how to caramelize onions

dsc_2984Caramelized onions are an easy way to add flavor to anything you make – like sandwiches, pizza, or even bruschetta. They are simple to make, and everyone will tell you that the key is to cook them low and slow over a lllllong period of time.

If you’re like me, you’re already ahead of the game because you only need a small amount of onions. See? You’re already winning. Five cups of onions will yield about 2 cups of caramelized onions – so my 2  medium-ish onions made about 1/2 C of caramelized onions (which is all I really needed for BF and I). If you want more, by all means throw ’em in – it will take a bit longer for them to caramelize, though.

you’re missing the full cuteness – they can see me at the window and then they all run and hide in the bush

While simple in theory, these can cause problems for someone like me who is short on both patience and attention (so what if some of us get distracted by the cute little quail chicks in the back yard).

Solution? Start them around medium to medium-high to begin the cooking process, and then turn them to low/med-low once they’ve already begun to brown, so that you can avoid burning them.  If you have a view of the back yard through your window, maybe you can watch the little critters play while your onions caramelize. Caramelized onions will make your house smell amazing and add a delightful bit of sweet to your savory dishes.

How to Caramelize Onions

What you need:

  • Onions
  • Oil & butter
  • Salt
  • dash of sugar
  1. Heat pan on medium/medium-high and add a drizzle of olive oil (enough to coat your onions with). It’s better to use stainless steel than nonstick, to encourage browning.
  2. If you like, you can add a bit of butter as well…
  3. Once the butter is melted and the oil is shimmering, add your onions. Stir frequently to coat them in the oil. Let the onions sweat (release their liquid) stirring occasionally.
  4. As soon as they start to brown a little bit, turn the heat to low/medium-low and continue cooking. (Patience is your best friend here) Add a sprinkle of salt over them and stir to incorporate.  If you want some additional sweetness, you may sprinkle a tiny bit of sugar over them as well. Sometimes I add a dash of balsamic vinegar as well.
  5. Whatever you do, don’t leave the kitchen, stand by their side faithfully stirring every few minutes making sure they don’t burn.
  6. If you build a good layer of caramelization on the bottom of your pan, feel free to add a few tablespoons of water, or even a dash of white wine, to deglaze the pan. That will take all that delicious brown color and flavor from the bottom of your pan and put it right into your onions, where it belongs.
  7. After about 30 minutes, depending on how many onions you’re using, you may be done! If not, just continue stirring and deglazing until your onions are fully caramelized, an additional 30 minutes, more or less.