How to Caramelize Onions for Finishing Dishes

Top your favorite recipe with sweet, caramelized onions

Beer and caramelized onions on bratwurst

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Knowing how to caramelize onions correctly should be in every cook's repertoire. The basics are low to medium heat, not too much fat and time. Oh, and onions, lots of them. Onions cook down quite a bit. Around four cups of cut onions makes about one cup of caramelized goodness.

Ingredients for the Caramelization Process

There are many other ingredients you can add to or after the caramelization process, sugar is the most popular, although onions have enough of their own to brown properly. One teaspoon per onion can be added, however, to deepen the brown color.

Rings or Vertical Squares

Slice onions into rings or vertical strips and heat some oil or oil-butter in a pan, one to two tablespoons per onion or cup of sliced onion. Pour all the onions you cut and start cooking, stirring every few minutes. Be sure to keep the heat low. High heat will burn the sugars and make the onions bitter. They will turn a dark brown color in 40 to 60 minutes. They are done when they turn as brown as you like them. Some people like golden brown, some like mahogany brown.

Deglaze the Pan

You may deglaze the pan with a little water, vinegar or alcohol, depending on what you want in the end. Deglazing makes them a bit softer and they begin to lose their shape. Adding a little butter at the very end or a teaspoon of soy sauce will enhance the flavors in different directions. There are also many herbs that go well with caramelized onions. Try thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper or paprika powder.

For Best Results, Use This Onion

The best onion to use for this project is the basic yellow onion usually found in the grocery store. White onions will also work. Sweet onions would seem like a good option but are best for short cooking times or raw eating. Red onions can be caramelized and have an interesting color, but the yellow onion is king.

Use caramelized onions on top of burgers, bratwurst, mashed vegetables, steaks or in soup, gratins, or onion pies.