me so happy! I usually make a huge batch in the slow cooker, freeze one batch, and have it on hand for everything.

  • Diane

    Since an earlier poster asked, an electric skillet works exceedingly well. If the lid fits well, then you can just leave it and forget it – I think I stir twice in 2 hours. Alton Brown demonstrated the technique in his Good Eats episode on french onion soup, and the video is available on youtube if you want to see.

  • Millie | Add A Little

    Really great tip!! I love caramelised onions and it’s so good with a dash of balsamic!

  • barb

    A slice or three of crusty toasted sourdough bread caramelized onions, a sprinkle of Gorgonzola cheese and some salt and pepper dang good!!

  • Dina

    I make a caramelized onion marmalade that is amazing. I can it up, and use it throughout the year. My favorite application? On freshly made chevre. Oh my!

  • Arlene

    I occasionally order in from a restaurant that specializes in wonderful charcoal broiled burgers. Leaving off the traditional burger veggies, I order mine with cheddar cheese and caramelized onions, which they use generously. Heaven!

    I also love making the traditional liver with onions, and always use plenty so there will be enough for the mashed potatoes, as well. Shortly before they are done, I usually move the onions to the edge of the pan, and cook the liver in the center where it picks up all that delicious onion flavor. I will certainly try your slower, lower heat method of caramelizing the onions to prevent burning. Thanks for the tip!

  • Heather Slawecki

    Elise, try this with pork tenderloin sliders (love your panko-crusted tenderloin recipe. OMG good). Slice the tenderloin and place them on slider rolls and top with caramelized onions. They make for a very satisfying appetizer or main meal.

  • Robin

    Thank you for demystifying the process for not-much-of-a-cook me!

  • Barbara

    The onions I am carmelizing right now will be mixed with fresh confiture of figs, and used as a complement to sauteed pork chops.
    Ilove combining carmelized onions with fruit, as in my onion and apple tart tatin.

  • barbara ulvestad

    I have eliminated wheat from my diet – helps with my asthma so much – and love having this recipe; I can add it to so many vegetables and make a very special dish. Thanks.

  • Joann Castillo

    I make them with liver and onion dish

  • Angie

    I like to make a really easy galette with gorgonzola, chicken and caramelized onions.

  • Nora

    I’m using this recipe to make a caramelized onion tart with stewed cherry tomatoes and basil atop it for dinner. I can’t wait to taste the saucy sweet onions with the rich puff pastry… :)

  • Mark

    Caramelised onions are fantastic with bangers and mash

  • Meriem

    I tried this recipe for the first time. I used only olive oil and salt and it turned out very tasty and sweet.If it gets too dry, just add some drops of water for more moisture.

  • Carol Snow

    Thought I’d try carmelizing some onions – first time. Heated oil and a little butter in a cast iron pan. Had 2 onions (sliced them)- watched and stirred for a while on med/high heat. Added some salt and a pinch of sugar – turned heat down – watched and stirred a while longer -added a little sherry and cooked a few minutes more. My onions were a dark rich brown and were very flavorful – I cooked these only about 20 or 30 minutes. (I’ve always thought things brown better in cast iron – and they don’t stick) May have taken longer to cook if I had cooked more than two onions.

  • Mikko Peralta

    caramelized onions mixed with chopped tocino and some greens as toppings for pancit canton.

  • Benjamin

    I love caramelized onions! I use the slow cooker method. I take 3 lbs of sweet onions and slice them up with 1/2 a cup of butter and 1 tsp of salt. I combine them in the slow cooker for 8-10 hours and it does all the work for you! I got this recipe out of the Gooseberry Patch Slow Cooker cookbook. It leaves you with 3 cups of caramelized onions. You can store them in the fridge for three days or freeze them for 3 months. I used them all in one week. I used one cup in my Split Pea Soup recipe, 1 cup in my Meatloaf, and the last cup I used with Johnsonville Brats. Sooo Good!

  • Gerdina Schwab

    I just found a recipe for Roast Beef Panini using carmelized onions. Brush one side of two slices crusty bread with olive oil, pile roast beef on the non-oiled side and top with carmelized onions, top with remaining slice of bread, oil side out. Toast sandwich in panini maker or in a non stick fry pan, turning the sandwich when the bottom is toasted in order to toast the other side.

  • Gary

    With the number of comments, looks like a lot of people share the goodness of carmelized onions. I didn’t read all 137 comments in detail but I noticed questions about which pan and type of onion to use. The best pan I’ve found for carmelized onion is the electric frying pan! It has plenty of room for lots of onions and it will keep a constant low temperature for you (about 225-250 is good). Less watching and stirring when you know the temp will be constant. As for type of onion, any type will work. Just be aware that some types like Vadalia have more natural sugar than standard yellow/white/red onions, so if you use sugar at all you might want to take this into account. I think it would be best to add the sugar near the end of the cooking if you want a sweeter flavor. I prefer no added sugar at all.

  • Stephanie

    I use them in a Brie recipe.
    1 pkg tenderflake puff pastry
    1 wheel of Brie
    1 onion carmalized
    Preheat oven to 400F.
    Roll out half pkg of puff pastry, add Brie in centre.
    Place carmalized onions on top of Brie, and fold puff pastry together at top.
    Bake for 20-25 minutes.

  • Maggie

    I used a coated pan successfully. Then I tried to make a bigger batch (6 large onions) which would only fit in a large pot. It was like trying to saute with too much in the pan. The water just wouldn’t go away. I had to divide the batch so it would brown. I freeze my caramelized onions and add them to ground walnuts when I’m making a “brown” layer in my vegetable lasagna. I make a red layer using red peppers and sun dried tomatoes, and a green layer using any chopped cooked greens and chopped olives.

