When I was a child, I absolutely hated onions. Hated them. I thought they were icky and smelled like feet. And if an onion even touched my food? Oh I could tell. And then it was all over.
20 years later and I’m happy to say that has completely changed. I’m not exactly sure when it clicked for me, but at some point I had a moment of “Where have you been all my life??” with onions.
But onto this recipe. Can I even call it a recipe? I think so. I first heard of this technique when searching best ways to caramelize onions. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, a very talented guy I look up to (highly recommend his book The Food Lab), originally developed this recipe.
Caramelized onions have many applications, whether they are in dip, soup, on pizza or served with brie… They’re endless. But to make any of those, you first have to learn to properly caramelize onions. There are lots of great resources out there to teach you, but most of them involve babysitting a stove for nearly an hour before you’re left with these beauties.
Kenji’s method is my favorite and what I’m sharing with you today. With just a few changes, you can shave that 45 minutes – 1 hour down to 20 minutes.
Nope, I didn’t stutter.
You need only a few things in your arsenal: onions, sugar, baking soda, salt and pepper, and maybe a little bit of water.
tips for troubleshooting
Don’t use red onions. They turn a nasty green color and well, it’s just bad. Yellow onions are my pick. White and sweet onions really don’t make a huge difference after cooking.
Avoid the mush. A previous version of this recipe had 1/2 tsp baking soda. Adding too much can make it turn to mush, so I’ve updated it to 1/4 tsp to be extra careful.
The way you slice the onion matters. Slice from pole to pole, not into rounds. The structural integrity of the onion is weakened when slicing along the equator (if we’re still going with globe references here) and it’s more likely you’ll be left with… you guessed it, onion mush.
And as great and time saving as this recipe is, it is not exactly the same as traditional slow caramelized onions. When caramelized onions are the star of a recipe, I do not suggest using this method. There are subtle differences in flavor that may make something like french onion soup fall flat. But if you are using them as a component in another recipe like my Sheet Pan Roasted Mediterranean Potatoes, these will do just fine.
Again, I hope you enjoy this recipe and that these tips help you achieve the results you want.
Until next time. X
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How to Caramelize Onions… Fast!
Caramelized onions don’t have to take forever. Try this technique to cut the time in half!
- 2 lbs yellow onions, peeled and sliced
- 2 TB granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large skillet on medium low heat, heat the sugar until it melts. Add the onions and toss to coat.
- Sprinkle the baking soda over the onions and toss again to coat.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high and watch as the onions begin to sizzle and weep.
- Let the onions continue to cook, stirring and tossing occasionally as they turn a deeper brown. If, at any point, the onions seem like they’re going to burn and their juices evaporate, add a teaspoon of water and stir. You might have to do this once or twice, but I personally never did.
- The onions are done when they are soft, deep brown and almost a jam-like consistency. The entire process should take about 20 minutes.
- Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, or to taste.
See post for troubleshooting tips