Caramelized onions are one of my favorite condiments. They’re amazing in soups, in pasta, with meat, beans — you name it. They are a wonderful addition to so many savory recipes. Every home cook should know the basics of caramelizing onions; it will take your cooking to the next level!
I use regular yellow onions. Technically, this method for will work with any onions (red, Vidalia, etc.), but I find that yellow onions provide the best results. They offer just the right balance of sweet and bitter.
For this process, I recommend slicing the onions into half moons. Onions have two sides: the root and the stem. You always want to leave the root side intact because it holds the onion together while slicing and dicing. To create a half-moon cut: Slice off the stem of the onion, and lay the flattened end against the cutting board. Slice the onion in half directly through the root and remove the outer papery layers from each half of the onion. Place one half of the onion on the cutting board (as shown above) and cut into thin slices. Repeat with the other half.
Place the onion slices in a large nonstick skillet or dutch oven. Add a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. The olive oil will help prevent the onions from sticking to the bottom of the pan while heating up, and the salt will help release the onion’s natural water.
Heat the onions over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until they begin to sizzle. Have a measuring cup filled with water on standby. After several minutes, caramelized brown bits will begin to appear on the bottom of the pan (these brown bits are also known as in the culinary world as “fond”). This is good; it will give the onions their dark color and bittersweet flavor. Let the brown bits build up for a while without letting them burn. After a few minutes, pour about 1 to 2 tablespoons of water into the pan and scrape those brown bits up and into the onion mixture.
Continue this process for 20 to 30 minutes. You can expedite the process by turning the heat up to medium; but you will need to keep a close eye on them, stirring and deglazing with water frequently. If you are like me and prefer to multitask in the kitchen, keep the heat on medium-low and you can leave them unattended for a few minutes at a time.
Keep in mind that the more water you add when deglazing, the longer it will take for the onions to finish caramelizing. The water needs to evaporate each time before the brown bits can reappear.
The longer the onions are caramelized, the more bitter their flavor will become, which is a good thing. You want a balance of bitter and sweet in the final product.
How to Caramelize Onions:
- Yellow onions
- Approximately 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Approximately 1 teaspoon salt
- Slice the onions into half moons and place in a large nonstick skillet or dutch oven along with the olive oil and salt.
- Turn the heat on medium-low and stir the onions until they begin sizzling. Allow brown bits to form on the bottom of the pan and then deglaze with 1 to 2 tablespoons water. Use a spatula to scrape the brown bits back into the onions.
- Repeat this process, stirring frequently, for 20 to 30 minutes or until the onions are a dark, golden brown.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to five days.