Nourish PA: How to Make Caramelized Onions

If you find yourself with an abundance of onions, caramelize them! When onions are cooked this way — slowly, over low heat to coax out their natural sugars — they turn silky in texture with an incredible depth of flavor. Make a big batch, as they hold in the refrigerator for some time, and add wonderful savoriness to dishes like eggs, roasted potatoes and soups

The trick is to keep the onions cooking over low-to-medium heat so they develop rich color and flavor without burning or charring. Properly finished caramelized onions should be sweeter, softer and lighter than sautéed onion you might find on a cheesesteak. For best results, err on the side of lower heat, and try not to rush the process!

To properly caramelize onions, you will need:

  • A surplus of onions, such as Spanish yellow, Vidalia, or white
  • A heavy-bottomed pot or pan (cast iron works great) 
  • A small amount of oil and salt.

How to prepare the onions:

First remove the top and bottom of the onions. Half the onion cutting from the top to bottom. Remove the skin and outermost layer of the onion. You can save your scraps for a vegetable stock later, or discard them. Thinly slice the onions in whichever manner you prefer. The onions will cook down in size substantially, so prepare a good amount.

Caramelized Onions

Prep Time Cook Time Total Time
10 min 40 min 50 min


  • Onions, any quantity
  • Oil
  • Salt


  1. Choose a pan large enough that you can lay your onions in a single layer, or as shallow as possible. Heat pan slightly over medium heat prior to adding the onions. Oil the bottom of the pan and add the onions all at once.
  2. Season with salt. (Not only will this bring out the flavor of the onion, but it will pull out the natural water within the onion and help in the cooking process.)
  3. Stir onions occasionally and allow them to brown, moving them often to achieve even color. If you do not see color forming as your onions cook, turn the heat up slightly. If your onions are browning too quickly, reduce the heat.
  4. Continue to stir your onions every few minutes until browning has started and is uniform. Cover the pot or pan with a lid and continue to cook the onions over medium heat.
  5. Check onions every 5-10 minutes, stirring along the way. If the onions are starting to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a tablespoon of water and stir until they release. When the onions have cooked down and are starting to look jammy, remove the lid and turn the heat to high, stirring constantly for the last minute. The color should continue to deepen.
  6. Once the color has deepened, and the onions look like they have almost melted together, they are done. Caramelized onions should hold in a refrigerator for up to 7 days.

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