How to caramelize onions fast

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Caramelized onions are a staple in most kitchens. They are used for making onion rings and burgers, but they can be used to caramelize onions in so many other ways too! Caramelizing onions is a quick way of cooking onions and adding flavor to them.

Caramelized onions are a delicious addition to salads, soups, pasta, rice bowls, and more. It has a sweet caramelized flavor that pairs well with almost anything.

I’ll tell you everything you need to know about caramelizing onions and how you can speed up the process by cutting steps down and adding ingredients to it that will change the taste and texture of your caramelized onion recipe.

What Makes Onions Caramelize Quicker?

Caramelizing onions faster is a great way to add extra caramelized onion flavor to your dishes. The process of caramelization involves cooking onions slowly until they become tender and sweet.

However, the natural sugars in onions caramelize more quickly when exposed to high heat. This can result in onion bits that are burned or bitter.

Using High Heat

The caramelization of onions is a process that takes place during cooking when the onion turns brown and develops a caramelized flavor. This process can be accelerated by using high heat and patience.

However, caramelization can also be sped up by adding baking soda, about 1/4 teaspoon per pound of onions. If you prefer not to use baking soda, you can use about 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per pound of onions to increase the caramelization rate by over 50%.

Using a Non-Stick Pan

If you’re looking for ways to caramelize onions faster, you can use a non-stick pan. It will help caramelized onions brown without sticking to the pan.

You will also need heat the nonstick pan to high and add 1 tablespoon of butter and vegetable oil. This will help caramelized onions brown evenly and reduce the chances of them burning or sticking to the pan.

When caramelized onions are done cooking, you can deglaze the pan with enough liquid to release the fond.

This will help caramelized onions retain their flavor and become more delicious. By using a non-stick pan and caramelized onions quickly, you can save time and achieve a delicious result every time.

Cutting Onions Into Smaller Pieces

The size of onions when caramelized is vital as it can affect the speed and color of the caramelization process. It is recommended to caramelize onions in small, ⅛ inch slices to speed up the caramelization process.

To caramelize onions on the stovetop, use a heavy skillet and heat over high heat. The onion slices should be added to the skillet in a single layer and caramelized for around 45 minutes.

Alternatively, caramelized onion patties can be made using onion slices that have been cut into ⅛ inch pices.

Adding Salt

Adding a pinch of salt to onions while caramelizing can enhance the flavor and sweetness. Salt helps to draw out the natural sweetness of the onions and prevents them from burning, allowing for an even caramelization.

Adding too much salt can lead to a salty caramelized onion, so it’s important to add the salt at the beginning of the process. Too much salt can also cause the caramelized onion to be bitter.

By adding a pinch of salt at the beginning of your onion caramelization process, you can ensure that your onions caramelize quickly and evenly.

Keeping the Lid Off

When cooking onions, it is recommended to leave the lid off the pan. This allows the onions to caramelize and achieve a golden-brown color. Stirring occasionally but not constantly is key for caramelized onions.

It is also important to leave the lid off during the cooking process, as this will help release the delicious browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

When using an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, adding butter and sautering the onions for a few minutes after pressure cooking will help caramelize them

Adding Sweeteners

Adding brown sugar to onions can help caramelize them quickly. Balsamic vinegar can also be used to glaze onions and help them caramelize faster. Adding a splash of balsamic vinegar during the last 5 minutes of cooking can add a tangy flavor to caramelized onions.

Other sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, and molasses can also be used to speed up caramelization. Slow-cooking caramelized onions over low heat is still the best method for the best flavor.

What Kind of Onions are Best for Caramelizing?

Yellow onions are the preferred choice for caramelizing due to their balanced-sweet-savory flavor profile and versatility for different dishes.

It can be used in baking, frying, and salad dressing, and are a common ingredient in Indian cuisine. When caramelized, yellow onions lend a sweet onion flavor that is complemented well by other ingredients such as herbs and spices.

Sweet onions, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, also make for tasty caramelized onions. However, their flavor becomes even sweeter once caramelized.

Also red onions are better suited for quick-cooking techniques like grilling or broiling, and they take on more color than yellow or sweet onions.

White onions can be used but tend to produce a one-note sweet flavor that lacks the savory depth of yellow onion caramelization.

How to caramelize onions fast

If you’re looking to caramelize onions fast, consider seven steps that I describe bellow. Let’s start how to caramelize onion fast.

Slice the onions thin:

To caramelize onions, it’s best to slice them into thin pieces. This will allow them to cook evenly and release their flavor more quickly.

When caramelizing onions, heat olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Next, add the onion slices and reduce the heat to low if the onion starts to burn or stick to the bottom of the pan.

You can also add a pinch of sugar and balsamic vinegar to create a glaze over the onions. By caramelizing onions slowly and properly, you can create a delicious side dish that is both sweet and savory.

Use high heat:

Onions can be caramelized quickly by adding brown sugar to the cooking method. High heat is essential to caramelize onions quickly, as the high heat promotes caramelization of the onion faster and results in a golden color.

The slow cooker method requires hours to caramelize onions and is not the best choice for preparing a quick meal.

By adding brown sugar, the onion caramelizes quickly, which helps to achieve a golden brown color.

Add a pinch of salt:

To make caramelized onions, it is important to add a pinch of salt to help the onions caramelize quickly. Salt also helps to prevent them from burning.

