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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

{Kitchen Tips} Caramelized Onions

Last night we had honey goat cheese and caramelized onion pizza for dinner. This is one of my FAVORITE recipes, so if you haven’t tried it, hop to it! Anyway, as I was caramelizing the onions yesterday to prep for the pizza, I was thinking of maybe writing a post about my technique. We had a couple of friends over last night and one of them mentioned that whenever she tries to make caramelized onions, she burns them and it makes her so mad. That sealed the deal…I decided a post was in order!

I have made a few batches of caramelized onions that go the way of burned onions myself. I had tried techniques from reputable sources, but always ended up burning some of the onions. After much trial and error, I finally have the process down and they come out GREAT, not a burned onion to be seen! I am no longer scared of caramelizing onions…yep, I was scared of them before. 😉

Caramelized Onions
  • 2 onions
  • Olive Oil
  • Sugar
  1. Cut off the ends of your onion and remove outer layer. Cut onion in half (so the cut ends are facing out on the sides when you do the cut) and lay the large cut sides down on your cutting surface. Slice onions very thinly, starting from one of the small cut outer edges and going straight across the onion.
  2. Heat about 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick, wide pan (that has a lid) over medium heat. Add onions. Sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of sugar. Stir and cook onions until soft. Reduce heat to medium-low. If the pan surface seems a bit dry, add a little bit of olive oil and toss to coat. Put lid on the pan and let onions cook, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Total cook time will be about 20-30 minutes. Go head, do other stuff, just remember to lift the lid and stir periodically. Cook until onions are a nice dark brown color and have reduced in volume significantly.
  3. Here is why I do what I do. I like to add a bit of sugar to help with the caramelization. I use a non-stick pan, which has worked better for me than stainless steel. The lid being on the pan during the long cooking portion of the program is key. By keeping the lid on, enough water stays in the pan to keep the onions from drying out and burning. Please note that I don't think this is the traditional way to cook caramelized onions, but I'm a busy mom who can't mess with high-maintenance onions...I need a foolproof way to cook them without burning them and this works for me!
  4. Voilà! Caramelized onions!



  1. 1

    The key is the low heat! This is pretty much how we cook them in restaurants also. 🙂

  2. 2
    Megan Flowers

    I LOVE your honey goat cheese pizza. It was one of the first recipes I made when I found your blog!

  3. 3

    I’m a big “big-batch-and-freeze” girl….does anyone know if you can caramelize a big batch of onions? Or, like some recipes (pecan pie muffins come to mind), should you keep the recipe small? And freezing–can you freeze them? Or do you lose something if you freeze caramelized onions?

    • Jane Maynard

      good question, susan! I actually don’t know for sure…I feel like it might work, but I’m going to email commenter #1 who works in a restaurant to see if she knows! 🙂

    • Hi Ladies! You can most definitely caramelize huge batches of onion. You just need to make sure heat is low & keep mixing. I’ve never froze caramelized onions but I wouldn’t see why it wouldn’t work. I would spread them out on a baking sheet & freeze on that 1st so it wouldn’t just be one huge clump & then transfer to indiviual-use freezer bags. Hope this helps!

  4. The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook has a recipe for French Onion Dip using caramelized onions that is seriously like scooping a little bite of heaven into your mouth. Mmmmmm….. not to mention, I love the smell of caramelizing onions in my house. Now I’m starving!!

  5. 5

    Love these tips! I make your honey goat cheese pizza all of the time, it’s my favorite kind of pizza!

  6. 6

    I used these same style onions on a very,very thin crust pizza. Homemade dough rolled super thin and topped with 1/2bbq 1/2 pizza sauce, mozz and leftover bbq pork chopped. Then topped with carmelized onions. Baked at 480° for about 8min and then topped with shredded cabbage and a balsamic reduction! Party in my mouth!

  7. 7

    Thank you!!! Can’t wait to try this recipe again and have yummy non burnt caramelized onions!

  8. If you do not have a good pan with a lid you can use parchment paper over the top as the lid, I found this trick from a Williams and Sonoma cookbook recipe for Red Wine Gravy and it gets the onions really good and melty!

  9. 9

    I made some caramelized onion marmelade this past year and canned it. OH MY. With a little freshly made chevre on some flat bread – okay – now I’m drooling…. YUM!

    Absolutely agree – it’s all about the low and slow. 🙂

  10. 10

    Yum! Looks delicious!I’m going to try that!

  11. 11
    Kelly Youngquest

    I started making this for my husband earlier this evening. As the onions were frying he asked if we had sugar… We didn’t. However we did have some wonderful real maple syrup, so I used that instead. According to him, they turned out really well.

    • Jane Maynard

      mmmm, that sounds like a yummy twist!

      honestly I don’t think you HAVE to have sugar, there are probably enough sugars in the onions to do the trick, but I like the flavor of a bit of additional sugar and I think it helps move things a long a bit. maple syrup is a great sub!

  12. I always love to add a splash of balsamic vinegar towards the end, too. It gives them a little extra fruity sweetness and a gorgeous color

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