Caramelized Onions

Just a couple ingredients and some time on the stovetop are all you need to make perfectly golden Caramelized Onions! Keep them on hand for soups, salads, bowls, or as toppings on tacos, burgers, and pizza. There are endless possibilities and all of them taste amazing!

Caramelized Onions

Have you made Caramelized Onions before? If so, you know how flavorful and delicious they are! If you haven’t…boy, are you in for a treat! This is a super simple, 3-ingredient recipe that instantly elevates any dish. I love using these caramelized onions in soups, on bowls, or as a topping on burgers, tacos, and pizza. Pretty much any savory dish is going to taste better with these golden onions on top! Let’s break this simple process down so you can do it at home. Prepare to be impressed!

How to Caramelize Onions

Picking the Best Onions

When you’re shopping for onions look for ones that have crisp, crunchy skin still intact around the outside. Avoid onions with mushy spots or large dents. It should feel heavy in your hand and pass the smell test. That’s right, give your onion a sniff! An onion with a strong, potent odor has probably passed it’s prime. Store onions in a cool, dark place (a pantry is ideal) for up to two weeks.

How to Make Caramelized Onions

Ingredients in Caramelized Onions

This is a really short pantry ingredient list! We let the flavor of the onions shine, and if that makes you flinch, it’s probably because you’re thinking of bitter, raw onion. Not on my watch! When you let the onions spend a little time on the stovetop they turn sweet (hence the name caramelized!).

  • A large yellow onion
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt

How Long to Cook Caramelized Onions

Remember low and slow…be patient and take your time with these onions to get perfectly sweet results! Plan on about 40 minutes of stovetop time. You’ll begin with medium heat, and as soon as the onions begin to brown and soften (usually after about 5 minutes) turn the heat down to medium-low. Don’t go too far from your pan because the onions will need to be tossed every couple minutes so they cook evenly! They’re done when the onion slices have that perfect golden-brown color throughout.

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Caramelized Onions

  • Author: Elaine Gordon
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 45
  • Total Time: 50
  • Yield: 1/2 cup 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


  • 1 large yellow onion (~ 12 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • Optional: 1-2 tablespoons water (as needed – see instructions)


  1. Preheat a 12-inch cast iron skillet on the stovetop on medium heat. 
  2. While the pan heats up, cut the onion in half through the root (vertically).  Remove the outer layer of skin and trim off both ends of both halves of the onion.  Cut the onion into 1/4-inch slices (with the knife positioned vertically in the same way as when you cut the onion in half – so that halfway through cutting it would slice through the root if the root was still intact).  Make sure your slices are all the same size thickness for even cooking.
  3. Once the pan is hot add the onions, oil and salt.  Toss well so the onions are evenly coated with the oil and salt.  Cook for five minutes until the onions start to soften and some begin to brown.  Once this happens turn the burner to low-medium heat (halfway between low heat and medium heat) and cook for 40 minutes.  Continue to toss the onions every couple minutes as they cook on low-medium heat.  Keep the onions in one even layer throughout the cooking process so all onion slices are touching the pan.
  4. The onion slices will start to caramelize and turn golden brown.  Continuing tossing throughout the process monitoring the onions closely toward the end to prevent burning.  With a cast iron skillet the onions should caramelize nice and evenly.  If the pan starts to dry out toward the end you may add one tablespoon of water and toss immediately.  This isn’t usually necessary but can help to prevent burning toward the end.
  5. Once the onions are all golden brown throughout each entire slice you can use immediately.  I love to use caramelized onions in soups, on pizza, in dips (French Onion Dip and hummus in particular), dressings, in pasta sauce or in pasta whole, in tacos, on veggie burgers as a topping, or with mashed potatoes.  It has a distinctly sweet umami flavor that makes any dish unforgettable!  
  6. Save leftovers once fully cooled in a small airtight glass or silicone container in your refrigerator for up to one week.  You can freeze up to two months.  


If doubling the recipe you may need to use a larger skillet or you may need to toss more often.  It is important that the skillet is not overcrowded or the onions will steam instead of caramelize.  I like to make sure that all onions are touching the bottom or side of the cast iron skillet to ensure they cook evenly and at the same speed.

For faster results, dice the onions instead of slicing them.  When diced they will take about 25 minutes to caramelize.  Just be sure to stir often and keep the heat as low as possible so they don’t burn.

  • Method: Stovetop

Keywords: how to make caramelized onions

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  1. Claire

    So delicious and easy!

    • Elaine Gordon

      Aw thank you so much, Claire! So glad you enjoyed it!


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Hi, I’m Elaine!

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