  • rj fisher

    My favorite use of carmelized onions is in an Onion Pie, adding to a cracker crumb crust with milk, eggs, salt and pepper and cheese, makes a fantastic pie. YUM!

  • Bonnie j carter

    Great this very helpful. I’m going to put mine on burgers with roasted red pepper and balsamic reduction… Mmmmm

  • charlotte

    patty melts!!!!!!!

  • Jo marion

    I put caramelized onions in my favorite clam chowder recipe, it adds richness and complexity. Visalia are my choice too.

  • Kevin R. Bowdler

    I put them on top of hamburgers, with bleu cheese, bacon, and a red wine reduction. Very good!

  • A.R.Wadoo

    Use of Carmalized onions is a regular feature in india.The camalized onions are added to the spicy dishes and is known as Tadka. Ghee (boiled butter) is generally used to carmalize the onions.
    In Kashmir India On certain auspicious days,( Tehe) Yellow coloured rice (Turmeric added while cooking makes yellow rice) is cooked and served with rich mix of caramelized onion and oil. If Egyptian walking onions (Allium cepa var. Proliferum is used instead of the common onion and mixed with rice it is much more delicious

  • Mary

    I love them on tortilla pizzas that I learned to make from you. I was addicted to those pizzas for awhile. Made them with whatever shredded cheese I had on hand,a little fresh mozzarella, a little roast grape tomatoes and LOTS of carmelized onions. Garnished with arugula..OMG!!

  • Jen

    I love carmelized red onions on roasted beet salad with pistachios and goat cheese – so delicious!

  • Renee Jordan

    Good recipe, with one exception. You cannot heat either olive oil or butter over medium-high heat, as it will cause the butter to quickly scorch and olive oil to smoke profusely.

    That depends on how hot your burner gets on medium high. On a high BTU gas stovetop, yes, and in that case you will want to lower the heat. On a pathetically weak electric glass top stove like the one I was using when I first made these onions, then no, medium high will not burn the butter or cause the olive oil to smoke profusely. ~Elise

  • judy voelz

    I cook brown rice and set aside. Caramelize the onions, turn the pan off add fresh crushed garlic and add the rice to the pan and mix well. You can add mushrooms to the onions just for a few minutes before you turn it off if you desire, then add the rice. The olive oil and onions give the brown rice a whole new flavor for those of you that don’t particularly like brown rice.

  • Jay

    I like them best on a buttered, toasted pita.

  • Maria

    Thanks for that post and video – undoubtedly full success today – my first time! And! I have grated some GINGER and poured the squeezed ginger juice over + added some thinly sliced bits of it which added great flavour! It goes really well with my salad ( green leaves, feta, fried bacon as a topping, mango, ONIONS YEAH! and sauce made of lemon juice+ ginger + olive oil + rice vinegar + a bit of sugar + black pepper) yum

  • amateur cook dave

    simplyrecipes now bookmarked, thanks to me finally googling ‘caramelized onions.’ Thanks so much for the tips Elise. I got a feeling tonights chicken fajitas will be my best yet!

  • Lesley

    I live in Spain and this is a really lovely tapa or party nibble…

    Lightly toast a slice of French bread (or any other small bread). Put a spoonful of caramelised onions on top, then top that with a slice of goats cheese,, a few chopped walnuts and drizzle with a little honey. It’s delicious!

  • Ruthy

    Hi – Have read all the wonderful recipes to add to the caramelized onions – thanks! BUT, though I read about smoked salmon, I haven’t yet read about caramelized onions as a side to poached or grilled salmon and mashed potatoes. The flavours of the salmon with the onions was an experience that my palet remembers to this day. Thanks for the recipe as I’m recreating the dinner tonight – YUUUMMMM….

  • Cathy

    Thank you for this recipe. As with other recipes from your site that I’ve tried, the onions turned out great. I’ll be enjoying my onions on a baked roast beef and provolone sandwich.


  • Jack M. Risewick ("Coach")

    It’s early Spring (almost) in New York state. If you like liver and onions try carmelized onions as suggested but add two tablespoons of pure maple syrup near the end of fixin then cover liver with the carmelized onions and final cook together. Purty dern good!!

  • kathryn

    I love my carmelized onions so much that I cook up a big batch (10-12 onions) every couple of weeks. I put dollops into bagies and freeze them. So easy to pull out 1 baggie, nuke for 30-60 seconds and add to whatever I want. I’m a country girl and must admit that I carmelize in bacon fat and butter (be still my poor heart) and often add a little sugar or maple syrup to amp up the sweetness. Oh my….

  • Nick

    One of the sous chefs I work with got me to use fresh thyme when I have to caramelize onions now. Really good addition. Just use the oil, onions, fresh chopped thyme, a little butter in there is fine and dont forget your salt its what makes your taste buds go ’round. My favorite is making balsamic onions which the author also mentioned an ingredient you can add. Sweat your onions, before they get a chance to caramelize add some balsamic vinegar, salt and a little sugar. On maybe a medium heat reduce the vinegar until its incorporated in the onions. Great on steak. Really good with smoked salmon.

  • Littlest Crazy

    Great post. I’ve found it helpful to stir more often and lower the heat more quickly when you caramelize smaller amounts.

  • Dennis

    When do you turn down the heat? The recipe calls for medium high when heating the oil and the next mention of the heat is after cooking them for 20 or 30 minutes. I thought they were supposed to be cooked slowly over a low heat. I’m confused.

