Kate Heyhoe

Kate's Global Kitchen


Caramelized Onions

by Kate Heyhoe


Dear Kate,

What I want to know is how to caramelize onions. There seems to be some trick to it. I have sliced them very thin and cooked them slowly, and they cook and eventually burn, without getting a lot of the caramelized stuff around the edges. There is a restaurant in SF (Star's Cafe) where they have a little appetizer pizza with portobellos and carmelized onions. The onions were actually sort of creamy and juicy, with lots of the pretty tan-colored caramel. Have you any idea if there is a trick to this, or some addition to the pan that helps them to get caramelized?

Thanks a lot.

Best, Karyn


Dear Karyn,

Caramelized onions are a quick way to add the sweet, rich, slow-cooked flavor of onions to many dishes such as pizza, pasta, lasagna, sandwiches, seafood, or just about anything.

The trick to caramelized onions is to cook them low and slow, stirring often. The onions need to be totally limp before they start to caramelize. Once they begin to turn golden on the edges, you can rasie the heat slightly but remember to stir frequently. If, as they are caramelizing, they begin to stick to the pan, add a splash of water or white wine and scrape up the browned bits in the pan. Allow about 25 minutes for them to cook overall.

TIP: To jump start the caramelization procress or make the flavors more intense, add a pinch or two of sugar to the onions.

Kate Heyhoe


Caramelized Onions Recipe

4 pounds yellow onions, peeled, sliced 1/8-inch thick
12 ounces unsalted butter
2-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, fresh ground
2 teaspoons fresh minced herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, sage or savory, (optional)

12 servings (approximately 1/2 cup each)

1. Place onions, butter, salt and pepper in a heavy sauté pan. Cook mixture slowly over low heat stirring often.

2. After about 10 to 20 minutes, onions will begin to turn golden brown. If herbs are desired, add to onion mixture.

3. Continue to cook an additional 15-20 minutes until all onions are translucent, tender and golden brown.

4. Cool onions on a sheet pan in the refrigerator, then place in an airtight container and keep refrigerated until ready to use. Onions may be made ahead and kept refrigerated for up to 5 days.

To re-warm caramelized onions, heat over medium-low heat in a sauté pan.

In a hurry? Cover your pan with a lid for the first 5 minutes of cooking. This will trap the moisture, gently steaming the onions. Don't forget to stir during this cooking time. Remove the lid and turn heat to medium; cook 7-10 minutes longer. This will decrease the cooking time to about 15 minutes. Be careful not to burn the bottom of the pan.

Recipe Source:
National Onion Association


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This page originally published as a Global Gourmet Today column in 1998.

Copyright © 2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

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This page modified January 2007

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