How to Make Caramelized Onions [Five Easy Steps]

Learn how to make caramelized onions in five easy steps. Turn any onion into a beautiful bowlful of dark amber, naturally sweet and flavorful onions.

How to Make Caramelized Onions

How to Make Caramelized Onions

When learning how to make caramelized onions there are two things you should always do:

  • Always use a very sharp knife and or Japanese mandolin.
  • Take your time and constantly stir your onions as they cook.


First, cut half an inch of both ends of whatever onion you are going to use. Save the ends in a zip lock bag for stocks in the future. I use them blended in our Japanese Curry recipe.

Using the bottom or back of the knife cut off the first layer of the onion. Save this as well.

Cut your onion flat side down in half, vertically.

If you are using a Japanese Mandolin please set the depth of the blade to about a half inch. You don’t want to shave the onion paper thin. If you are using a knife try as best as you can to get it about the same width.

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If you don’t own a Japanese Mandolin, get one. You can find them at any local Asian market or just go to Amazon.

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Be sure your onions are not stuck together, gently loosen them before adding to the pan.

Start off with a little oil on the bottom of a large saute pan, add your onions and bring it up to low-medium heat.

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I prefer to use a stainless steel saute pan or even a cast iron pan when caramelizing onions. Some people use Teflon pans, but I would not suggest this because non-stick pans are metal pans (such as aluminum pans) coated with a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). There are too many reports regarding the safety of these pans for my comfort level. Sticking with traditional equipment is usually best, anyway.

  • Try to use a light oil like grapeseed oil. Olive oil tends to give your onions a distinct flavor that might not work well with certain dishes.
  • I sometimes like to add quality butter to my caramelized onions once they are translucent. About a teaspoon’s worth will give your onions depth.
  • Make sure you are on medium to low heat, this will allow your onions to caramelize slowly and extract the natural sugars evenly.
  • Always stir with a wooden spoon, constantly.  Wooden spoons don’t heat to scalding temperatures, don’t chemically react with acidic foods, or scratch pots and bowls, as their metal counterparts do.
  • The onions will break down via a process called pyrolysis, non-enzymatic browning in which chemical compounds are broken down by heat. In this case, the chemical compound we’re breaking down is sugar, hence that beautiful caramel color.


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  • You’ll know your onions are caramelized when they start to stick together and reveal a rich dark amber color.
  • Truly caramelized onions should always take time. One onion caramelized should take at least 20 minutes.
  • Never use sugar or honey to speed up the caramelizing process. Natural sugar extraction from onions or any vegetable will always taste best.
  • Only when you get your caramelized onions right, should you start adding herbs and or spices to them.

Now you have learned how to make caramelized onions. Give it whirl and let me know the results below.

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How to Make Caramelized Onions

How to Make Caramelized Onions

An easy guide on how to make caramelized onions

Course Condiment
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 147 kcal


Ingredients for Caramelized Onions

  • 4 yellow onions shaved
  • 1 tbs. grape seed oil quality
  • 1 tbs. butter quality
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tbs. Agave optional


Instructions for Caramelized Onions

  1. Cut 1/2 in. off of both ends of the onion

  2. Cut off the first layer of entire onion

  3. Set mandolin blade depth to quarter inch

  4. Coat bottom of stainless steel pan with grapeseed oil

  5. Set to medium heat and constantly stir with wooden spoon

  6. Onions are caramelized when they start to stick together and turn a dark amber color

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