How To Caramelize Onions, Step By Step

Marina Delio from Yummy Mummy Kitchen shares her secrets for these mouthwatering caramelized onions.
caramelized onions beauty shot
When my daughter was three, we went out one night for burgers. When the server asked if she would like a plain kids burger, my little gourmand asked if they could put caramelized onions on top. While our server was a bit surprised, when you think about it, there’s nothing not to love about caramelized onions. Even if you’re three. Raw, onions are undeniably intense, but once they have been slowly cooked down, they release all of those spicy notes and tear-inducing gasses and leave only sweetness behind. Learn more about onions here!

Caramelized onions add mouthwatering flavor to almost any dish. From quiches to pizza, to burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, this is one ingredient that will take your cooking up a notch. Though the process is time consuming, it is very simple. You will need about an hour, but won’t need to hover over the stove, and the result is well worth the time. You probably have everything you need in your pantry already. A couple of onions, a few tablespoons of butter or olive oil, and a splash of vinegar is all that’s needed. Let’s get started!

    1. Choose your onions. I usually use yellow onions, but white or purple will also work. The amount of onions to caramelize is up to you. I find that two to three work well for a large skillet. Keep in mind that the onions will cook down quite a lot and leftovers refrigerate well.


    1. Cut the stem and root ends off the onion. Then halve the onion and cut it into thin slices. The onion should then naturally separate into half-rings.

Onions sliced for caramelized onions

    1. Add three to four tablespoons of fat to a large skillet over medium heat. Butter and olive oil both work well. I like to use a combination of the two, as the butter adds rich flavor and the oil can tolerate higher temperatures without burning.

butter melting for caramelized onions

    1. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. The salt will season the onions, but it will also help pull out some of the moisture and move the process right along.

raw onions about to be caramelized

    1. Let the onions cook slowly. Don’t rush them. I find tongs are the easiest tool for turning onions in the early stages of this process. Turn or stir the onions so that they evenly become soft and brown, but don’t worry about exact timing.

stirring onions with tongs as they caramelize

    1. Continue stirring those onions and enjoy watching them turn from white to a delicious golden brown.

caramelized onions in pan

    1. If the onions stick to the bottom of the pan, deglaze with a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or wine. I usually stick with balsamic vinegar because the flavor compliments the onions perfectly. Not only will deglazing pull up tasty sticky bits, it will add even more flavor to your caramelized onions.

pan of caramelized onions being deglazed

  1. Continue stirring the onions until they have reached the color you like. Enjoy right away or store in the refrigerator.caramelized onions

Use your caramelized onions to top your burgers, like my little ones do, or use them to add flavor to any other dish you would like. Or try some of these delicious caramelized onion recipes:
Caramelized Onion and Arugula Pizza
Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Onions
Bacon and Caramelized Onion Rolls
Macaroni and Cheese with Caramelized Onions and Bacon
Find more onion recipes right this way.

Feeling like you want to take it up a notch? Try making caramelized onions in your slow cooker.