Caramelized Onions

Recipe Level: Basic | Recipe Speed: Leisurely | Season: All | Type: Condiment - Savory | Diet: Vegan/GF/DF


  • 5 yellow onions
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil, or another oil you prefer
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup water at room temperature, plus more if needed


  1. Peel the onions, halve them through the stem ends, and slice them into half-moons, making the slices as thin as you can. (When you can no longer make thin slices, set the end pieces aside, and save them for stock. You can make a “stockpile” in the freezer, with meat bones, onions ends, mushroom stems, corn cobs, and trimmings from other veggies).
sliced onions
onions in a pan

2. Place the oil in a large, heavy pan over medium heat, and when it’s warm, add the onions, and sprinkle with salt. The salt will help the onion’s cell walls begin to break down.


3. Cook, stirring every few minutes, as the onions sweat, and begin to caramelize. If that is happening too quickly, you can reduce the heat.

onions are browning

4. Partway through the process, you’ll notice that there’s some buildup on the bottom of the pan. In French, this is called “fond.” To keep the fond from darkening — and to help the onions along — you’ll want to start regularly adding liquid to the pan, a couple tablespoonfuls at a time, and stirring to release the browned bits from the bottom. This process is called “deglazing.” You can deglaze with water, but you can also use other liquids, including beer, wine, cider, and hard cider.


5. The onions are done when they are tender, dark brown, and consistent in texture. This usually takes up to 45 minutes, but can take longer, depending on the temperature you choose.


6. When the onions are ready, deglaze the pan one last time, and cook just until the liquid has evaporated enough to cling to the onions, but not enough to stick to the pan. Scoop the onions out, and let cool.

7. Caramelized onions can be used on sandwiches, in omelettes, as a garnish for roasted meats, and in quiche. You can also purée them with sour cream to make onion dip, with oil and vinegar to make a salad dressing, or with stock to make French onion soup. The possibilities are endless.