You'll love to know how to caramelize onions. Not only is it super easy, but they are incredibly delicious and can be used to greatly enhance hundreds of recipes. There are many ways to make them and my favorite is to use clarified butter.
We're creating an unbelievable, intensely rich, sweet flavored, caramel-colored, spreadable delicacy.
Some might say it's like gold. And others might say it's like candy. Either way, what everybody is trying to say is that they're super, super special!
We're going to learn how to caramelize onions.
There are Many Different Ways to Caramelize
- You can caramelize onions in 15 minutes, by browning their surface quickly.
- You can also use methods where you caramelize them in thirty minutes.
- It can be done in the oven, on a grill or on the stove.
- You can caramelize onions in olive oil, butter, clarified butter, bacon fat -- really most fats.
- You get my point -- there are many ways to do it, and different results can be reached with each one.
I'm going to share a method in which we'll learn how to caramelize onions very slowly on the stove. . . drawing all of their natural sugars to their surface.
I love watching a pot full of bright white onions slowly switch to contain only a slim layer of deep caramel, cooked onions. It's a little like magic!
What makes these caramelized onions special?
Although you can use olive oil, I love using clarified, unsalted butter to caramelize my onions. It adds flavor and the final result is almost spreadable.
Why clarified, unsalted butter for caramelized onions?
Butter has essentially three parts: butterfat, water, and milk solids. Milk solids can burn easily -- even at a low temperature. When butter is clarified, the milk solids (and water) are removed and all that remains is the butterfat. This creates a higher smoke point, which makes clarified butter ideal for cooking and sautéing.
For cooking, I always prefer to use unsalted butter. You have more control over the final seasoning and flavor this way.
How to Clarify Butter (Quick Method)
- Add butter to a heavy-bottomed pot and turn the heat to low to melt the butter.
- Use a metal spoon to remove the milk solids from the surface.
- They will appear as a creamy colored foam. This is essentially a quick way to clarify the butter.
The butter should appear clear once the milk solids are removed. It's okay if a few spots remain.
For this method of making caramelized onions, the raw onion slices are added at this point.
(More detailed instructions are below.)
Uses for Caramelized Onions
- Using this method, the onions become spreadable, making them perfect to add to a sandwich or a pizza.
- The onions are perfect to add to bite-sized hors d'oeuvres, soups, stews, and sauces, and perhaps -- on occasion -- to a spoon!
Recipes with caramelized onions:
- Mini Red Potato Appetizer
- Smashed Potato Casserole
- Stuffed Honeynut Squash Recipe
- French Onion Mushroom Casserole
- Grilled Sausage Portobello Mushroom Pizza
- Grilled Avocado with Egg and Bacon Compote
- 3 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- salt and pepper
- Clarify the butter. Add the butter to a large heavy-bottomed pot and turn the heat to low. Melt the butter. Use a metal spoon to remove the milk solids from the surface, which will appear as a creamy colored foam. This is essentially a quick way to clarify the butter. (The butter should appear clear once the milk solids are removed. It's okay if a few spots remain.)
- Caramelize the onions. Turn the heat to medium-high and add all of the onions. The caramelization process will take about 1½ to 2 hours. During the first 15 minutes, stir the onions every few minutes (I like to use metal tongs at this early point). After about 30 minutes, they should be very soft and the bottom of the pan and some of the onions should be browning a bit.After this point, the onions should be periodically stirred with a wooden deglazing spatula and the heat should be turned down to medium-low. Every so often the bottom and sides of the pan will begin to brown. This is what you want! Use the deglazing spatula to work that back into the onions. After about 1½ hours, the onions will have reduced in size a lot and be very brown.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Here's how to season to taste.)
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