It’s an all too common tragedy. You go out and buy a perfectly fresh, plump batch of green onions. After a long grocery haul, without any thought, you throw the scallions into the crisper drawer — bare naked. No protection, no water, and no hope. A few days later, the green onions lay in mourning — wilted, unappetizing, useless. Alas, there is a better way. No longer must you or your green onions endure this horrific nightmare. Instead here’s a quick guide on how to store green onions, and why they’ll soon become your favorite ingredient in the kitchen.
- Keeping It Fresh
- Why Green Onions?
- Top Posts in Organic Gardening
- The Best Ways to Store Every Type of Onion to Keep Them Fresher, Longer
- Whole Onions
- Peeled Onions
- Chopped Onions
- Cooked Onions
- Scallions or Leeks
- Handling & Storage Tips
- You might want to try some of these favorite methods of storage:
- Get 4 to 6 Months Storage Time in the Pantry.
- Special Handling Required
- Not in a Box – but in Your Socks!
- Freeze Them in Small Batches
- Can You Can Them?
- Recipe: Sweet Onion Jelly Makes 3-1/2 cups of jelly
- Here’s How You Should Be Storing Leftover Onions
- Find a dark, cool, well-ventilated place to store uncut onions.
- Once you cut an onion, it’s crucial to store any leftovers in the refrigerator.
- Cooked onions should be stored in the refrigerator as well.
- Here’s how to know if your onions have spoiled.
- There could be health risks associated with eating contaminated onions.
- How to Sauté Onions in About 5 Minutes
- How to Sauté Onions
- How to Caramelize Onions
- Purchasing and Storing Onions
- How to Chop and Slice Onions
- How Long do Caramelized Onions Take?
- How do you Caramelize Onions Quickly?
- How to Caramelize Onions in the Slow Cooker
- How to Freeze Caramelized Onions
- Add Caramelized Onions to:
- Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Caramelize Onions (with Tips)
- Caramelized Onions
Keeping It Fresh
There are a lot of opinions out there on how to keep green onions, aka scallions, the freshest. Wrapping the ends with a damp paper towel, regrowing them, or simply throwing them in the crisper drawer are just a few of the ideas from home cooks and foodies across the nation. However, after trial and error, my favorite technique comes from the culinary masterminds at Cooks Illustrated. To keep your scallions the freshest, the first step it to store them in the fridge. Unlike regular onions, which stay freshest at room temperature, green onions are more like leafy greens or herbs in the sense that they thrive in colder atmospheres.
To begin, start by standing the scallions upright in a cup or other tall container. Then cover the roots of the vegetable with about one to two inches of water. It’s important not to go crazy and flood the onions with too much water, just enough to cover the roots will do the trick. The last step is to loosely place a plastic bag over the contraption and store in the refrigerator. This technique provides the green onions with water to keep the cells hydrated and better regulates the moisture thanks to the plastic bag.
#SpoonTip: Before placing the scallions in the cup, remove the rubber band from the bunch and be sure not to wrap it around the plastic bag to allow air to circulate and the vegetables to breathe.
Now, if your green onions are already wilted or could used some rejuvenation, it’s not too late! To shock the vegetable back to life, simply soak the root ends in ice water and within an hour, the cells will have absorbed the necessary water to reinflate to its original state. This technique can also work with most any other limp produce or herbs in need of some revitalization.
Why Green Onions?
In the American culinary scene, the green onion is often used as a garnish or a finishing green touch to a rich, elegant dish. The mild, yet aromatic flavor allows the scallion to be very versatile in its uses. From a chipotle green onion aioli, to a sauteed onion and yogurt dip, it comes in many forms on many different plates.
In cultures across the globe, the green onion is used as much more than a garnish. In the Chinese cuisine, a 葱油饼 (Cōng yóubǐng), or in English known as a scallion pancake, is a savory flatbread-type side dish that is widely popular thanks to its cheap price and fantastic amplitude of flavor. A 22-hour flight and 5,000 miles away, the paradise-like island of Sicily is home to another green onion based dish: bacon-wrapped scallions, or known as cipollate con pancetta in Italian. This Italian comfort food is served up across butcher shops all around Sicily. Its simple, yet scrumptious taste, speaks wonders for the Mediterranean cuisine.
