How to Caramelize Onions: everything you need to know

Total time: 55 Min
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 8 people
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several, thinly sliced
Extra virgin olive oil

One skill every home cook should have in their back pocket is how to caramelize onions. Why? Caramelized onions are a simple, flavorful way to prepare onions and they can be used to accompany so many dishes. Their sweet flavor and tender texture are ideal for spooning onto a burger, mixing into pasta dishes, or enjoying as a side dish with steak. Caramelized onions have a richer, deeper, and more intense flavor than regular sauteed onions. They're also sweeter, which makes them perfect with savory or even spicy dishes. Making caramelized onions is incredibly easy. Here's every tip and trick you should know for how to make the best caramelized onions every time.

What is the Best Onion for Caramelized Onions? 


You can use any type of onion in this recipe. Red, yellow, and white onions all taste wonderful when caramelized. Sweeter varieties like Vidalia and Walla Walla are especially good.

What is the Best Pan to Use for Caramelized Onions? 

You'll need a wide saute pan to make caramelized onions at home. The wider the pan, the better. This allows the maximum amount of onions to be in contact with the heat and will help them caramelize more evenly.

How Long Does it Take to Caramelize the Onions? 

Caramelizing onions isn't quick, but the results are so worth it. You'll need to set aside about 45 minutes to an hour to make them. The onions need to soften for about 10 minutes before you add in the sugar, followed by another 30 to 60 minutes. Don't rush it – that low slow cooking is key to making the best caramelized onions.

Tips for the Best Caramelized Onions

Use one teaspoon of butter per onion, or leave out the butter to make your caramelized onions vegan or vegetarian-friendly.

You can caramelize several onions at once. The exact number depends on how wide your pan is. Ideally, there should be maximum contact between the pan and the onions. To make larger amounts of caramelized onions, you may need to work in batches.

Use brown sugar, white wine, or balsamic vinegar to give your caramelized onions more flavor. Sugar helps caramelize the onions, but you can leave it out if you desire.

How to Serve Caramelized Onions

Caramelized onions will enhance just about any savory dish. Use them as a topping for burgers, pizza, tacos, or steaks. Mix them into pasta dishes or some homemade hummus or turn them into a caramelized onion tartlet.

How to Store Caramelized Onions? 

Transfer caramelized onions to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Can I Freeze Caramelized Onions? 

Absolutely! Frozen caramelized onions can be kept for several months. For extra convenience, freeze them in an ice cube tray then transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer-safe bag.


Melt butter with olive oil in a wide skillet. Add in the onions and toss to coat. Spread the onions over the bottom of the pan, and let cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook for 10 minutes.

Add in a dash of sugar and salt. If necessary, add some water to the pan to stop the onions from drying out. Cook for 30 to 60 minutes, stirring regularly. Once the onions start sticking to the pan, allow them to brown slightly before stirring them. Continue until the onions are dark brown.


The exact amount of caramelized onions you get depends on how many you cook. Five large onions will yield about 2 cups of caramelized onions.

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