Basics Recipe: Caramelized Onions

Caramelized onions are game changers. They are sweet and smoky bursts of flavor that can be both simple and sophisticated at the same time. You can add them to virtually any meal and they will exponentially improve the dish. Best of all they are easy to make if you’re willing to invest some time. Let’s go back to basics, shall we?

Here’s what you need to yield about 2 cups, fully cooked:
4 medium yellow onions
2 tbsp. EVOO
3 tbsp. butter, Smart Balance, etc.

A little primer on onions: they are dense, full of water, give a lot of it off in the cooking process, and take a while to cook down. No matter, have patience. And don’t even think about covering your pot while you’re making these. We want all that water to evaporate, not collect in the pot. I know, they are stinky. I hate the lingering smell of onions in my house too. My tips are to crank your rangetop’s fan to high and light some candles.

A few more notes: onions are said to have great medicinal benefits because of their high phenol counts, antioxidants, and enzymes. Much research has been done on their role in healing anything from the common cold to osteoporosis to cancer. Awesome. Let’s move on.

Cut your onions in any size you want, just make sure they are uniform so the cooking time is the same for each piece.


Over high heat, combine your butter and oil. Using a combination of the two is done because it will even out the cooking time and reduce burning because of the higher smoke point of the oil, and it will create a more complex flavor.


Put the onions in the pot and toss to coat every piece with butter/oil.

Sidenote: I have finally found the perfect utensil for caramelizing onions: the IKEA stirring spatula. It’s sturdy, small, and thin, making it perfect for maneuvering a hot pan. Also, the flat, yet heavy duty, spatula makes it very easy to separate each piece of onion from the large chunks I cut.


While your onions cook down it’s important to keep tossing and stirring them. Stir from the bottom to the top to make sure the distribution is even throughout the pot. Caramelized onions should be uniformly cooked and uneven stirring can ruin your whole operation.

Here they are just starting to brown after 15 minutes.


Getting close to done at 23 minutes.


Done after 30 minutes. I prefer my onions to have a deep brown color. Delicious caramelized sugars!


These should keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or so. You can add them to literally anything. My favorite uses are to put on pizza, layer in sandwiches, scatter on tacos, and to add in to larger dishes to increase the flavor (soups, stir fry, dips). Enjoy!

Author: Domestocrat

I'm a lady who enjoys photography, football, cooking, long drives with the windows down, This American Life, kettlecorn, hot yoga, pop punk, my nephews, my cat Reggie, and my home: Boston.

20 thoughts

  1. How high do you generally crank up the range for this? I figure it doesn’t matter too terribly much if you’re paying attention and stirring frequently, but I figured I’d ask.

      1. Haha, all good! A note though: now that I have gas and I’m finding that the heat runs really hot, I’d say definitely high heat for an electric stove and medium-high with a gas stove depending on how hot it gets.

  2. Pingback: Caramelized Onions

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