From your kitchen table, to the plates of food lovers across the globe, green onions play a big part in the culinary world. So the next time someone asks you how to store green onions, there’s no reason to panic. Keeping them fresh and at their best not only benefits your wallet and keeps your dishes tasting delicious, but it also helps join the fight towards reducing food waste. While one stalk of scallions won’t change the world, maintaining your produce’s freshness and quality makes way for a tastier dish today, and a brighter future for the world of food tomorrow.
Top Posts in Organic Gardening
In general, we refrigerate things to keep them as fresh as we can, for as long as we can. A good way to think of it is attempting to preserve once living matter, that is now dead, and prevent it from being subject to extensive cellular degradation. Most vegetables still remain alive after they have been plucked from the nurturing warmth of their former growing medium. In particular, the lovable green onion, or scallion, not only stays alive, but continues to grow irrespective of whether its roots are nestled in soil or not. Me being a vegetable gardener, and my own personal chef, I deal with scallions literally on a daily basis, and I can say with confidence that they are just lovely little things, that don’t seem to even know when to stop growing. They’re grow crazy. So, with that said, I propose that when you pull that bundle of spring onions from the shopping bag, and start to approach the refrigerator with the intent of placing them inside to preserve them – stop! Freeze! Don’t go any further! Turn around, grab a glass vase, large cup or any type of content holding receptacle, pour in some life juice (otherwise known as water), and place within its hollow chasm, your beloved green friends. This is the practice of promoting life, instead of preserving death. It’s something that your body likes to do as well 🙂
Now, I am a big advocate of personal gardens, as knowing how to grow your own food is an invaluable skill that a human can possess. Plucking scallions from your garden is always a great way to consume the best quality spring onions, as well as keeping them happy and fresh. However, for those who have inhibitive circumstances for painting their thumb green, the next best thing is to buy local, as locally grown food is, one, closer to a state of freshness (i.e. still alive), and two, the expenditure employed to get it to the store is considerably less. But there is nothing like strolling outside and clipping some leafy growths, fresh from the stem (or the ground), and ingesting their goodness within minutes of having harvested them – alive and buxom with all their original nutrients.
So, now you can get one step closer to being one with everything, and spring those scallions from the fridge, allowing them to get their grow on, rather than slowly withering away in the cold box. It’s good times for all! ^_^
The Best Ways to Store Every Type of Onion to Keep Them Fresher, Longer
As far as kitchen staples go, onions are easily one of the most indispensable (hence our love for buying them in bulk). Yet, despite our best efforts, getting through our onion stash before they go mushy or start sprouting can be tough.
To avoid wasting any more onions (and, well, money), mastering proper storage techniques for each type of onion is paramount—so we went to the experts to find out how to give your go-to onions the TLC they deserve, and maximize their storage life in the process. Here, the ultimate guide:
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Unlike much of the produce we cart home from the supermarket, onions shouldn’t be kept in the fridge if they’re in their whole, unpeeled form. “Keeping them in the fridge may actually make them spoil faster, as they’ll absorb more moisture and may become mushy,” says registered dietitian Catherine Brennan, R.D.N. Storing them in a cool, dry, dark, and well-ventilated room or cabinet is the way to go. Avoid keeping them in plastic or cloth bags, and instead opt for a mesh bag or a box with holes or slats to ensure they get enough ventilation. “Onions can usually be stored for about a month, although sweet onions may spoil faster,” says Brennan.
The best way to store peeled onions is to refrigerate them in an airtight container—exposing them to as little oxygen as possible will keep them fresher and bacteria-free for longer, says Brennan. (Typically, they can last in the fridge this way for up to two weeks.) Brennan also recommends storing onions in glass containers—the onion flavor may transfer into plastic containers, then transfer to the next food you store in them. (Ew.)
Cut up onions can also be stored in an airtight container in your fridge for up to 10 days. Make sure to eat them as quickly as possible—the longer they sit post-cut, the more they’ll oxidize and lose their vitamins, says Florida-based registered dietitian Carol Aguirre, R.D.