Adding a pinch of salt to Quick Caramelized Onions helps to bring out the flavors. As with any recipe that requires cooking, you need to use caution and ensure that the onions are cooked thoroughly without burning them.

By adding a pinch of salt, you can help speed up the caramelization process of onions without risking their destruction.

Use a wide, shallow pan:

To caramelize onions, you will need a wide, shallow pan. This ensures that the onions caramelize quickly and evenly.

Additionally, using a wide, shallow pan prevents onions from releasing too much water and steaming, which can delay caramelization.

To caramelized onions, use a heavy-bottomed pot to help reach the desired golden color. However, be careful not to overcrowd the pan or they can steam and lose their flavor.

Overall, caramelized onions take at least 20 minutes to achieve the desired golden brown color but can take up to an hour with smaller pans or if the onions are packed too closely together in the pan.

Add a bit of sugar:

Adding a pinch of sugar to caramelize onions quickly is one quick and easy way to caramelized onions. You can caramelize onions in as little as 10 minutes if you add a pinch of sugar to the recipe.

Adding balsamic vinegar to the onion mixture can help caramelized onions “caramelize” faster. Additionally, slow cooking onions in butter can caramelize them without turning them golden brown.

If you want to caramelized onion with the best results, use 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda per pound of onions.

Use a splash of balsamic vinegar or red wine:

Adding a splash of balsamic vinegar to onions in the last 5 minutes of caramelizing can give them a tangy flavor.

Red wine or balsamic vinegar can also be used to deglaze the pan for additional flavor. Brown sugar can be added when caramelizing onions for 15 minutes to get a golden brown color.

By using various ingredients and spices, you can add extra flavor and aroma to your caramelized onion recipe. This will make your dish truly unique and delicious

Expert Tips for Caramelizing Onions Quickly

In order to caramelize onions quickly, a pinch of sugar and balsamic vinegar can be added.

Other optional steps, such as adding baking soda, can help accelerate the caramelization process.

To get the best results, onion should be sliced from pole to pole to avoid onion mush. Yellow onions are the best option for caramelizing onions due to their high concentration of onion essential oil.

How to Tell When Caramelized Onions are Done

Caramelized onions are done when they are soft, tender, and a deep golden-brown color. The process of caramelizing onions involves cooking them slowly over low heat until their natural sugars break down and they become caramelized. This process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more, depending on the quantity of onions being cooked.

Here are some signs to look for to determine when caramelized onions are done:

  1. Color: The onions should be a deep golden-brown color, with no white or translucent pieces remaining.
  2. Texture: The onions should be soft and tender, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
  3. Taste: The onions should taste sweet and slightly nutty, with a caramelized flavor.
  4. Smell: The aroma should be rich and sweet, with a distinctive caramelized scent.

When the onions have reached the desired color, texture, taste, and smell, they are ready to be used in a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to pizzas and sandwiches. Remember that the key to perfectly caramelized onions is patience and low heat, so take your time and enjoy the process!

How long do caramelized onions last

Caramelized onions can last for up to five days when stored properly in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

It is important to let the onions cool down to room temperature before storing them in the fridge to prevent moisture from building up in the container.

If you need to store them for longer than five days, you can also freeze caramelized onions for up to six months.

To freeze, place them in a freezer-safe container and make sure to label it with the date before storing it in the freezer.

When you’re ready to use them, simply thaw them in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat them on the stovetop or in the microwave.

What to do with caramelized onions

Caramelized onions are a delicious ingredient that can be used in a variety of ways in cooking. Here are some suggestions for what to do with caramelized onions:

  1. Use as a topping: Caramelized onions can be used as a topping for burgers, hot dogs, and grilled sausages. They also pair well with grilled or roasted meats, such as chicken, beef, or pork.
  2. Add to vegetables: Caramelized onions can add sweetness and depth of flavor to a variety of vegetables, such as roasted or sautéed mushrooms, bell peppers, or zucchini.
  3. Make soup or stew: Caramelized onions are a key ingredient in French onion soup, but they can also be used in other soups and stews, such as beef stew or lentil soup, to add richness and flavor.
  4. Use in sandwiches or wraps: Caramelized onions can be used as a filling or topping for sandwiches, such as grilled cheese, panini, or steak sandwiches.
  5. Add to pizza or flatbreads: Caramelized onions are a popular topping for pizzas and flatbreads, either on their own or with other ingredients such as goat cheese, prosciutto, or arugula.
  6. Make dips or spreads: Caramelized onions can be used as a base for dips and spreads, such as onion dip, hummus, or onion jam.
  7. Use in eggs: Caramelized onions can add flavor and texture to scrambled eggs, omelets, or frittatas.
  8. Make caramelized onion tart: Caramelized onions can be used as a filling for a savory tart or quiche.
  9. Mix into rice or pasta dishes: Caramelized onions can add a rich, sweet flavor to rice or pasta dishes, such as risotto or carbonara.

Overall, caramelized onions are a versatile ingredient that can add flavor and depth to many different dishes. Experimenting with different recipes can lead to delicious and creative flavor combinations.


Caramelized onions are the ultimate side dish for any meal. They add a rich, caramelized flavor to your food and can be made quickly and easily using ingredients that you probably already have on hand. Besides, they require minimal effort to make and give your dish a touch of sophistication.

Oftentimes, caramelized onions are made by simmering the onions in fat or oil until they caramelize and become sweet and sticky. However, caramelizing onions can be as easy as tossing them in a hot pan with some oil or butter, depending on the amount of time and heat you use.

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