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These Caramelized Onions are a simple and decadent side dish or condiment. They’re golden-brown, perfectly soft, and have a sweet, deep, rich flavor. Just 3 ingredients needed!

overhead of a bowl filled with cooked onions.

Easy Recipe for Caramelized Onions

If you’ve never tried real caramelized onions before, then you’re in for a treat. These are the best caramelized onions ever!

Now, let’s get one thing straight. Caramelizing onions is not the same as sautéing them. Sautéed onions are cooked at a higher heat much more quickly. Caramelized onions are cooked at a lower heat for a longer amount of time.

The longer cooking time allows the natural sugars in the onions to caramelize and become golden-brown with a rich, deep, sweet flavor and deliciously soft texture.

side view of a bowl of caramelized onions with a yellow onion in the background.

Ingredients Needed for Caramelized Onions

You need a few basic ingredients for the best caramelized onions!

  • Onions: I like to use yellow onions for this recipe. If preferred, you can use other varieties of onion. Be sure they are thinly sliced.
  • Ghee or Butter: You can use ghee for a paleo-friendly option or stick to regular unsalted butter.
  • Salt: Just a little bit of salt brings out the delicious flavor of the onions as they cook.

How to Caramelize Onions

This simple caramelized onions recipe takes a little bit of time, but it really is so easy! And it’s so worth the time. Here’s a breakdown of the recipe:

  • Cook and stir: In a sauté pan or skillet, heat ghee until shimmering. Add in the sliced onions and cook, stirring every 5 minutes, for 20-25 minutes or until browned.
  • Deglaze: As the onions are cooking, deglaze the pan with a tablespoon of water as needed until soft and browned. Once fully caramelized, remove from the heat and serve or store.

Do You Use Butter or Oil for Caramelized Onions?

While you can use either, I recommend using unsalted butter or ghee to caramelize your onions. Both add a flavor depth that isn’t quite achieved by oil.

Pro Tip!

Keep the heat lower when using butter or ghee. These ingredients have a lower smoke point than oil, so they are quicker to burn.

Does Adding Sugar Make Onions Caramelize Faster?

In theory, yes, but I don’t recommend it. Truly caramelizing onions means you’re cooking them at a lower heat for a long time, which brings out the natural sugars in the onion and creates a soft texture and rich, deep flavor.

Adding sugar to the onions caramelizes them faster, but the flavor won’t be the same.

What Is the Trick to Caramelizing Onions Quickly?

Here are a few things you can do to keep your cooking time to a minimum!

  • Cut the onions thinly. The thinner slices of onion will soften more quickly.
  • Cook at medium-high heat. Medium-high heat is usually perfect for quicker cooking without burning the onions.
  • Deglaze with water. Deglazing the pan with a tablespoon of water as needed helps redistribute the fond throughout the onions and allows them to caramelize more quickly.
overhead shot of a hand touching a bowl filled with cooked onions.

Tips and Notes for this Caramelized Onions Recipe

  • Slice the onions evenly and thinly. Thick slices won’t caramelize properly. Additionally, if the slices aren’t even, they won’t cook at the same rate.
  • Use a non-stick, heavy-bottomed pan. A heavy-bottomed pan helps distribute the heat for more even cooking.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan. Use a large pan or skillet to leave plenty of space for proper cooking.

Serving Suggestions

There are tons of different ways you can enjoy caramelized onions. They make a delicious side dish next to air fryer steak, grilled pork chops, or your favorite entree, but you can also add them to other recipes too! Here are some of my favorite ways to use these caramelized onions:

a fork being plunged into a bowl filled with caramelized onions.

How to Store

Leftover caramelized onions can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. To enjoy again, heat on low back in a pan.

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overhead of a bowl filled with cooked onions.

Caramelized Onions

These Caramelized Onions are a simple and decadent side dish or condiment. They're golden-brown, perfectly soft, and have a sweet, deep, rich flavor. Just 3 ingredients needed!
Servings 1 cup
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes


  • 3 tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter
  • 2 large yellow onions thinly sliced, about 5 cups
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt


  • Heat the ghee or butter in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat. When the ghee is hot, add in the onions. (The ghee is hot enough when it shimmers and bubbles after you add a drop of water to the pan.) Cook, untouched, until a fond (see note) starts to build up or the onions start to stick to the pan, about 5 minutes. Stir the onions.
  • Continue to stir once every 5 minutes for 20-25 minutes, adding a tablespoon of water if needed to deglaze the pan (adding water to the pan helps the onions caramelize quicker and helps redistribute the fond throughout the onions), until the onions begin to take on a deep brown color. If they begin to burn, reduce the heat to medium-low.
  • Once the onions are browned and caramelized, remove from the heat and use as desired. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.


Fond refers to the flavorful brown bits that begin to build up on the bottom of the pan.


Serving: 1cupCalories: 514kcalCarbohydrates: 28gProtein: 3gFat: 45gSaturated Fat: 28gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 115mgSodium: 1176mgPotassium: 438mgFiber: 5gSugar: 13gVitamin A: 6IUVitamin C: 22mgCalcium: 70mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: caramelized onions
Course: Condiment, Side Dish
Method: Pan-fry
Cuisine: American

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