How To Caramelize Onions

Cook, How-To, Learn

When it comes to cooking, a few extra steps are usually worth the effort.


Case in point: It’s simple enough to brown  onions by sauteing them until they turn soft and golden in color. The onions will be moderately sweet and the process may take 15 minutes. But once you taste onions that have been caramelized to perfection you’ll never take that shortcut again.

The trick is to sweat the onions over very low heat until they are completely limp, about 40 minutes, then crank up the heat so the natural sugars released during the first half of cooking will caramelize. All you’ll need is a medium saucepan and a sheet of parchment paper.


Follow these simple steps for the best French Onion Soup you’ve ever tasted — or, for our demonstration, Pizza with Caramelized Red Onions, Olives and Feta Cheese.

Cut the stem end off of each onion.


Cut each onion in half, from the root to the stem.


Peel each onion half and discard the tough outer layers.


Trim the root end at an angle to remove the core of the onion.


Thinly slice the onions from root to tip. You should end up with thin strips instead of rings.


Melt butter and oil in a medium saucepan on the lowest heat. The butter will add flavor, but the oil will keep it from burning.


Add the onion strips to the pan.


Next, you will need a sheet of parchment paper the size of a half-sheet pan. If you don’t have parchment paper on hand, you can also partially cover the saucepan with a lid to steam the onions.


Fold it in half once along the width.


Fold the paper a second time in the other direction, along the length.


Now fold the paper into a triangle, using the corner with no open edges as your tip.


Snip off the tip with scissors.


When you open the sheet back to its full size, you should see a small circle in the center.


Fit the sheet into your saucepan so that the onions are contained. The parchment paper allows them to steam gently until they become completely limp. Again, keep the heat very low.


Remove the paper and stir occasionally to coat the onions.


When the onions are completely soft, remove the paper and turn the heat to high.


Stir frequently, taking care to scrape up the bits of caramel that collect at the bottom of the pan.


The onions are finished when they turn a rich caramel color. They will be very soft and will shrink down considerably from their original size, and they will taste sweet and tangy.


Enjoy! This pizza is only one way to savor perfectly-caramelized onions. Try them on a burger, in a risotto, or as a condiment.

About the author: Olivia Terenzio grew up in Mississippi, where she cultivated a love of sweet potatoes, crawfish and cloth napkins at a young age. A passion for sharing food with friends and family led her into the kitchen and later to culinary school, where she learned how to roast a chicken and decorate a cake like a pro. As a Williams-Sonoma blog editor, she’s now lucky enough to be talking, writing and thinking about food all day.

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