Healthy Eating/ How-Tos/ RECIPES/ Sides

How to Make Perfectly Sweet Caramelized Onions

caramelized onions on a white platter

I am smitten with caramelized onions, and this is coming from a girl who despises raw onion.

One of my earliest childhood memories is requesting that my raw onions would be scraped from my fast-food burger. I would watch my Dad sacrifice a perfectly good french fry and use it as a scraper to get those raw onions off!

Caramelized onions are a whole different food from raw onion. They are soft and oh so sweet!

They add amazing flavor to many dishes and are great for topping sandwiches, burgers, and salads.

They are so popular in our home that they rarely get past the skillet without fingers in them…my Teagan has been known to make a whole pan disappear.

 

Why You Need Sweet Caramelized Onions

I am not only smitten because of how delicious caramelized onions are but also because they are one of the most healthful foods you can eat!

Research has shown that people with the highest consumption of onions (and other alliums) have a lower risk of several types of cancer, as onions contain several anti-cancer compounds. {referrence}

Quercetin is one of these compounds which has been found to decrease cancer tumor formation and inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

Onions are antibacterial, antifungal, contain antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties–so don’t be anti-onion–at least until you try them caramelized.

They help maintain gastrointestinal health by creating and sustaining beneficial bacteria.

They reduce symptoms associated with diabetes, improve the absorption of minerals (like calcium and my favorite calming mineral – magnesium) due to the fructans they contain.

With my cancer history and my Todd using a healthy diet to keep blood sugar levels down, getting onions in on a daily basis is a priority to both of us.

I use chopped onions as a foundation of just about every recipe I make, and also am just as happy making them caramelized as a yummy vegetable side to any dish.

 

skillet of caramelized onions

What I Do To Make My Onions Perfectly Sweet

The key to making caramelized onions perfectly sweet is patience and a wide, flat-bottomed high sided heavy pan. A well-seasoned cast iron pan is my favorite pan to use.

The caramelization process takes a little patience, and as you will see in the video I share below, they soften and sweeten in stages.

For caramelization, it can take 15-20 minutes of cooking time.

This usually is not a big deal for me, as I just get them going at the beginning of my meal-making, and they cook away and are done by the time the rest of the meal our meal is cooked, and only need a little attention with just a bit of stirring.

There are several different ways to make caramelized onions, and many cooks will just use oil, salt and pepper.

Some swear by adding a bit of sugar at the end to help speed up the process, but I believe we get quite enough sugar in the typical American diet and don’t need to be adding it to our healthy onions!

I let the onions sweeten themselves, and sometimes add a splash or two of balsamic vinegar at the end for even more darkened sweetness. Delish!

 

dish of caramelized onions

Perfectly Sweet Caramelized Onions

Caramelized Onions
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
25 mins
 

There is nothing like a perfectly sweet caramelized onion! Even if you are not an onion lover, you may just become one after trying them cooked in this way. 

Recipe Type: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: onions
Servings: 4 people
Ingredients
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 tbsp oil or butter (avocado oil, coconut oil or grass-fed butter)
  • pinch salt
  • pinch pepper
  • water (or chicken broth)
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional)
Instructions
Prep onions & pan
  1. Peel and halve onions through root end and slice into 1/4" - 1/8" thick slices, using the onions natural grain to make strips for you.

  2. Heat 2 Tbsp. butter or oil in a large flat-bottomed heavy pan on medium heat. 

    Note: The video in the post shows a saucepan, but a larger, heavy pan is much preferred. Using a wide base gives water room to evaporate, allowing onions to caramelize rather than steam.

Cook onions
  1. Add onions to the pan and stir. Then season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Let the onions begin to soften and turn translucent.

Reduce heat, stir & add liquid if necessary
  1. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook onions, stirring often to prevent them from getting too much color in one place or sticking.

     If onions stick or get too brown in one place, reduce heat.

Add cooking liquid if necessary
  1. If you see bare, browned spots in the pan, add a bit of cooking liquid and stir. The liquid will help scrape the cooked-on bits and will season the onions. 

Keep and eye and keep stirring
  1. Once the onions began to take on a caramel color, keep a close eye on them. For extra-dark onions, this is when you add balsamic. 

  2. This is the point when your onions need constant attention. Keep stirring until they are the desired color. I like mine a caramel color with a few dark edges.

Let cool & store
  1. Let onions cool, then transfer to an airtight container OR you can do what I do and eat them right from the pan! 

  2. Chill any leftover onions. They will keep up to one week and can be eaten warmed or chilled right from the refrigerator. They also freeze well!

 

Have you over caramelized onions? Do you have your own tried and true method?

If you have not, and even if you are not a big onion fan, making them this way may just change your mind.

 

Watch this video on The Scene.

{the video uses a saucepan, but I prefer a wide, heavy-bottomed cast iron skillet!}

 

Grab a bag of onions next time you are at the grocery store and get those health-filled onions into you and your loved ones!

Make sure to comment below and let me know if you do, and what your favorite process toward caramelization is.

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