    “Heat the pan on medium high heat until the oil is shimmering…Spread the onions out evenly over the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally…After the first 20 to 30 minutes you may want to lower the stove temperature a little,”

    Hi Dennis, the cooking temperature with caramelizing onions is tricky, in that temperature guidelines mean different things on different stoves. When I made these instructions I was cooking on a not-very-strong electric burner, and needed to cook them on medium high. If I were cooking them on my high BTU-Wolf range, I would cook them on medium low. Basically if it looks like they are drying out, you need to lower the heat. You can also add some water to the onions to make sure they don’t dry out while you are cooking them. ~Elise

  • Naomi

    Thank you so much for this! Your writing, pictures and the time lapse video were all helpful and enjoyable. I’m just beginning to learn to cook and this is a big help for making my first French onion soup.

  • joanne gorenstein

    I’ve always carmelized onions and added them to mashed potatoes. They’re outrageously good and everyone devours them.

  • Kira

    Thank you so much! I tried this tonight and it came out perfect on the first try. The instructions were clear and helpful!

  • Diana Steele

    Try carmelized onions & brie pizza for a great appetizer.
    Also from “Mr. Boston’s Cordial Cooking guide, try the Brandied Onion Soup. Basically, after carmelizing the onions, add brandy (approx. 1/3 c for 5 or 6 large onions, & a little sugar, a pinch of thyme, 1 bay leaf, s&p, and the beef broth. Simmer for 1 hour. When you ladle out the soup, add a splash of heavy cream. Incredible!

  • Sophie

    My Itallian godmother taught me to make caramelized onions tossed with pasta, freshly grated parmesan cheese, chopped parsley and cracked black pepper… Delizioso!

  • Bert Bishop

    These are two items that I have not yet made, but have eaten when away on holidays or visits.
    The first was at Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh, and was Royal Venison Burger with caramelised red onion and grated stilton cheese, all in a bun.Fantastic!
    Recently we ate out in York, where we were treated to Liver and Bacon on a bed of mashed potato, with caramelised onion and redcurrant gravy – unbelievable.
    I will be producing these again at home.
    Thanks for the recipe for the caramelised onion, I prefer to make my own dishes from scratch, rather than using prepared sauces.

  • Laura

    I make the most amazing panini with deli style roast beef, cheddar cheese, carmelized onions and a worchestershire mayo pressed on sourdough slices. So yummy!

  • Amanda

    I see a lot of questions about using a non stick pan but no responses as to whether or not it worked. I just tried it out and it worked great for me. I only did one onion (had a sudden craving for caramelized onions and decided to just whip one up for myself, that’s right, in a bowl with a spoon…) so I had to lower the temp much sooner. The only difference is that you don’t get all of those yummy brown bits on the bottom. I would definitely do it in a steel pan next time but nonstick works just fine in a pinch.

  • Jeanie

    I use caramelized onions in fried cabbage. I cook the onions and set aside. Cook 1 package of bacon, slicing the horizontal package of strips with vertical cuts. When bacon is browned, add a chopped head of cabbage to the pan. Add a small amount of salt and pepper. Cook and stir until cabbage is reduced and tender, then add onions, stir, and cover with a lid. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

  • Nicole

    “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well” -Albert Einstein. You could not have explained or displayed this process more simply. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I am going to make “stir-fry” tofu with carmelized Kale and onions. It wouldn’t be the same with out your help! :)

    Great quote, thanks Nicole! ~Elise

  • carp8dm

    My mom made carmalized onions a while back and I loved them on my sandwiches. I got the craving and found this site, Thanks so much for posting the instructions and the video! I’m gonna use this recipe right now! Again thanks!

  • KJI

    I made an appetizer last night using carmelized onions, a diced granny smith apple and a dash of thyme topped with brie in a mini phyllo dough shell. Everyone loved it. It could also be served on toasted baugette slices. Yummy!

  • Matina

    How about a caramelised onion and goat cheese bruschetta??
    I found this recipe in a small Mediterranean shop and I loved it! They used a slice of thick bread, caramelised onions as the base, mixed salad leaves and goats cheese on top, (you can also add a slice of pastrami if you wish!) and then heated up for 10 minutes in the oven until the goats cheese is nice and crisp on top!

    Fantastic recipe, I would recommend it to anyone!


  • Commander Jason

    I love caramelized onions! I prefer to cut mine like onion rings and very thin – but any way you cut them they turn out great. Probably the best thing I appreciate besides the taste is the fact that they are SO INCREDIBLY low-calorie! About 60 calories per onion – incredible for something so tasty! (add a little for the oil) I’m trying to get slim before 2010 and these onions turn boring baked chicken breast into a tasty dinner or make plain green beans into a tasty dish….Thanks for the recipe and advice.

  • cecile

    Yes to all. As far as scrambled eggs and carmelized onions go…it doesn’t get any better than with feta


    Moujadara with carmelized onions: superb! a simple, quick and low cost Lebanese delight!

  • Sabine

    I put them on top of mashed potatoes or on burgers. SOOOO good!

  • Jen

    I used your recipe last night to make a topping for some homemade cheddar and potato pierogies -I altered the recipe a little to account for the meal – I added one thinnly sliced McCoun apple to the onions. I deglazed the pan once with a little October fest (tis the season) and then again using a few tablespoons of apple cider for good measure – absolutely wonderful meal!

  • amber

    Great on burgers w/cheese and bacon if you wish!

  • Sarah

    I tried this recipe last night and utterly failed. All my onions did was burn. After you heat up the oil on medium-high heat, what heat do you do the rest of the cooking on? Obviously mine was up too high, and I’ve been craving these onions like crazy! Help!

