The Perfect Caramelized Onions

caramelized onions in pan

Caramelized Onions are easily one of the most deliciously-sweet and versatile things you can make. With just a few ingredients (onions, butter and olive oil) and a bit of time you can easily make perfectly sweet and golden onions!

They are the perfect addition to many dishes, and are often used as a base flavor for things like soups (and of course Slow Cooker French Onion Soup) and casseroles and of course perfect for topping Hamburgers

Close up photo of caramelized onions

Some of my favorite uses for caramelized onions include caramelized onion dip or caramelized onion pizza (with brie… and balsamic reduction so good right?!)! I find the sweetness from the onions pairs perfectly with a salty or meaty dish! They really take any dish from ordinary to extraordinary!

How to Caramelize Onions

When you make caramelized onions, they release their sugars which then caramelize, creating a sweet yet savory addition to many dishes such as burgers, steaks, or even your favorite soup recipes!

What kind of Onions to use for Caramelized Onions? I find sweet onions work the best but you can truly use any kind of onion to caramelize.

You can cook them on the stove top or in the slow cooker and both are equally delicious!

The real key to amazing caramelized onions is low and slow.  Just add some heat, some butter, and lots of time!

How Long do Caramelized Onions Take?

If you cook them in the crock pot, they’ll take about 8 hours. Literally just add the ingredients and walk away!  If you cook them on the stove top they cook much quicker but require attention and stirring.

So many recipes out there claim that you can create perfect caramelized onions in just a few minutes on a stovetop. I wish this was true, but good things take time and these onions are included!

Onions are full of sugars so cooking them at a high temp can cause them to burn. I have had the most success with cooking them about 40 -50 minutes. The slower you cook them down, the more uniform the caramelization process is. Set your burner to low and take your time.

How do you Caramelize Onions Quickly?

If you need to caramelize onions quickly, adding sugar or a pinch of baking soda (to raise the pH level and help them brown quicker) can help to speed up the caramelization process but truly they aren’t a dish that cooks up quickly. If using baking soda I’d suggest about 1/4 tsp per pound of raw onions.

Caramelized Onions in the slow cooker.

How to Caramelize Onions in the Slow Cooker

The slow cooker has the capability to make perfect caramelized onions without having to babysit a pan for an hour.

To make caramelized onions in the slow cooker, add the onions and butter to the slow cooker, set it to low, and cook for 8-12 hours!

It couldn’t be easier, and the result is a delicious and tender caramelized onion without the hassle of cooking them on a stovetop.

A frying pan filled with caramelized onions

How to Freeze Caramelized Onions

Caramelized onions are a favorite but take a long time to make right. For this reason, I always try to make extra.

The leftovers can be frozen to add flavor to a weeknight meal that will taste like it’s been cooking all day!

They’ll keep for 4-5 days in the fridge but can also be frozen to use in casseroles at a later date! The easiest way to freeze is to place in a freezer bag and press until flattened.  Once frozen, break off pieces and add them to your recipe directly!

I generally label them with the amount of raw onion that was cooked, this allows me to use them as a guide for recipes calling for caramelized onions!

A freezer bag filled with caramelized onions.

Add Caramelized Onions to:

Caramelized Onions

Sweet tender caramelized onions are the perfect addition to any dish and the perfect topper to any sandwich!

  • 6 large onions (approx. 2lbs, any kind (I prefer white onions))
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar (optional, see note)
  • salt to taste

OR SLOW COOKER CARAMELIZED ONIONS

  • 3 pounds onions (sliced)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

STOVE TOP

  1. In a large non-stick pan, cook onions, butter, olive oil and brown sugar over medium low heat.
  2. Stir frequently until golden and caramelized. (About 45 minutes).

SLOW COOKER

  1. Combine sliced onions, butter and salt (no brown sugar required).
  2. Stir, cover and cook on low 8-10 hours.

If you are using sweeter onions (red onions, Walla Walla, vidalia) you will likely not need the brown sugar as they contain enough natural sugars on their own. If using white onions (with yellow-ish papery skin) I would suggest adding brown sugar to help with the caramelization process.

Onions being caramelized in a frying pan.
Onions being caramelized in a frying pan.
Onions being caramelized in a frying pan