Want even more storage tips? Read on:
- How to Store Potatoes So They Don’t Go Bad
- Here’s Exactly How to Store Salad Greens Until You Need Them
- 6 Mistakes You’re Making When Storing Fresh Produce
Though these onions have been cooked to a high temperature to kill bacteria, they’re more likely to fall into the food safety temperature “danger zone” during serving or cooling, where bacteria can grow more rapidly (between 40-140° F), says Brennan. It’s best to get cooked onions into the fridge within two hours of cooking to avoid bacterial growth. They can be stored in an airtight container for roughly three to five days.
Similar to regular onions, shallots should be stored in a cool, dry, dark, and well-ventilated place, as a lack of air circulation will reduce their shelf life, says Massachusetts-based registered dietitian Kimberly Greene Murachver, R.D. You can store them in a mesh bag, wire basket, or even pantyhose to maximize air circulation and keep them fresh as long as possible.
Scallions or Leeks
If you’re using them within a day or two, scallions and leeks can be kept on the counter, with root ends immersed in a jar of water, says Murachver. (However, if it’s too hot or humid in your kitchen, you can pop the jar into the fridge with a plastic bag loosely on top to stave off wilting—just make sure to change the water every couple of days.) Delays happen, so if it turns out you won’t be able to use them for a few days or more, wrap the ends in a damp paper towel and secure them with a rubber band. Place them loosely into a plastic bag before storing the onions in your crisper drawer.
Because they have a higher water content, chives are the most delicate of the bunch and have a shorter shelf life. If using within a few days, you can stand them up (root ends down) in a jar that contains a few inches of water and cover them loosely with a plastic bag before popping them into the fridge, says Aguirre. You can also store them in a resealable plastic bag, with the air still inside (to prevent excess moisture from spoiling them), for up to one week. Wash the chives only when you’re ready to use them, she adds. If they’re wilted, you can rehydrate them before using by soaking them in a bowl of ice water.
Handling & Storage Tips
Walla Walla River™ sweet onions are round, with an elongated neck and dry, paper-thin skin.
These onions have a higher water and sugar content than storage (hot) onions, making them more susceptible to bruising, and must therefore be handled with care by the grower, the retailer and consumer.
Since Walla Walla River™ sweet onions are available for only a portion of the year, sweet onion lovers buy them in quantity (40 pounds or more) and store them for extended enjoyment.
The key to preserving these sweet onions (and to prevent bruising) is to keep them cool, dry, and separated.
Walla Walla River™ sweet onions have a distinctly different flavor – milder and sweeter – than any other onion, so they are excellent in salads and sandwiches where hot onions would be overpowering.
You might want to try some of these favorite methods of storage:
- Place Walla Walla River™ sweet onions in the legs of clean, sheer pantyhose. Tie a knot between each onion and cut above the knot when you want to use one. Hang in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area.
- Place Walla Walla sweet onions in the refrigerator, wrapped separately in paper towels or newspaper. This method is expensive and takes up precious refrigerator space, but can preserve these sweet onions for a longer period of time.
- Place Walla Wallas on elevated racks or screens, not touching and in a cool place.
- Walla Walla onions can be chopped and dried in the oven. Use the lowest setting and remove from the oven when thoroughly dry but not brown. Store at room temperatures in airtight containers.
- Walla Walla onions can also be frozen. Chop and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer. When frozen, remove and place in freezer containers or bags and seal. This method allows you to remove the amount you want when you want it. You can freeze whole Vidalias. Peel, wash, core, then drop into a plastic bag. Once frozen, they can be removed like ice cubes.
NOTE:Freezing changes the onions’ texture, so frozen onions should be used for cooking only. Whole frozen Walla Wallas can be baked.
- If stored properly in a cool and well ventilated location, Walla Walla River™ Sweet Onions will stay fresh for 3-6 weeks or they can be frozen for use well into the year.
Walla Walla River™ sweet onions add a distinct sweetness to any dish, but they are delicious all by themselves, baked or raw.
- Use thick slices on hamburgers or with grilled steak.
