How to Caramelize Onions for a Simple, Flavorful Add-On (PHOTOS)

cutting onions

Master this simple cooking technique to add flavor to pretty much any food you can think of: mac 'n' cheese, burgers, eggs, and the list goes on. You could even make cardboard taste delicious ... although we wouldn't recommend trying. 


I'll admit, the first time I set out to caramelize onions I thought it was going to be a lot more complicated than it was. I was expecting more spices, maybe some sugar, but no, this is one of the easiest cooking techniques you'll ever learn. The only thing you're going to need is a childish sense of wonder at the capabilities of the humble onion, and a boatload of patience. Caramelizing onions is truly a waiting game.

cutting onions

Start out by cutting up onions. There is really no right shape; you can leave them in half moons or cut them into smaller pieces. It's up to you. One thing to be aware of is that cooking them down greatly reduces their volume. So it might look like too much raw onion, but you'll see what you end up with. 

onions in pan

Place the onion in a frying pan and drizzle with olive oil, just enough to lightly coat all of the pieces. Sprinkle with salt. Turn the stove on low heat. 

onion in pan

Here's where the waiting comes in. You're going to let these cook down, slowly and on low heat. If the onion pieces are looking too crispy you can add a little water to the pan.

caramelized onions

You're still waiting. Patience! Onions can take an hour and fifteen minutes to caramelize depending on the amount of raw onion in the pan. Try not to fuss with them too much; they are best left to their own devices. Stir them every five minutes or so.  

caramelized onions

When they look like this, they're done!

We're not kidding when we say that you can add these to a variety of foods to add a savory element. Things we've place them on: grilled cheese, mac 'n' cheese, salads, avocado toasts ... the list goes on and on. Enjoy your new skill! 

Images via Caylin Harris

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