    Every stovetop is different. Medium high on a high output gas stove is like high heat on an average electric stove. You need to adjust the temp for your stove. The onions should not be burning or drying out. It also helps to use a thick-bottomed pan, so that the heat is well dispersed over the bottom of the pan. ~Elise

  • Brook

    Hi, I did not want carmelized onions for something I plan on making tomorrow. But yes, I love carmelized onions as well. I can also eat them by itself or with anything else. However, in going through and looking, I found what I was looking for. It is the picture on the right above step 2, where they are lightly browned. (It’s like how they are when I order Kyoto’s Express) I plan on making a teriyaki sauce and pour it over rice, broccoli, chicken, and the onions. And I could not find how to do that because I thought there was a certain way to make it…so thanks!

  • Clyde

    Has anyone tried to use carmelized onions in grits? I was in ATL, GA at a convention and had them as an appetizer and they blew me away. I had not had carmelized onions before but the sweetness (tasted like a hint of brown sugar) made the grits unbeievable. They served it up in champaign glasses…WOW…

  • Rossella

    Hi all,
    I am not sure I should call them “caramelized” anymore now that I have read your recipe but, after I sauté RED onions in little olive oil and a pinch salt, I add white vinegar and white sugar so I literally get an onion-tasting caramel that I put on hamburgers for an extra sweet&sour taste.
    My very Italian parents-in-law who don’t like experimenting much think this version of caramelized onions are simply fab…!;)

  • Jennifer

    Carmelized onions are so versatile! After carmelizing, I spread them over raw dover sole, then baked at convection setting for 25 minutes; served fish and onions on top of cumin mashed potatoes (just mixed in cumin powder in my homemade mashed potatoes right before serving). Adding steamed haricots verts and an herb salad dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, chevre, and fresh figs…..mmmm Heaven!

  • Christine Choloski

    Onions this way are so good with almost everything, liver and onions is a good one. Also pork chops. Yummm so good….

  • Peter Albertson

    My problem with your onions: Last night I invited a chef friend for dinner and told him I had the venison, he had to cook it. I made the rest of the dinner (sauteed artichokes, potato galette, salad with clementines, lettuces, onion), and inadvertently left a pan full of your onions next to the stove to cool, before putting them in the fridge. He prepped the venison, then spotted the onions. “Oh good,” my thief friend said, cooked the venison, sprinkled a little panko on top, a litte dijon mustard, and most of the onions. Wonderfully delicious. There was only about a tbsp of onions left, which went into a folded omelet this morning. (Sigh….)

    That’s a good problem to have! Sounds like it was terrific venison, and rest of the dinner too. ~Elise

  • jo0ls

    I just had a zweibel schnitzel for dinner. Yum Yum Yum. Best topping for a schnitzel I think.

  • Cecil

    Just add the caramelized onions into eggs and fried them together ! Delicious :)

  • Martha

    I’m going to make pizza tonight! Bacon, carmelized onion, roasted garlic, a little blue cheese, all on a great pizza dough (I make batches almost weekly that I freeze or refridgerate, though the Trader Joe’s dough is great too!) This post made me so excited, I can’t wait.

  • Michele

    My favorite is extra garlicky guacamole with caramelized onions on a wheat tortilla.

  • Teresa

    Thank you. I made blue cheese & carmelized onion dip for a superbowl party. It was a huge hit!

  • Buscie

    Love sauteed onions and, thanks to you, now know correct process to fully carmelize onions. Now my onion soup will be even better. Have added sauteed onions to middle of grilled cheese, grilled cheese with bacon and even fried bologna sandwiches. In my family, sauteed onions are added to cooked cabbage and also mashed potatoes for pierogi fillings. Also have been added to the melted butter drizzled over the cooked pierogi. Love them!

  • Tatiana

    I made caramelized onions using this method tonight and they turned out beautifully :] Thanks!

  • Jeanne

    Mmmm, caramelised onions. I like them as a starter to serve underneath pieces of griddles halloumi cheese; or on a pizza with goat’s cheese. Great tutorial!

  • Penny

    I have done it in a non-stick pan and they come out great.

  • RRK

    I use caramelized onions in chopped liver. Truthfully, I always prefer to include caramelized onions in my cooking, even if the recipe calls for raw ones.

  • Elise

    Could this be done in a non-stick pan?

    Probably. I haven’t tried it. ~Elise

  • marcia

    I have called these onions ‘melted’
    I have a B&B and fold them into an omelet with ‘comte’ cheese.. served with crisp ‘herb , sugared and peppered bacon..
    (baked in the oven) with sauted tomatoes on the side..if in season. and a good peasant bread…………a breakfast that guests ask for again and again .

  • Carla

    I just love caramelized onions with swabian “spätzle” its a regional specialty in the south of germany. Its basically a spongy homemade egg-pasta baked with lots of strong cheese. Topped with caramelized onions-and you are in spätzle-heaven!!!

  • Linda In Washington State

    Hi Elise,

    I like carmelized onions. Thanks for posting a great recipe for them. I love french onion soup made with a cup or so of onion soup, then slice of french bread topped with cheese and broiled.
    I know Vidalias are the “best known sweet onion” but Walla Walla onions are so mild and sweet that they can eaten raw like an apple.

  • Beverly

    Thank You! I had never tried this before, and am SO glad I did! Having never cared for onions I could put these on everything! I have never tasted anything so wonderful! Thank you again!

  • Denise

    I made 101 Cookbooks Onion Dip that you have a link for and let me just say, WOW! – unbelievable! I’ll never go back to a mix again!