- To enjoy a raw Walla Walla, we recommend placing a whole, raw, unpeeled onion in the refrigerator. Chill for approximately one hour before serving, or peel and cut into slices and place Walla Wallas into a bowl of ice water for approx 30 minutes – then drain on paper towels. Either of these methods will help bring out a sweeter flavor when eating raw Walla Wallas.
- To bake a Walla Walla River™ Sweet Onion, peel and then cut off the top and bottom of the onion to make it sit flat. Place a pat of butter on the top, then microwave for 7 minutes on high. To prepare in a conventional oven, wrap securely in foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until tender.
Get 4 to 6 Months Storage Time in the Pantry.
This week’s bulk buy is sweet onion. Lots of sweet onion. In your neck of the woods they might be called Vidalia, Walla Walla, or Maui.
Around my place they’re called Texas Sweets, and they’re the kind of onion we prefer to eat.
Storing sweet onions is different than a regular yellow or white onion, they need some special handling if you want to keep them for an extended period of time.
When can you expect your sweets? According to FineCooking they’ll be coming to your kitchen soon:
- Maui: In season May through December. Smaller than other sweets.
- OsoSweet: From South America. Available January through March. Very high in sugars.
- Texas Sweet: Two kinds: Spring Sweets and Texas 1015 Super-Sweets (the number refers to the optimal planting date, October 15). Available March through June.
- Vidalia: In season April through June but available into the fall.
- Walla Walla: Available June to August.
Each area of the country has their own specialty sweet onion but as a general rule, in most parts of the USA, sweet onions are in season from April to August.
Special Handling Required
The sweet onion bruises easily and needs special handling – so be aware – there’s more to it than leaving them in the box they came in. If you plan to use them within a week or so, you can leave them out on the counter. For longer storage look for a place that will allow you to keep your sweets cool, dry and separated.
You can do this by wrapping each onion individually in paper towels and then placing them in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator. This is storage method will keep them, for up to a month, but what if you don’t want to take up valuable refrigerator space with sweet onions?
Not in a Box – but in Your Socks!
Yes, in your socks…well pantyhose, really!
Get a clean pair of pantyhose (that goes without saying, right?) and load each leg with a series of onions. Tie a knot between them. This allows air to circulate around the onions, slowing spoilage. I hang mine in the pantry and cut off an onion as I need it. Your sweet onions, hanging in pantyhose, can last for four to six months.
How’s that for extending their shelf life!
Freeze Them in Small Batches
Before we moved to Texas I purchased 40 pounds of sweet onions and processed them for the freezer. Now that we’re settled, I once again have enough space to have a chest freezer in my house.
Here’s how I’ve processed them in the past. I spent a few hours chopping, chopping, chopping and dividing my onion into 2 or 3 cup serving sizes. It is not necessary to blanch an onion before freezing it. I used my FoodSaver and was able to get 15 packages put away. That won’t last us a year, but since that bulk buy only cost me .75 cents a pound it’s a good start.
LifeHacker has a post – The Best Tear Free Tricks for Cutting Onion – you might want to check it out!
If you choose to freeze some of your sweet onion, you will only want to use them for cooking. Once they’re thawed they will be soft and not good for fresh eating or salads. Onions stored this way can last for at least 6 months and maybe even longer.
I am constantly rotating fruits and vegetables in and out of there. It’s part of my food storage plan. The goal is to store enough of the things we eat for a year and then replenish it the next harvest.
Can You Can Them?
Preserving your bulk buy onions in a favorite recipe is another great way to have access to them in them in the future. You can include them in salsa and jelly. You may use the water bath method to preserve onion as long as you are using vinegar for acidity.
Onions are low acid foods with a pH of 5.3 to 5.85. If plain onions are to be canned, they must be pressure canned for safety and they should not be larger than 1-inch in diameter. See “Preserving Onions” at Clemson University Extension
Preserves made this way will last up to five years in your food storage.
