Here’s how to caramelize onions so they’re deep brown and tender! This caramelized onion recipe is an essential technique for all home cooks.

Caramelized onions

Here’s a skill every home cook should master: how to caramelize onions! Now, you can saute onions in just 10 minutes. But cook them over the span of an hour, and it releases their natural sugars in a metamorphosis-like transformation. The onions go from raw and pungent to silky smooth and deep brown. The flavor is something other-worldly: sweetly savory, with an irresistibly luxurious texture. They turn burgers, dips, and pasta to pure gold. Here’s how to do it: with a graphic showing each stage of the caramelization!

How to make caramelized onions: quick tutorial

You don’t really need a recipe to learn how to caramelize onions: think of it more like a rhythm. You’ll need onions, butter or oil, and salt: that’s it! Here’s a quick look at the stages of the caramelization process, then scroll down for a handy graphic.

  • Thinly slice the onions. About 1/8-inch thick works well. Use an entire 3 pound bag, which makes 2 cups caramelized onions — or less, if desired.
  • Sauté the onions for 8 to 10 minutes on medium high heat. Melt butter, then add the onions and saute until they’re soft.
  • Add salt and cook 40 to 45 minutes on medium low until very dark brown. You’ll see the onions go through stages: first golden brown, then medium brown, then very dark brown. They’re done when the flavor is developed and sweet, and they’re almost falling apart they’re so tender.
How to caramelize onions

How to cut the onions

What’s the best way slice up this root veggie when you go to caramelize onions? Honestly, anything goes. Because you’re reducing them down so much, the exact shape of the onions doesn’t matter so much. But we do love to use French cut, a method for cutting onions where you cut from the stem to the root. It’s quick, it’s easy, and makes nicely shaped pieces. Here’s what to do:

  • Slice off the ends of the onion and cut it in half. Stand the onion on its flat cut side and cut it down the center.
  • Remove the paper. Remove the paper and outer layer of the onion.
  • Cut following the curve of the onion, stem to root. Place the onion on its flat side then cut slices following the curve of the onion, from the tip to the root. Want to see how? Go to minute 1:40 of How to Cut an Onion.
How to make caramelized onions

Make ahead and storage info

Can you make caramelized onions ahead? Can you freeze caramelized onions? Yes! Because it takes 1 hour to caramelize onions, it’s not always possible for a weeknight dinner. Here’s how you can make them in advance:

  • Refrigerate for up to 4 days. Make them ahead and refrigerate until you’re ready to make the recipe. Make sure to warm them before serving.
  • Freeze for up to 3 months. Line a muffin tin with plastic wrap and add small portions of caramelized onions. Or you can freeze them in a large plastic bag (then you’ll have to defrost them all at once). They should last up to 3 months, or even longer. But they’re best after refrigeration!
Caramelized onion recipe

Ways to use caramelized onions

There are so many ways to use caramelized onions: and you probably already have some ideas picked out! Here are some of the best ways to eat them:

This caramelized onion recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free

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Caramelized onion recipe

Perfect Caramelized Onions

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 2 cups 1x


Here’s how to caramelize onions so they’re deep brown and tender! This caramelized onion recipe is an essential technique for all home cooks. 


  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 3 pounds yellow onions (5 medium onions)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


  1.  Thinly slice the onions about 1/8-inch thick (we used a French cut by slicing stem to root; go to minute 1:40 of the linked video for a tutorial).
  2. In a soup pot, heat the butter over medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until very soft and just starting to become light brown on the bottom layer.
  3. Reduce to medium-low heat and stir in the kosher salt. Cook for 40 to 45 minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes and adjusting the heat so they continue to cook slowly without burning. The onions will change from raw to golden to light brown to very dark brown and reduce in volume by about ¼ (see the graphic above). Make ahead tip: Make the caramelized onions in advance and refrigerate for up to 4 days before serving, or freeze them for up to 3 months (see above for more). 
  • Category: Essesntials
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Various
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Caramelized onions, How to caramelize onions, How to make caramelized onions, Caramelized onion recipe

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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  1. Thank you this is exactly what I was looking for! Had to wade through dozens of (incorrect) methods to find yours. It was additionally helpful that you included pics of all the cooking stages so I could adjust based on the flavor and consistency I desire for different recipes.

  2. Great recipe, and I didn’t know you could freeze. Thanks guys!!

    J. Ralph

  3. Found your recipe and really sounds delicious and easy. Cooking as I’m typing this lol. So far very soft and sweet. Just starting the actual cook part of 40 to 45 minutes. I am having to adjust the time just because I’m cooking large slices.