Caramelized Onions: the How, the Why, the Yum

Updated: Jan 11




Sure, there are people in the world who don't like onions. I am usually not friends with that type of person. Onions have been a dietary staple and medicinal cure for longer than we've been writing or farming. We're not sure who figured out that these pungent, nutritious bulbs turn buttery sweet if you ignore them on the stove long enough, but thank goodness they did. Keeping a jar of caramelized onions in your fridge will lend instant magic to anything you can swirl them into- plain tomato sauce becomes deeper and less harsh or a little some olive oil and lemon juice become an irresistible salad dressing. And just try it in the apple sauce for your pork chops- oh good lord it's delicious. If you're of the gluten-free variety, using the whole three pounds of caramelized onions and a pinch of file powder can also be a substitute for a flour roux in a gumbo


Yes, caramelizing does take a while, and slicing three pounds of onions can be a process. But I won't tell anyone you used the food processor (cut onions into large chunks and pulse until they look like confetti) or pre-chopped frozen onions (thaw before adding to the pot). Store the finished product in the fridge for two or three weeks. You can also store leftovers in the freezer in a plastic bag pressed flat (this will allow you to break off pieces as you need).


One side note: patience is key here. I've read a lot online about fast ways to caramelized onions. Scientifically, you can brown onions quickly, but caramelizing is allowing the onions to slowly turn into a gelatinous, glorious glob. That can't happen over a higher heat. It just can't, and anyone who says you can is a liar.


Happy eating, y'all :)


4 T. grapeseed or peanut oil

3 lb. onions, sliced thin

3-4 springs of fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup dry white wine or water

Salt and pepper



1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil on medium. Add onions, herbs, pepper, and two teaspoons of salt. Stir.


2. Allow the water to cook out of the onions, stirring occasionally, 25-35 minutes (Yes, it's a lot of water at first. No, you can't turn up the heat and get this part done faster).


3. Start checking the onions every five minutes or so. As they begin to color and stick, use small splashes of wine or water to scrape up those good bits.


4. When your onions are finally darker than peanut butter, remove from the heat, allow to cool, and transfer to a glass container. You should have cooked your onions for at least 45 minutes total.


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