    Yep, Heidi knows what she’s doing. She’s got great recipes. ~Elise

  • Nick

    I love the video – nicely done.

    I personally prefer duck fat to olive oil/butter for slow caramelization, but then again, who wouldn’t? :)

  • Penny

    Carmelized onions are the best! They are also the basis for alot of Jewish cooking. We make egg salad with carmelized onions. It is very easy. Just make a plain egg salad (mashed hard boiled eggs, salt, pepper and mayo) and add the onions. If you let it sit in the fridge overnight, the onions really meld into the egg salad and it is out of this world. I serve it as an appetizer with crackers or matzo on the Jewish holidays.

    I also use them with rice, peas and mushrooms. Yummy!!!!

  • Bruce

    I am confused about one thing. In the beginning you talk about caramelizing by slow cooking the onions (Caramelizing onions, by slowly cooking them in a little olive oil …) In the directions, you heated the oil/butter till shimmering, on med-high heat, and added the onions. Only after 30 mins, you mention possibly turning down the heat a bit. So do they really cook slowly on med-high heat for 30 mins?

    Yes they do, if you are starting with a lot of onions, which you should because they cook down so much. But stovetops differ. The guideline is cook to brown, not burn. On my electric cooktop, that setting is about 8 on a scale of 8 to 10. If you think they are too much at risk of burning, or drying out, dial down the heat. But you do want them to brown, which requires them sticking to the pan. When you stir them, the moisture from the onions will deglaze any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. ~Elise

  • Daniel

    I serve caramelized onions with Foie Gras.
    Brings out the flavor and goes very well together.

  • Darryl


    I see some people mentioned “Vidalia”.
    Which onion did you use?

    You mentioned yellow white or red.
    Is there a noticeable difference between the three?

    Hi Darryl, Vidalia is an exceptionally sweet onion with which you can use to make caramelized onions. I’ve used yellow and red onions, but basically all onions have enough sugar in them to sufficiently caramelize. Personally, I don’t really see much difference between them once you’ve cooked them down. ~Elise

  • Kiran

    My aunt taught me to add a splash of milk if you want to caramelise the onions a little faster. It really works great, I us caramelised onions for topping vegetable biryani & for making home made bread using caramelised onions and olives.

  • Sharon

    You can also carmelize onions in a slow cooker – slice onions, add butter and then cook on low for 18-24 hours (we leave the crock pot outside so our house doesn’t smell too much). They brown great, and then also have lots of liquid you can use in onion soup. They also freeze well, so I make a large soup and then freeze small packets for use in other dishes later.

  • Mark

    I love sauted onions (I know, not quite caramelizing, I just don’t have the patience ;) ) but I also prefer to use a little butter, I think it’s a better flavor contrast to the onions. But I don’t put it in at the beginning. I heat up the pan, toss in the onions, and when they start to brown a little (the natural moisture in onions keeps them from sticking/burning to a decent pan), then I put in a pat of butter, and they really start to brown up nicely. Then I like to add teriyaki sauce, and cheese, and when the cheese is all melted, I eat it just like that!

  • Tom

    Elise – I clicked on the link to the onion soup recipe and I love those soup crocks you show in the photos. Any idea where they came from? I’m having trouble finding some like that.

    Salvation Army. Great place to find classic old cookware. ~Elise

  • Heidi / Savory Tv

    Stellar instructions on your technique. I love them on focaccia, topped with Parmesan and warmed.

  • kay

    Ok, caramelized onions are a fine thing. I’ll not disagree with that, as I use the technique frequently. However, ALL caramelized onions pale by comparison with sauteed/caramelized Vidalia onions, when they’re in season. These are possibly the most wonderful onions you have ever put in your mouth.

    Best use: Grill a filet about 20 percent rarer than you like it. Pile caramelized Vidalias on top of it, and crumbled blue cheese on top of that. Stick it under the broiler, or back on the grill, until the cheese melts. Kill anyone who gets close to it.

  • in medias res

    I have several favorite ways to use caramelized onions. A simple Gruyere panini with caramelized onions is the stuff of dreams. They are also delicious in a Spanish tortilla, and my stews frequently start with caramelized onions. The flavor they add to the broth is wonderful.

  • greatmagic

    I love the caramel onions, this is also a base for east Indian cooking. they are yummy!

  • Sherri S.

    BEST DISH EVER using Caramelized Onions

    Pasta with Caramelized Onions

    1. Caramelize 2 lbs. sweet onions as shown in video. Remove from skillet and set aside.
    2. Add 8 oz. DRY pasta, either angel hair or birds nests. Cook and stir for 4-6 min. or until pasta is browned. Add caramelized onions and 2 cups water to skillet. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and cook 5 min. Uncover and cook 5 more min. or until pasta is tender, stirring occassionally. Serve imediately.
    My mouth is watering just typing this.

  • Butterball

    Love them! Vidalia Caramelized Onion Tart which can be made with Sweet Yellows when Vidalias are out of season. Topped on Gruyere Stuffed Meatloaf; pure magic. Top Beef Stroganoff with them! Decadent on Flank Steak & Havarti Hoagie; sort of a gourmet Philly Cheese Steak; smear it with horseradish & some champagne mustard, need I say more…. OMGosh; divine! Always make more than you’ll need for obvious reasons.

  • Kathy Mickam

    Use the caramelized onion, blend them use as a thicking to make gravy in place of flour.

  • Tzal

    Eggs & Onions….after the onions have caramelized, pour in beaten eggs and fresh grated Gruyere – scramble until eggs are just set and cheese is melted. The result is a sweet, salty, gooey delicious breakfast…add in a piece of sourdough toast with butter – perfect! Think I’ll go make some now!

