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How to Caramelize Onions

Posted Aug 15 2012 3:00am How to Caramelize Onions

It’s time for another recipe link-up where each month we make a recipe featuring a fruit, vegetable, legume, or whole grain from a different set of letters of the alphabet.

So far I’ve done:

(A or B): Buttercup Squash and Artichoke Pasta
(C or D): Grenadian Oil Down with Cassava (Favourite)
(E or F): Homemade Fig Newtons (Favourite)
(G or H): White Chicken Chili with Hominy
(I or J): Juniper Berry Bechamel
(K or L): Kamut Brioche

This month we look at M, N, or O. My ingredient of choice: Onions.


People who say they don’t like onions are either liars or ignorami. Maybe they don’t like raw onions, that must be it, because onions are cooked into practically everything. Pasta sauce, curries, stews, soups, cassaroles, hamburgers, and roasts all have onions. When cooked, onion imparts this amazing sweet flavour that you can’t get from other vegetables. It’s worth crying over.

Onions, of course, are very good for you. They’re a great source of vitamin C and a good source of fibre.

I use a range of different types of onions in cooking. I like red onions if I’m using them raw, white onions for Mexican dishes, sweet onions for caramelizing, shallots if I only need a little onion flavour, and yellow onions for everything. But really I use whatever onion I have in the onion basket for whatever I’m making. They’re all good.

Arguably my favourite way to prepare onions is to caramelize them. This is probably due to my rampant sweet tooth.
Onions have lots of natural sugars in them that can be drawn out by cooking them slowly at a low temperature. It’s amazing how pungent, raw onions can take on a candied taste with just some heat and butter.

Caramelized onions are the vegetarian’s answer to bacon. They taste amazing on everything. They add a touch of sweetness and richness and a silky mouthfeel.
The best thing is that making caramelized onions is super easy. It takes just 3 ingredients, a little bit of time, and not all that much attention.

You could add a touch of sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar if you’d like (I’m looking at you, sister) but it’s entirely unecessary to get you a deliciously sweet caramelized onion.

Serves 4

Serve them with pretty much anything.


2 large or 4 small onions (sweet onions taste best but any old onion will do)
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt


Heat a large pan over medium-low heat while you thinly slice the onions into half moons.

Add the butter to the pan and allow it to melt and bubble then add the sliced onions. Cover the pan with a lid and cook the onions until they are tender and just starting to brown ~10-12 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Remove the cover from the pan and add the salt. They’ll look like this:

Continue to cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the onions turn a rich caramel colour (about another 15 minutes or so).

Midway through cooking uncovered they’re look like this:

Pay attention near the end because you want the onions brown but not overcooked. Something like this:

I think I even cooked these slightly longer after taking the picture.

Voila! Caramelized Onions. Easy Peasy.


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