Caramelized Onions

21 May

I am a bit of a conundrum.  When we are out at a restaurant and I order a burger, I always ask for no onions, but then proceed to order a side of onion rings!  Weird, right?   This brings me to today’s topic, Caramelized Onions.  The flavour of the onion transforms right before your eyes when you cook them slowly and add a few extra ingredients to help bring out their natural sweetness.

Now, I add onions to almost every dish that I cook.  It adds a lot of flavour and complexity.  It really is a staple in the kitchen, right along side garlic.  But I don’t want to bite down on a piece of raw onion

My sister, Cherie, is the one who introduced me to the art of caramelizing onions.  I was following a recipe and it said to caramelize the onions.  I had searched on-line for techniques to caramelize and a lot of recipes that I found only called for cooking the onions for fifteen to twenty minutes.  I found that when I followed this technique, the onions still tasted too onion-y.  I knew that they would turn sweet, but how long would it take.  Cherie mentioned to me that takes upwards of an hour to correctly caramelize an onion.  She was so right!  The longer you cook your onions, the sweeter they taste.

A lot of recipes that you might find call for white sugar to be added, but I prefer the richness of brown sugar and to deglaze the pan with a touch of balsamic vinegar to really ramp up the flavour of your caramelized onions.  Trust me, even if you aren’t a big fan of onions, you will be able to eat these on their own.

Once you have tasted them, you will want to keep a jar of these onions in your fridge, as they are the perfect condiment for sandwiches and burgers.

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Adapted from:
Simply Recipes – How to Caramelize Onions


  • 5 large white onions
  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • 3 tsp butter
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar


  1. Slice off the root and top ends of the onions and peel the onions.  Cut the onions in half.  Lay them cut side down and slice the onions lengthwise to desired thickness.
  2. Use a wide, thick-bottomed sauté pan for maximum pan contact with the onions.  Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and butter.  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.  After 10 minutes, sprinkle some salt over the onions, and add the brown sugar (this helps with the caramelization process).  If you feel your onions may be drying out you can add a little water to the pan.
  3. Let cook for 45 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.  After the first 20 to 30 minutes you may want to lower the stove temperature a little, and add a little more oil.  Continue to cook and stir until the onions are a rich, browned color.
  4. At the end of the cooking process add the balsamic vinegar to 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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5 responses to “Caramelized Onions

  1. Conor Bofin

    May 21, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    I had just this with rib eye steak for dinner this evening.
    Excellent stuff indeed.


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