Confession: I’m a caramelized onion-obsessed freak. It’s always on the menu because it goes with everything – burgers, veggie sandwiches, steak, scrambled eggs, crostini, hummus… the list goes on.
I usually doctor mine with salt and a splash of amaretto for a quick caramelization and added sweetness. But since having made caramelized onions hundreds of times in a hundred different ways, I’ve come to find there’s only one way that suits all tastes. It’s the pure and untainted way. No added salt or sugar; it’s a basic tried and true condiment of champions.
You can use any kind onion but I’m sticking with your basic spanish onion. Sweet onions will be sweeter. Red onions will be sweeter plus darker (obviously). Whatever floats your boat.
The onions will reduce down in the process so chop up plenty of them! I’m doing 4 in this example but I’ve done 6-8 at a time and the only difference is how long I have to wait for them to caramelize. I like long strands of caramelized goodness so this is how I chop mine most of the time. I’m no chef so I’m just winging it.
Now, everybody does this differently but I like to sear my onions right off the bat over medium high heat with 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Use vegetable oil if you like, or any mild oil that won’t burn over medium high heat. When I toss in the onions I just leave them for a few minutes and listen to the sizzle.
Take a spatula and lift up some of the onions and see if they have a sear.
If they look good then just toss them around and then turn you heat to low. This is the hard part – waiting. Oh sweet mercy, this takes forever but they sure do taste good if you make it to the other side. Every 10 minutes give the onions a flip and a stir and do this for at least an hour. I know. Torture.
You’ll notice after awhile that some brown stuff forms on the bottom of the pan. This is called fond. I don’t know why they call it that and if it were me I’d call it something way more appealing. But the fond is the good stuff. You want to see more fond. It’s what makes caramelized onions taste so dang good in that it’s richly sweet and savory.
Just keep cooking, just keep tossing, just keep waiting and suddenly you’ll see that the onions are almost all covered in sweet fond.
Look how much the onions reduced! This is why I do more than one onion at a time. Even if I only need one caramelized for whatever meal I’m making, I always make more because you can simply store the rest away. Even freeze them!
I’d say after an hour of all this waiting and tossing you can taste and see where you want to go with it. But I find that they taste better after around an hour and a half on this particular skillet. Since every stovetop and skillet is different you’ll have to just keep an eye out and gauge where the onions are at but you really can’t go wrong with longer. The longer the better, the sweeter, the richer the flavor.
Many people (like myself) will want to add a pinch of salt to pop the flavor but it’s truly up to you. When you feel like the flavor is up to your incredibly well placed standards just scrape the onions out of the skillet and into a small serving dish. This is more of a condiment than a side dish so I find a small container and a fork is perfectly suitable. You can scoop it out daintily onto a little toast with goat cheese or plop a large helping onto a burger.
Keep the leftovers (like there’d be any) in a small airtight container in the fridge for a week.
Don’t be afraid to make them a day ahead if you’re serving them at a party and need to prep beforehand. Check out my appetizer recipe for Caramelized Onion & Brie Crostini on the Laurel Macy blog for a perfect party pleaser. Learn how to caramelize onions quick and easy with a little amaretto (and butter)!
There are so many versions and ways to change up the flavors here. This recipe is more a blank slate. Not salty enough? Add salt. Not sweet enough? Add sugar, or brown sugar! Add balsamic or booze… the options are endless! You just need to know this basic recipe and you can take it from there. Now go cook your buns off.
- 4 spanish onions (any kind and any number will work too)
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- salt to taste (optional)
- Chop 4 onions into long strips.
- Add canola oil to a skillet on medium high heat and sear onions. After a few minutes toss the onions and then turn the heat down to low.
- Flip and stir the onions every 10 minutes for an hour (or more if you like) until they have plenty of fond and taste slightly sweet. Add a pinch of salt to taste (optional).
- Dish out into a small serving bowl with a fork or store in the fridge for one week.