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Jul 14, 2014 02:59 PM

Supermarket caramelized onions?

Mancini sells jarred "fried onions" that IMO should be called smothered. They are not at all brown. Someone once gave me a jar of delicious caramelized onion spread that was, I think, something they received as part of a Harry&David basket and did not want (fools!). Stonewall Farms has Roasted Garlic and Onion Jam that is mostly jelly, and sweeter than homemade caramelized onion.

Although caramelized onions are not hard to make, they do take time and monitoring, and prolonged heat. So they are not something I want to make during hot weather. (Don't tell me crockpot, please - it's still heat for a long time and for, IMO, an inferior result.)

I am surprised that caramelized onions don't seem to be commercially available in supermarkets. Or am I not looking in the right sections? I live in suburban Boston.

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  1. I have yet to find a commercial caramelized onion around here (south of Boston) that is better than the ones I make in the crock pot overnight. Most are closer to onion jams as you noted and tend to be too sweet for my liking. While the crock pot might be inferior to the low/slow method it is hands down better than the jarred kind I have tried.

    When I have need for the "real deal" last minute I have had luck buying small amounts from a restaurant near me but they do it on the DL. Is there any place near you that makes ones you like? Might be worth a call.

    I also have a friend in the Scarsdale NY area that says you can special order them from Whole Foods but they charge a fortune. IIRC she said they charge the salad price-per-pound for them. I can't imagine paying that for something that is so easy to make.

    1. It may not help you right now in the warm weather, but I buy lovely onions at the farmers' markets and make a couple of batches on the stove which I then freeze in small batches for future uses.

      1. Well, Amazon has a few choices at various price points:

        If I were the one trying to find them, I would just use Amazon as the "google" to find manufacturer's names, then go to their websites for sales locations.

        1. The original comment has been removed
          1. G, not supermarket, but Williams Sonoma sells pound jars of Carmelized onions savory base....they have a base and a want the base. Savory and potent, and made with a couple kinds of onion, I think. I inherited a couple jars from my aunt a couple of years ago, and they may still make was good.

            18 Replies
              1. re: greygarious

                I can understand why you don't wish to turn on your stove in the heat of summer. For instance, it's 57° right now in the Twin Cities.

                1. re: John E.

                  I am envious, but wouldn't be if it were January. Last week we were promised that the polar vortex would return this week, dropping average temps by 10 or so degrees but it's not happening. It's almost 2 a.m. 77F and muggy. The most I'll do on the stove is quick stir-frying; hoping for cooler, drier sometime before August arrives with the worst of summer heat.

                  1. re: greygarious

                    Really? You avoid cooking indoors the entire summer? I made a huge batch of caramelized onions in a dutch oven (in our gas oven) over the 4th - indoors. Don't really recall it being a hot chore.

                    1. re: ferret

                      Do you have AC? We don't so cooking indoors sucks in the heat of summer, especially since the stove and the ceiling fan are incompatible.
                      These microwave ones aren't bad.

                      1. re: magiesmom

                        We do have AC but we also have windows. We usually keep the windows and patio door open to get a little ventilation in because we don't run the AC non-stop. I've lived through many, many (many) summers and while I certainly don't cook indoors every day, I don't shy away from it just because it's a hot day.

                      2. re: ferret

                        I do not, and cannot, have air conditioning. In hot weather, I ONLY cook late at night. When it's above 70F overnight, I will not cook anything that requires more than 10 minutes on the stove, and won't use the oven at all. On cool nights, I cook a lot and freeze meals to be nuked. I do not cook outdoors.

                        Some people are not bothered by hot, humid weather. I am not among their number.

                        1. re: greygarious

                          I don't have AC either, greygarious. I do have six large fans, which help, but my tiny kitchen becomes quite the steam room in this heat.

                          Re. John coworker's mom rented a cottage in MI this summer, and has been complaining about the cold temps (60s) don't want to swim in the lake, etc. Feast or famine, temp wise, this summer.

                          1. re: pinehurst

                            So far, we've had a decently warm summer. We had a pretty wet spring, but this is the first cool weather we've had in a while.

                            I actually prefer 65• to 75• over the upper 80s, especially if there is a high dew point.

                            I was in Arizona a few years ago and was listening to a local radio talkshow. The host was describing how the day before he saw some people swimming in an outdoor pool when it was 75• He said he wanted to shout out the car window "what part of Minnesota are you from?". Apparently, 75• is not warm enough to swim outdoors for Arizona natives. Heck, in the spring in Minnesota, I see people sunbathing at 45•.

                            1. re: John E.

                              So true, John. New Englanders are much the same. The only thing I don't get is this trend of drinking iced coffee all year round. No sir, not in January, not for me.

                              Speaking of temps...I remember my mom (Canadian descent, hated the summer heat) having a large electric frying pan (quite large, in fact, the size of a largish Dutch oven) that she'd plug in on our screen porch to fry chicken during the summer. I miss that (and her).

                              1. re: pinehurst

                                The The last time I used an electric skillet out on our deck was when I fried a mess of smelt and didn't wish to stink up the kitchen.

                                I don't drink much iced tea at home, but I would drink it in restaurants all year round if it was available.

                2. re: pinehurst

                  Interesting! I went to the W-S site: They still make both those products, plus a Caramelized Onion Burger Starter (a different flavor profile than the braising base.)

                  1. re: mcsheridan

                    I'm tempted to shop on W-S this weekend, or just look around. I do like the Mancini jarred onions that greygarious mentioned upthread, but they are indeed far more "neutral" than carmelized.

                    1. re: pinehurst

                      FWIW, I sometimes get Mancini onions at Ocean State Job Lot for $2. My theory is that OSJL gets the batches that are either over or underdone. When OSJL has them, they are either very pale, or the color of onion skins. OSJL ALWAYS has several kinds of Mancini jarred peppers, but the onions are hit or miss.

                      1. re: pinehurst

                        I just ordered the CO base, and also the CO/Beer braising sauce, which was on sale. There were a few other items I need that were on sale, so my total got me a discount and free shipping. :>)

                        1. re: greygarious

                          I used the Williams-Sonoma caramelized onion base and will not be buying it again. It was more liquid than onion, and they'd added too many other flavors. Yesterday I used the pint of liquid that remained in the jar in making some vegetable bean soup so it did not go to waste, but in the future I'll try to load up the freezer with my own COs before hot weather sets in.

                          Fortunately, it's been cool lately and I made a batch the other day. I tried a hefty pinch of baking soda with 1.5 pounds of onions and found they cooked a lot faster. However, I also used a few shakes of MSG and a pinch of salt - previously I have not done that though I've sometimes added soy sauce midway through. This batch definitely got browner, softer, and sweeter than they would have been with my usual method. Maybe too soft - they were ordinary yellow onions but behaved like vidalias, which I have read is the result of the baking soda. The BS speeds browning and softening. I added it at the half-hour mark and did not check again for another half hour. They would probably have been done at 45-50 minutes.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            Thanks for the follow up. Sorry it didn't work out.

                            1. re: greygarious

                              My kitchen can get hot in the summer if I have a lot of cooking to do. My favorite vessel for cooking CO is a 2.75 qt Le Creuset 'soup' pot. The rounded sides send condensed vapor right back down to the bottom of the pan... rather self-basting. I use a gas stove but I wonder if using an induction burner would speed/cool the process.