What Are The Best Onions For Caramelizing? (the ultimate guide)

FACT: Onions that have been caramelized are a delicious addition to just about… everything. The one and only obstacle? The process of making them is very difficult (and time-consuming). It takes some time for them to gradually turn brown and caramelize. But what about the onions? 


What Are The Best Onions For Caramelizing?

Any kind of onion is going to provide you the greatest results when caramelizing. Onions of any color, including red onions, yellow onions, white onions, and shallots, as well as extra-sweet types, are all good options.


After conducting additional investigation, I discovered additional information that is important for you to be aware of so continue reading…



What Does It Mean When Onions Are Caramelized?

Caramelized onions are obtained by cooking onions at a low temperature for a very long time so that they become almost molten in consistency, uniformly dark brown all throughout, and deliciously sweet.


FYI: Onions are often cut into slices, but they may alternatively be diced or minced instead…


In the process, two distinct browning reactions are at work: caramelization, in which sugars break down into hundreds of new molecules, and the Maillard reaction, in which proteins and sugars transform into an insane number of new flavor and aroma molecules.


Both of these browning reactions involve the coloration of the substance. Caramelization and the Maillard reaction, when combined, transform raw onions’ harsh flavor into something that is so mellow and sweet that it could pass for dessert.


The following are not characteristics of caramelized onions: They are not onions that have been sautéed over a high heat to create an uneven browning and charring effect on the surface of the onion…


Caramelized onions need to be given enough time for their color, flavor, and sweetness to gradually and uniformly deepen over a period of time.


This ensures that the completed product will be uniform throughout, without any bitter overtones coming from pieces that have been burned…

Caramelized onions shouldn’t be cooked until they are so dark that an unpleasant flavor lingers over them, even if they are cooked gently and evenly. This is true even if the onions are caramelized.


Those are onions that have been caramelized, but you’ve managed to burn them. Caramelized onions are depicted in this post at a number of stages, and for the purposes of illustration, I took one batch of onions to a more advanced state than the others.


However, you don’t necessarily have to cook your caramelized onions until they reach such a deep brown color. Depending on the cuisine, there is frequently a compelling case for halting the cooking process at a lighter shade of brown.


Getting Onions to a Caramelized State | 4 Easy Steps

1. Some Saturated Fat


FYI: When you want to cook onions low and slow, you don’t need a lot of fat in the pan, but you do need some…


I would estimate that approximately 2 teaspoons of fat should be used for each onion, and you can use butter, olive oil, or a combination of the two (which is great!). It is also possible to use ghee or another type of cooking oil.


2. Take Your Time


For onions to be caramelized correctly, the cooking process must be done on a moderate heat for a long period of time. This allows the onions’ natural sugars to be drawn out without them catching on fire.

You can produce attractively browned onions by cooking onions over high heat with much more frequent turning, but the onions won’t get the same level of tenderness and sweetness as they would if they were cooked for a longer period of time over moderate heat.


3. Maintain a heat setting between medium and medium-low


You should generally begin with the heat at medium, and after the onions begin to brown, you should lower the heat so that they continue to cook, soften, and get sweeter without getting too brown or burning. This will ensure that the onions don’t get too brown or burn.


4. Use a big skillet


You want the skillet to have as much surface area as possible so the onions can have as much contact with the bottom of the pan as possible while they are cooking. That is what gives them their brown color.


How Long Do You Need to Cook Onions to Get Caramelized?

Cooking time for onions that have been caramelized can range anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes, depending on how brown and how tender you want them to be… mix it up frequently, but not too frequently.

You want to give the onions a chance to take on some color by letting them sit on the bottom of the pan for a little period of time in between stirring them, but you don’t want to let them lie there without being stirred for so long that they get too dark too quickly.


As the onions reach their ultimate level of brownness, you will need to stir them more frequently in the last stages of the cooking process.


Does the Addition of Sugar Make the Caramelized Onions Taste Better?

It stands to reason that adding sugar would be a smart idea if caramelization is what you’re going for, so keep that in mind. Right? More sugar, more caramel (WRONG)!


However, this is still another example of one of those erroneous strategies, as the onions already possess a sufficient quantity of sugar to reach the phase in which they are extremely sweet.