  • Marek

    I love making onions this way. Pesonally I use butter and I season the onions with cumin. They are perfect for hamburgers and I usually eat the rest just like that.

  • Kerry

    Thanks firstly for generously sharing your recipes with us. I always caramelise my onions when I make a bolognaise sauce as it sweetens the tartness of the tomatoes. I also make my frittatas with 3 or 4 onions which I caramelise before adding the other ingredients. It seems to add a richness to the flavours.

  • Rebecca Reid

    I love caramelized onions on homemade pizza! Yum! Love balsamic vinegar with them. Thanks for the reminder. Maybe I’ll make pizza this weekend!

  • steph

    I love them in a burger on in a panini sandwich. They are sooooo good. Next time I will deglaze the pan as recommended.

  • Britt

    Mmmmmm…. Caramelized onions! I love caramelizing onions using Coca-cola instead of olive oil and then placing them on a Bratwurst or Polish Sausage and toasted bun spread with cream cheese! Heaven!

  • Joanna

    Ohhhh, is there anything better than caramelized onions? I make mine a little differently, inspired by a Marcella Hazan recipe for pasta with smothered onions. First, I slice the onions thinly into half-moons (a mandoline makes this really easy). Then I heat oil on low, add the onions and stir to coat, add a pinch of salt, and cover. As long as you leave the heat really low, the onions can cook like this for a really long time without drying out or browning. After about an hour (longer is better but I am never that patient!) I take off the cover, turn up the heat to medium-high-ish, and stir frequently. It usually only takes 5 minutes for the onions to turn a deep, rich brown color once they’ve simmered for so long. And they are out of this world!

  • Lori

    Reminds me how sweet onions can be. I make a chicken stew recipe that is FULL of onions and garlic, and I was surprised the first time I made it how sweet and bright the broth is, not “onioney” or sharp at all.

  • Espahan


    I’m an old time cook but I am finding I come here more and more to try the new twists on many of my old recipes you have on this blog. In the last few days I have made the upside down apple cake, the quick chicken curry, the chicken and rice casserole, the crab fondue, now, you have reminded me of how good carmelized onions can be. When will it end? I hope, not soon.

  • Linda

    I had a caramelized onion, Canadian bacon and bleu cheese panini (needs a really hearty bread) in London. It was incredible.

  • nivedita

    What make is that beautiful saute pan of yours? I am thinking of adding another pan (a steel one for the first time!) to my collection and this looks close to what I had in mind. Thanks!

    That pan is a “Tools of the Trade” branded pan. I love that brand, I think they carry it at Macy’s. The bottom is thick and the stainless handles are hollow so they are light, easy to hold, and cool quickly. ~Elise

  • sue

    I hope you enjoy this recipe using caramelized onions combined with apples and beets. My Granddaughter made it for Thanksgiving and we loved it. She will be so happy I shared it with all of you! I was thinking of not using the blender, just mixing it together sort of chunky like. Granddaughter put it all in the blender and it was a great side dish. The combination of onions, apples, beets is so surprisingly good, give it a try!!

    8 beets
    2 T salt
    1C chopped onions (2 sm. onions)
    1 1/2 lbs of tart apples
    1 T sugar
    1/4 c. balsamic vinegar + 1 T. jam or/ use raspberry balsamic or/ use more sugar and less vinegar

    Boil beets w/ 2 T salt
    simmer for 40 min-1hr till tender
    saute onion in butter in pan and cook covered on med heat for 25 minutes stirring occasionally
    peel, core and chop apples and add to onions, then add sugar , 1/2 t. salt and vinegar (plus jam if using it)
    simmer uncovered 15-20 min until tender
    transfer saute and cut up beets to blender

  • Gary in Massena

    A dish that I make for holiday meals is to take a bag of frozen pearl onions (or fresh if I can find them) and then caramelize them similar to this (except I use butter instead of olive oil).

    I double caramelize them though. After the natural sugars start to caramelize I add more sugar and then let it caramelize too. So the onions end up with a candied covering.

    Always a crowd pleaser.

  • Valerie

    Can you caramelize in a non-stick skillet?

    I’ve never tried it, if you do please let us know how it works out for you. I think it should work. ~Elise

  • Emily

    This post brought me back! My first foray into scrumptious cooking in a high school ‘food cuisine’ class was a recipe for caramelized onion and smoked gouda quesadillas – still one of my favorites today. Elise, thanks for this post and, as always, your healthful, beautiful blog! Whee! Emily

  • Sarah

    Love onions this way all by themselves – Yummy. I will now try to make soup – thank you for the suggestion. I will also try them in a grilled cheese sandwich. Raw onion inside a grilled cheese makes the whole sandwich taste like onion rings – of course you have to use american cheese.

  • Rachel

    Ohhhhh, yum, my mouth is just watering…
    I too love this type of prep. for onions, a wonderful taste & such a treat. I use onions
    on a daily basis especially w/ wintertime and it being cold season… they have a GREAT big dose of healing qualities for staying healthy.
    A favorite appetizer of mine is to make small
    pizza’s w/ onions, diced chicken, gorgonzola cheese, greek olives & garlic…. all that’s missing is that glass of wine !!

  • Cassandra Mitchell

    I like to caramelize onions and cabbage (cut into similiar size pieces as the onions) together. It works in almost every recipe like French Onion soup, pot roast, sandwiches, etc. Maybe the combo’s even a little sweeter than just plain onions.

    When I make caramelized cabbage for soup, I use a rich beef broth and then finish the soup with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of caraway seeds. I call it Polish Onion soup…..