Recipe: Sweet Onion Jelly Makes 3-1/2 cups of jelly
3 cups chopped onions (Vidalia, Walla Walla or your favorite sweet variety)
3/4 cup cider vinegar
2 1/2-3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (1 5/8 ounce) package powdered fruit pectin (Ball Fruit Jell No Sugar Needed variety)
1. Puree the onion and vinegar together in a blender until smooth.
2. Pour into a saucepan.
3. Add the sugar and crushed pepper and bring to boil over medium-high heat.
4. Boil for five (5) minutes and then stir in the powdered pectin.
5. Bring to a hard boil and boil for one (1) minute.
6. Pour into hot sterilized jars, secure the lids and process for ten (10) minutes in a boiling water bath.
You can safely reduce the amount of sugar in this recipe but not the amount of vinegar.
Purchase your sweet onions in bulk when they are in season and use one of these storage methods to preserve the harvest. With a bit of added care, sweet onions can last up to 6 months in the pantry. Do you have a favorite sweet onion recipe to share?
Here’s How You Should Be Storing Leftover Onions
Onions: either you love them or you hate them. The root vegetable, which comes in all different shapes, colors, and sizes, may have a peculiar taste and make you cry when you cut into them, but onions are often a leading ingredient in the kitchen. Think about it: they’re key in salads, vegetable stir fry, and onion rings, to name a few. So it’s important to know how to store onions properly to avoid spoilage.
That said, we checked in with the National Onion Association and Dr. Gitanjali Kundu, assistant professor of biology at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, New Jersey, for the best onion storing practices—especially because the ingredient is often purchased in bulk.
Here’s everything we learned about how to store onions—both uncut and cut—the right way.
Find a dark, cool, well-ventilated place to store uncut onions.
Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!
Torn on what to do with that big bag of onions when you return from the grocery store? Skip the refrigerator. René Hardwick, Director of Public and Industry Relations for the National Onion Association, suggests keeping all bulb onions in a “dark, cool place: such as a pantry, basement, or garage, which can give the onions a shelf life of up to four weeks.
Dr. Kundu also points out that a dry, well-ventilated place is very important because “the mold, which is a fungi, cannot grow in dry environments because they need moisture for growth.” The result? Slowed-down spoilage. In fact, according to one 2016 study, it’s ideal to store uncut onions at a temperature of 40-50°F.
It’s also imperative to store the uncut onions in a mesh bag or open basket rather than a plastic bag because plastic bags don’t have the proper ventilation to help the onions last longer.
But what happens if you store the uncut onions in the refrigerator rather than in a dry, ventilated area? Because the refrigerator has little ventilation, the cold, humid conditions “triggers the growth of mold, so they will get spoiled faster,” Dr. Kundu notes.
Have you ever noticed your refrigerated onions becoming sappy, soggy, and soft sooner than you’d like? That’s because the plants store carbohydrates as complex sugar called starch, and when they’re stored in a cool temperature, those complex starches get converted into simple sugar molecules. Dr. Kundu says: “Microorganisms, , love sugar because sugar gives them the energy to grow.”
Once you cut an onion, it’s crucial to store any leftovers in the refrigerator.
Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!
When buying onions in bulk, it’s oftentimes difficult to use them all at once. While there are ways to get creative with leftover onions (caramelize them or toss them with peppers and onions, for example), we often get in the habit of storing half an onion or diced/sliced onions for later use. But what’s the best storage practice to avoid spoilage of cut onions? Store them in the refrigerator.
RELATED: Easy, healthy, 350-calorie recipe ideas you can make at home.
According to the USDA, whole peeled onions have a shelf life of 10-14 days refrigerated, while diced and sliced onions typically last 7-10 days refrigerated. It’s recommended to store cut onions in a sealed container or plastic bag while in the refrigerator.
So why do we choose the refrigerator over a cool, dry place? Remember those rumors that you should never eat an onion out of the refrigerator because of bacteria? Not true. According to a 2017 McGill article, “bacteria are not spontaneously generated. They have to be somehow present to start with. Cutting boards and dirty hands are a possible source, but food spoilage bacteria do not become airborne; you need contact.” Basically, this means that your onions are safe to be stored and eaten at a later date, as long as you didn’t cut them on a cutting board that could be contaminated and you made sure your hands were clean while you were handling them.
Dr. Kundu explains, “It’s like when you have a cut, you can introduce germs, and that compromised area can become infected more quickly….that has happened to the onion now.”
