What do you think of when you read the term “caramelized onions” on a menu? If you’re like me, this can be a source of much disappointment. I am a big fan of onions in all forms, but to me the term “caramelized onions” means something special; something much different than onions that have simply been briefly sautéed in a hot pan or on a griddle. To me, real caramelized onions are a labor of love that results in something more akin to an onion jam and is perhaps one of the most delicious and versatile condiments ever created.
When Danielle and I recently did the Whole30 food challenge, caramelized onions were one of our go-to condiments that really helped us get through the challenge. Twice during the 30 days, I filled up a large stock pot with sliced onions and cooked them down until there was only the nectar of the gods left. We would add them to virtually anything we ate.
If you have never made caramelized onions like this before, there are a few things to remember:
- Start with way more onions than you think you will need; fill the pot, you will be amazed at how much they cook down.
- Always preheat your pots and pans, then add your coking fat. Start at a medium high heat and reduce it as the onions cook down until you are at a very low heat. The onions’ tendency to burn will increase greatly as they cook down and the sugars concentrate. Stir accordingly.
- You can make these without adding anything other than onions, a little fat for the pot, and salt and pepper but also try experimenting (if you are not doing Whole30) with adding some other ingredients like red wine, herbs, your favorite spices, or even using bacon or duck fat for the pan.
Let’s get started …
1. Begin by cutting the onion into half-rounds
2. Make ¼ inch slices
3. I typically use an 8 quart nonstick stock pot for this job and it took 10 onions to nearly fill it to the top.
4. After stirring the onions to break them up and coat them in oil.
5. After about 15 minutes of cooking them covered, you can see how much they have already begun to cook down.
6. The onions have begun to release their liquid. This is about where the cover should come off.
7. About 45 minutes in, they have started to get a tiny bit of color but have not yet stopped releasing liquid.
8. After about an hour they are showing color and the liquid has started to evaporate.
9. After about 1 hour and 15 minutes
10. About 1 and a half hours. Deeper color but still has some evaporating to do.
11. At about the two hour mark. You could stop here if you want a lighter and looser finished product. I usually go further (but be careful to use LOW heat and stir frequently).
12. About two and a half hours. Very little liquid left at all. The onions can be mounded in the pot at this point so it is important to spread them out for even cooking if you are going to cook them more.
13. We have arrived! Deep, rich color with the consistency of a firm jam. Season with salt and pepper.
14. We started with a nearly-full 8-quart stock pot and have cooked the onions down to about 2 cups!
Like I said earlier, theses onions are a great pantry essential and add a punch of flavor to any meal. Our family enjoys them with a variety of meals from eggs to lettuce wraps or as a side with a meaty dinner. Enjoy!
- 10 medium onions, any type, cut into half-rounds
- 2-3 tablespoons of cooking fat (oil, butter, bacon fat, etc.)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly-cracked black pepper
- Heat a large stockpot over medium high heat. Add butter after the pot has heated and immediately before adding the onions
- Add onions to the pot and stir to break them up and coat in the oil. Cover and cook for several minutes before stirring.
- Continue cooking, covered (stirring occasionally) until the onions have given off their liquid and appear to be soupy.
- Remove lid and continue cooking, uncovered, stirring occasionally being sure to scrap the bottom of the pot as you stir.
- Cook until liquid has evaporated and onions darker. Lower your cooking temperature and stir more frequently, scrapping the pan as you stir.
- Continue cooking and stirring until all liquid is gone, onions are dark (but not burned) and have taken on a jam-like quality.