    I use a commercial stove, which doesn’t have a very low simmer, so when the bottom of the pan gets a little too dark and crusty during the caramelization process, I turn the heat off (or way down) for a few minutes and let the fond melt into the onions until the pan’s bottom is clean again. This technique actually speeds up the caramelization process, by using several alternations of hotter and cooler temperatures. Plus, it’s a life saver if you neglect to stir the onions often enough and they start to burn.

    I’m a retired restauranteur/chef (The Diner in Yountville) and have been a faithful reader of Simply Recipes for quite some time. I really enjoy your superb recipes and tantalizing photos.

  • ItalianFoodie

    After I cut the onions, I put them in the microwave on high, covered, for 10 or 15 minutes – longer for more onions. Then I put them in a heated pan with olive oil and they caramelize in minutes. Add some brandy or dry sherry, cook down, add broth, bay leaves and thyme, and simmer for onion soup.

    Put caramelized onions on toasted bread and sprinkle with bleu cheese for an appetizer or canape.

    Add to a savory bread pudding for extra taste.

    Mix with peas for a side dish.

    Ginny’s sandwich above is technically a Philly Cheese Steak Hoagie.

  • Allison

    Caramelized onions make the perfect finishing touch to my blue-cheese and pear pizza :)

  • Kori

    Caramelized onions are one of my favorite foods—I would eat them with almost anything, but three of my favorites (aside from caramelized onion dip—I highly recommend Ina Garten’s recipe) are very simple pairings: caramelized onions with roast chicken, caramelized onion “sauce” for hambugers, and caramelized onions with spicy black beans and rice.

    The roast chicken pairing is a classic, and it works out great, because while a chicken is in the oven, the stove top is free for slow-cooking onions. The sweet onions on top of juicy roast chicken and root vegetables (especially with rosemary and garlic) is fantastic.

    As for the hamburger “sauce,” I think this is inspired from an episode of “Good Eats.” Take some onions, a bit of mayo, a bit of sour cream (I don’t have exact amounts, but you want the onions coated but not drowning), some tarragon, black pepper, and salt, and mix together. Place on the bottom bun of a hamburger or cheesburger, then place the burger right on top. Something about the juices of the burger mixing with this sauce is magical.

    The last one is my favorite, by far, and we use it a lot on “meatless Fridays” for Lent. As with the chicken, if you are slow cooking beans and rice, you are free to cook those onions. Even a boxed/bagged beans and rice package is elevated when you add carmelized onions as an accompaniment. We love to make our beans and rice a little on the spicy side, then serve them almost like nachos—beans and rice, tortilla chips, grated cheese, salsa, sour cream, and of course, carmelized onions. I really can’t make beans and rice without onions anymore, it has become such a part of our tradition. DELICIOUS!

    Can’t wait to hear more ideas!

  • chris

    Yes, a very very tasty alternative is frying a strip of bacon, and caramelizing the onions in that fat. Top the onions on toasted baguette with scrambled eggs, or fold into a simple omlette, and top with fresh grated parmiaganno. It’s a beautiful breakfast.

  • Debbie

    Does caramelizing onions in a nonstick pan work as well? At the moment that’s all I have.
    Love your blog!

    It should work, why don’t you try it with your pan and see? ~Elise

  • Adriene

    There’s a Lebanese dish with lentils, bulgur and you top it with lots of caramelized onions and you can put Lebanese salad on top, too. It’s delicious and healthy. In fact, I should make it this weekend.

  • Alizia

    Thanks for the recipe, I’ve been needing to know if there’s a special way to make caramelized onions. I love moujadara – Lebanese dish of rice & lentils topped with caramelized onions- and want to try to make my own…without burning the onions!

  • Adam

    Oh my word, those are beautiful. I bet your house smelled wonderful!

    In my house we’ve always stopped caramelizing when they were still a little translucent. We like them a little bit more firm for steaks. For stews and roasts, I always cook them all the way down like you have.

    Mmm. Delicious.

  • Jen

    I will only eat onions caramelized.
    Try them on a turkeyburger or in a baked potato

  • Ginny

    Try this recipe.
    Fry paper thin steak, top with caramelized onions, melth provolone cheese on top, cover with an open Italian roll and flip it out of the pan. Stuff with lettuce and tomatoes. Flavor with red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano and dried pepper dots.
    You’ll have a philly cheese steak.

    • Philly Bob

      Uh, a cheese steak maybe, but not a Philly cheese steak. A real Philly cheese steak has steak, GRILLED onions, and Cheese Wiz, nothing else. All these companies and restaurants claiming to serve them need to learn that.

      That being said, I prefer American cheese and a bit of marinara myself, and caramelized onions would be good too as long as the sauce wasn’t too sweet.

    • Yep

      Cuban steak sandwich.

  • Rebekah

    Hey Elise,

    In agreement with everyone else, caramelized onions are good no matter how you eat them. But, I have a friend who made an amazing pizza recipe with them:

    Caramelized onions, bartlett pears, creamy cheese(we used goat). She caramelized the onions and when they were finished, added the pears until they were tender. Then, we spread it on a Trader Joe’s pre-made pizza dough(I think it was the garlic one) and then topped with cheese. Then baked until the dough was crunchy and the cheese was warm. IT WAS TO DIE FOR!!!!! :)

  • Regina

    My favorite way to eat caramelized onions is in a Danish dish my mom makes – Boef med Log (beef with onions). She caramelizes onions, puts them to the side, then makes about 6 patties out of ground beef (or ground sirloin, for a leaner meal), cooks them in the same pan as she did the onions, then pulls the patties out and sets them to the side. Once all the oniony and beefy goodness is in the pan, she makes a pan gravy, using Kitchen Bouquet to darken it up (and of course scraping up all the yummy dark bits on the bottom of the pan!), then puts the patties BACK in the gravy, and puts a “dollop” of onions on top of each patty. Serve with boiled potatoes and hope you’re the last one to get yours out of the pan (so you can snag all the yummy carmelized onions that fell off others’ patties into the gravy)….. (or that you’re the first, so you can be first to get seconds!)…. mmmmmmmmmm

  • Julie

    Ever try caremelizing onions in an electric skillet? I’ve never done it but I heard that since the heat is better regulated you can actually set the skillet to med/low and forget about them. You don’t have to tend to them at all just leave alone for 30 minutes to an hour and presto you have sweet delicious carmelized onions. I’m hungry for some French onion soup now!

