Dinner Plans: Caramelized Onions

Prep 4 Delicious Meals From 1 Batch of Caramelized Onions

Caramelize onions for patty melt

 The Spruce / Jennifer Perillo

Caramelized onions add a sweet and savory flavor to dishes that cannot be beat. They can take a little time to make, though, so why not make a big batch while you're at it? Cook up a bunch of onions at once and stash them for quick weeknight meals.

Game Plan

Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

  1. Slice and caramelize 10 large onions in a big, heavy-bottomed pot (they'll cook way down), and use the first portion to make classic French onion soup.
  2. Divide the caramelized onions into four portions, with half of the onions going into the soup. Pack about 1 cup of caramelized onions into a container labeled mac and cheese, about 2/3 cup into a container labeled chicken, and the remaining onions into a container labeled patty melts.
  3. Organize the ingredients for the remaining dinners.
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See How to Make the Perfect Caramelized Onions

Prep Day French Onion Soup

This is the essential technique every home cook needs to learn: how to caramelize onions. Use half of the caramelized onions to make a big pot of savory French onion soup. A topping of crispy bread and melted cheese make this classic soup extra special. Serve with a simple green salad.

Getting Dinner on the Table

  • Freeze onions for 30 minutes before slicing to minimize the "tearing up" effect.
  • Slice the onions to medium thickness (1/2-inch thick) rather than thinly to ensure they won't scorch during caramelizing.
  • Store any leftover soup without the topping. To serve, reheat the soup and broil the bread and cheese just before serving.

Caramelized Onion Chicken Dinner

Time: 30 minutes

Make this extra-savory onion and garlic chicken with one of the reserved portions of caramelized onions to save 30 minutes on cook time. Bake the chicken with while you reheat the onions on the stovetop. Serve with steamed green beans and a grain to make it a meal.

Boblin / Getty Images 

Getting Dinner on the Table

  • Gently reheat the caramelized onions in a pan as the chicken bakes, and add the vinegar and sugar as per the recipe before coating the chicken to allow the flavors to meld and mellow.
  • Lightly dress the steamed green beans with lemon and olive oil or a little prepared basil pesto for extra flavor.

Macaroni & Cheese Dinner

Time: 30 minutes

Take mac and cheese up a notch with sweet caramelized onions and smoky gouda cheese. Using leftover onions shaves 30 minutes off this recipe, making it weeknight-friendly. As the dish bakes, make shredded Brussels sprouts with bacon on the stovetop and serve on the side.

Caramelized Onion and Gouda Macaroni & Cheese
The Spruce / Leah Maroney

Getting Dinner on the Table

  • Get ahead on prep day: Par cook the pasta to al dente, chill, and store until you are ready to assemble the dish.
  • Get extra ahead on prep day: Cook the pasta and assemble this dish. Cover and store in the fridge. Before dinner, bake in a preheated oven, adding 10 minutes to the cook time.

Bonus Patty Melt Lunch

Time: 20 minutes

Use the last of your precious caramelized onions to make decadent patty melts. The sandwiches come together in no time and will be a hit with the whole family. Serve with a simple salad using any leftover veggies from the week.

Patty Melt
The Spruce / Jennifer Perillo

Essential Info

Here's some helpful information about caramelized onions:

About Dinner Plans

Making quick weeknight dinners is easier when you start with a few building blocks. Dinner Plans is a realistic roadmap to help you achieve that goal, by putting in a few hours of work (planning, shopping, and prepping) at the outset. Preparing a big batch of one ingredient (protein, vegetables, or grains) gives you the flexibility to plan a variety of meals. And who knows? You just might discover your new favorite weeknight recipe in the process!

Show everyone how together you are: Instagram your meal prep photos and tag them #thespruceeats.