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Caramelized onions

I have tried a number of caramelized onion recipes, and while some have come out pretty good in taste, I have yet to master the deep, brown, translucent onions that I am seeking. What are your tried and true recipes/techniques to get wonderful caramelized onions?

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  1. I always start with large Vidalias, and let it cook for hours and hours to get that really sweet flavor. My husband likes them crisped up, so at the end I will raise the flame a skotsh to get them really browned.

    5 Replies
    1. re: brooklynkoshereater

      Vidalias are only available in the late spring for a short period. What do you use the rest of the year?

      1. re: c oliver

        In Maryland, we have what are called "candy onions" at the farmers' markets. I see these over a fairly long period and they are very sweet.

        1. re: c oliver

          Maybe I'm spoiled, but where I live there are vidalias all year 'round. quality and price vary by season (obviously) but I still enjoy the vidalias offered

          1. re: brooklynkoshereater

            Er, no. Please read the following:


            I don't know what you're getting but they are definitely not Vidalia onions. Do they have the sticker on them? If so, please report them as they "illegal Vidalias."

            1. re: c oliver

              I'm almost posative I've see VIdalias all year long and in the link you provided it mentions how they have used technology to extend the season until early fall.

      2. Low and Slow - that's the key.
        Here's a very good outline on the subject:


        1 Reply
        1. re: todao

          I read and reread the page at the link you provided. The instructions say to keep the heat medium-high for 30 minutes. Mine were burning after 15 and I cut them quite thick. I tried with low heat and was worried because I didn't hear a sizzle when I put the onions in the pan. The results were okay with low heat, but it took an hour and 15 minutes! Should I be keeping the lid on?

        2. I've actually had pretty good success doing it in the slow cooker. Sliced onions (I too try to get vidalias when in season), a bit of butter. Put the cover on and put it on low for hours, periodically checking to stir, etc.

          And as brooklynkoshereater says above, you can then make them crispier if you like at the end (in this case you'd have to transfer to a pan I'd think).

          3 Replies
          1. re: LNG212

            I don't think the slow cooker makes sense, it will steam the onion, not what you want to make them caramelized. I just cut them thin and cook very low in SS all-clad fry pan, usually takes about an hour.

            1. re: saeyedoc

              Actually, it doesn't steam them. They get really soft and really dark brown in a gooey way. If you're worried about steam, you can prop open the top.

              1. re: saeyedoc

                I also do my caramelized onions in a slow cooker. Three large onions, a stick of butter, and fourteen hours = soft dark brown fragrant yumminess.

            2. i use any onion; cook them very low and for a long time in a mixture of butter & oil.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Cherylptw


                add in little brown sugar and balsamic for the last couple of minutes, and add to a steak sandwich = heaven.

                1. re: Cherylptw

                  one of my favorite heston blumenthal tips: add some star anise to boost flavor and achieve a bold and meaty vibe from those onions.

                  1. I do them the same way every time. 25% are great and the rest really suck. I want to trade my haunted house for Sam's magic house.

                    1. I haven't tried jfood's technique (yet) but hehasn't steered me wrong yet.


                      1. I use the method described in Serious BBQ. Gives the best caramelized onions ever.


                        1. Cook's illustrated suggests using red onions. They say to start them on high for the first few minutes then turn them down and cook for 30-45 minutes or so. They also recommend using some brown sugar which would help in the caramelization.

                          I had never made caramelized onions and followed their directions. They came out fine.

                          I think when I do it again, I will use white onions. I was sort of put off by the red onions color. They tasted fine. I am not sure I would want to use a sweet onion. I think they would be too sweet.

                          Here is the link to Cook's illustrated version http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recip...

                          1. I used to try to get good results from sweet onions, but I'd usually find that they either became cloyingly sweet and overwhelming, or mushy, or both.

                            I've since converted to good old yellow cooking onions -- cheap, plentiful, and add more flavour than simply sugary sweetness.

                            One thing I'd ask everyone: How do you slice your onions to caramelize them? I've tried both crosswise (to make half-rings) and lengthwise (pole-to-pole) and I'm not sure if it's just me, but I've been preferring the crosswise in terms of flavour. Wondering if it's because cutting across the grain ruptures more cells...
                            Anyone else?

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Whats_For_Dinner

                              I agree with you on the yellow onions. CI recommends slicing pole-to-pole when you want the slices to hold their shape longer during prolonged cooking. Could be that the onions weren't as sweet to begin with, but the only time I did them crosswise, they did not have as intense a flavor as my usual latitudinally-sliced caramelized onions.

                              1. re: greygarious

                                Would pole-to-pole be, say, to hold the onion standing up on the root and slicing straight down?

                                1. re: bmorecupcake

                                  Yes, it is but you should cut the onion in half from stem (where the green grows out of the onion when left too long) to root, while it's on it's side, and lay it flat, then slice thinly or however thick you want, from stem to root. It's a bit safer that way than cutting a standing onion.

                                  For more clarity:

                                  Photo of yellow onion, stem at top:

                                  Photo of red onion cut in half from stem to root:

                                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                                    As always, thanks a lot for your thorough and helpful comments, bushwickgirl.