  • Peter Albertson

    Yeah, they are great in omelettes, but don’t mix them in to the beaten egg. Try folding a batch of caramelized onion and a few sprinkles of black pepper into the middle of the omelette right after you pour the eggs into the pan, then fold the omelette over the onions. That gives you a really nice hit of flavor. Also. don’t cook your omelette too dry. Tastes best when it still a bit runny–baveuse (sp?)

  • atia

    I like to make focaccia and cover with caramelized onions as a topping. They are delicious.

  • Persian Kitchen

    I love caramelized onions, we actually sprinkle some on top of hearty soups, at times we also add a little bit of dried mint to it during the cooking process. So good!

  • doodles

    Oh man straight outta the pan with a little salt………….but one of my new favorite way is on a baked potato with gorgonzola cheese…….yes carmelized onions rule.

  • Sue

    I love to stir caramelized onions into mashed potatoes. Pure heaven.

  • liz

    I recently ‘discovered’ caramelized shallots, to my absolute delight!! Shallots are similar enough to onions…anywho, I put them on top of mac & cheese, the flavor is absolutely incredible, transforming a good pan of M & C into something you will rave about!!

  • bureaucrat

    I’d love to make this… but what about the onion tears? ouch!

    Not so bad if you cut the onions as shown. Keeping the cut sides down and the pieces somewhat together while you cut them keeps fewer cut sides from being exposed to air and releasing their tear-inducing fumes. ~Elise

  • Bruce

    One neat trick is to repeatedly deglaze the pan with water throughout the caramelization process. You end up with more of the yummy goodness in the onions and less stuck to the pan. You can keep it up for a couple of hours with great results if you have the patience.

  • Jeannine

    My fried potatoes with caramelized onions are always in demand at family gatherings. I rinse cubed potatoes in cold water until the starch is gone. Brown well in oil (or bacon grease for the best flavor). Add salt and pepper to taste and toss with a lot of caramelized onions just before serving.

  • Darren

    If I recall, America’s test kitchen (Cook’s Illustrated) caramelized onions in the oven. I will have to back and see if it speeds up the process.

  • Tracy

    I am with you, I could eat onions like this every night. My favorite dish in the summer is

    Mushrooms, Onions, and Fresh Zucchini sauteed in butter with a bit of olive oil…

    It gets no better then that!

  • Anne

    I like caramelized onions very much and use them in so many ways. A favorite is an open face snadwich: spread onions on whole grain crusty bread top with Gruyere or Jarlberg swiss cheese and broil until melted and bubbling. Great video along with the instructions.

  • Katie

    My favorite way to eat caramelized onions is in a fajita with red & green bell peppers and chicken. Now I’m craving fajitas! I love caramelized onions :)

  • Kevin H

    I love them on top of a sausage in a bun with some good mustard on top. Just throw the cooked sausage in with the onions at the end to brown it.

  • Tatiana

    These look just gorgeous! I’ve tried caramelizing onions before using a few different methods (more sugar, honey instead of sugar, no oil and just butter, etc etc) but yours definitely end up looking the prettiest and I like that you explained that they continue to NEED attention throughout the cooking process ;)

    These are definitely going to find their way into a dinner soon!

  • Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    Can you freeze caramelized onions? I love to use them for topping pizza, and it would be great to make a big batch and have them on hand to sprinkle here and there.

  • PJ

    If I’m not using them for French Onion soup, I like them on roast beef sandwiches, on pizza, in omelettes, and in the middle of grilled cheese sandwiches. (I cut mine crosswise, though.)

  • Suzee

    I love caramelized onion with chopped canadian bacon and american cheese in an omlette! They are also great on pizza with extra sauce, grilled chicken and cheese, or added to lightly sauteed spinach – yummmmm :) I think I like them best next to a pan seared filet finished in the oven with a nice demi glace made from the cabernet I serve with dinner. Now if only I could get caramelized onions to like me as much as I like them :)

  • Bill


    I recently had to caramelize up some onions and tried this trick using a pinch of baking soda to speed things along.

    It worked *great* and you only need a tiny pinch for a couple of onions worth of cooking. Try it sometime :)

    Hi Bill, I tried the baking soda trick last week and found that it foamed up the onions a bit and made them a little mushy. I honestly didn’t see any increase in cooking time and was disappointed as I had heard that it would speed up the process. However, I didn’t add the baking soda until 10 min into the process, so maybe that had something to do with it. The taste was great though. Glad it worked for you. I may try again with fewer onions, or a little more baking soda, and the baking soda put in at the beginning. ~Elise

  • Elizabeth

    I can honestly eat them straight as well, but my favorite use is piled high on a medium-rare steak. Yum!

    • Tom @ RYG

      Oh my goodness, totally agree. On steak caramelized onions are amazing! But I can just eat them. As is. They are good on everything and anything. Great post!