When onions are caramelized, one of the primary things that occurs is that the sucrose, which is the natural sugar that is tucked away within their cells, gets converted into other, simpler forms of sugar.


These forms of sugar include glucose and fructose. The fact that these sugars have a taste that is sweeter than sucrose explains why the sweetness of the onions increases as they caramelize.

Simply incorporating additional sucrose into the recipe by way of sugar will, as a consequence, result in the production of a greater quantity of simple sugars.


If you add more logs to a fire, you won’t always end up with a better fire, but you will have a larger fire. It’s similar to how this situation works…


If you try to improve the process by adding more sugar, all you will end up with are caramelized onions that are extremely sweet, which in my opinion is way too sweet.


You do not require any additional sugar; rather, you require sufficient heat and time to for the sugar that is currently present to perform its function.


What kind of cooking fat gives the best results when caramelizing onions?

You can prepare the onions in any type of fat you like, such as butter, lard, or a variety of vegetable and nut oils. To heck with it (yes you heard me correctly), if you want to use rendered foie gras fat instead, it’d be insanely amazing no matter what.


When considering the options that are more readily available, butter is by far my top pick. Because it contains milk proteins, it starts the browning process more quickly than vegetable oils do, and it glazes the onions more beautifully.


Both of these benefits are due to the fact that it is richer in flavor. Additionally, it has a more robust flavor than the majority of neutral oils, such as maize, canola, and vegetable oil.



How Long Will Onions That Have Been Caramelized Stay Good?

When stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container, they will keep for up to 5 days. Because they are so valuable, none should be thrown away.


You can also freeze them for a few months at a time in a bag or container that can withstand freezing temperatures and does not leak air…


They should be labeled, because once they are frozen, it is not immediately clear what they are! Defrost in the refrigerator or at room temperature, whichever you choose.


What’s the Best Pan for Caramelizing Onions?

When caramelizing onions, skillets made of cast iron or stainless steel are the best options…


Even though it is possible to caramelize onions in a nonstick skillet, the fond that forms on the bottom of the pan during the process will not form in a nonstick skillet. 


The fond gives the onions an even richer flavor, which can be achieved by scraping the fond off the bottom of the pan and stirring it into the onions.


How to Make Use of Onions That Have Been Caramelized?

You’ve succeeded in making caramelized onions; what’s next? For a simple and speedy starter, you can top baguette slices with a teaspoon of caramelized onions.


You may also include a scoop into dishes such as stews, stir-fries, casseroles, spaghetti sauces, or braised foods by stirring it in…

It is possible to put them on top of pizza, stack them atop burgers and sandwiches, or use them in salads. It’s hard for me to think of a dish that wouldn’t benefit from some caramelized onions being added to it.


Caramelized onions can be kept for about a week in the refrigerator after being prepared, but they also freeze quite well...


Put them into little patties that are portion-sized or into parts that are the size of a tablespoon (you can use an ice cube tray), then freeze them. That way, you’ll always have what you need for a sauce or a sandwich topper when you need it.


Related Questions:

1. How to caramelize onions fast?


When baking soda is added to cooking, it raises the pH of the onions, which makes them caramelize much faster. When the pH level is higher, the Maillard reaction, which is what turns sugars in food into caramel, happens more quickly.


2. How to caramelize onions in the oven?


To produce golden brown and shrunken roasted onions, combine thinly sliced onions with olive oil and a dash of water (to steam and soften), season with salt, and roast for 40–50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.



Final Thoughts

So, class, what did we learn today?


We now know that when caramelizing, any kind of onion will give you the best results. Red onions, yellow onions, white onions, and shallots, as well as extra-sweet varieties, are all good choices.


Also, the cooking time for caramelized onions can be anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes, depending on how brown and soft you want them to be… make sure to stir the pan often, but not too often.


You want to give the onions a chance to get some color by letting them sit on the bottom of the pan for a little while between stirrings, but you don’t want to let them sit there for so long that they get too dark too quickly.


In the last stages of cooking, you will need to stir the onions more often as they reach their final level of browning. Enjoy the rest of your day, always stay safe, and treat others with kindness & respect. Until next time!

What Are The Best Onions For Caramelizing? (the ultimate guide)