Even though there are microorganisms inside the refrigerator, most of them can’t multiply that quickly due to low metabolism at a temperature of 4°C . This leads to slowed down onion spoilage, she adds. “But if you had kept the uncut onion in room temperature, it is a good place for fungi to grow.”
Cooked onions should be stored in the refrigerator as well.
“Sometimes cooked onions not stored properly can allow the growth of toxin-producing bacteria like enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, Clostridium botulinum, etc.,” Dr. Kundu says.
So, why in cooked onion, but not in raw?
“Because in raw onion, the active ingredients are there. So when you cook the onions, many antimicrobial compounds (including sulfuric acid) are diminished. Therefore you find more of a bacterial growth taking over.”
“Several toxin-producing bacteria can take resistant forms called endospores. Getting rid of the endospores is a challenge to the food industry because these structures are very resistant to heat and cooking,” Dr. Kundu adds. “So what it means is you have cooked the food thinking you’ve killed the bacteria, but endospores can still be present. They behave like a dead bacteria, and upon entering the human body become alive again and may further cause pathogenesis.”
That said, store cooked onions for up to five days in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Here’s how to know if your onions have spoiled.
If you practice good onion-storing habits, you’ll have a better grip on knowing when your onions have spoiled. But there are a few things to look out for to help you decide whether or not you should toss the vegetable.
It helps that you are able to see the spoilage of the onions. “Molds are better at growing on onions rather than bacteria, because the molds like to grow in acidic pH. We call fungi acidophiles, which means acid-loving microorganisms.”
“Sometimes, presence of slime is also a sign depicting microorganisms have fed on the cells and sugar of the onion,” she adds.
Our best advice? If you notice any mold on your onion, just send it right to the garbage.
There could be health risks associated with eating contaminated onions.
Back in 2012, there was an instance where contaminated onions were recalled. “There have been cases where people thought there was contamination of Listeria monocytogenes that could grow in refrigerator temperature,” Dr. Kundu notes. “Listeria monocytogenes causes a fatal disease called listeriosis, which affects the immunocompromised population, which is people who have weak immune systems, such as pregnant women, infants, elderly people, people who have AIDS, or people who have undergone chemotherapy. It can be fatal to them.”
According to Up to Date, Cladosporium, Alternaria, Epicoccum, Fusarium, Penicillium, and Aspergillus are common genera of fungi that can be found indoors. “Fungi exposure can indeed cause adverse health effects, including infections, hypersensitivity disorders, and toxic/irritant effects from their by-products,” the article reads. According to one study, toxins can also be associated with allergic incidents.
“Ingested in higher amounts, these fungi could be involved in toxin associated illnesses,” Dr. Kundu additionally notes. “Some dangerous toxins produced by several species of fungi are mycotoxins, aflatoxin, fumonisin, ochratoxin, etc.”
It’s also important to note that last year, NOA confirmed onions cannot help cure the flu (yes, people really believed this!) and are not responsible for food poisoning. Phew!
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How to Sauté Onions in About 5 Minutes
Sautéing onions simply means cooking them in a pan with butter, oil, or other fat until the onions are tender. This cooking method is super flexible—there is no best onion to sauté or ideal-size pieces. You can use any type of onion and any cut. Some recipes call for cooking the onions until tender but not brown, while others continue cooking until caramelized or golden. We’ll show you how to do both, as well as offer pointers on purchasing onions, ways to cut them, and how to use sautéed onions.
Image zoom Andy Lyons
How to Sauté Onions
In a large skillet or pan heat oil or butter over medium-high heat until hot. Use about 1 tablespoon fat per small to medium onion (you can use just about any fat, so follow these directions for how to sauté onions in butter, vegetable oil, olive oil, or another fat). If you want to sauté onions without oil, be sure to use a nonstick pan, and add a small amount of water or vegetable broth to help keep onions from sticking.
Add chopped or sliced onions and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula. That’s how long to sauté onions to remove the harsh onion flavor and just barely start to sweeten the cooking onion. If desired, cook a little longer until edges just start to brown to bring more sweetness. Remove from heat and use as desired.
Buy It: OXO Good Grips Nonstick Fry Pan, $25.94, Amazon
If you want to learn how to sauté onions and peppers, the process is pretty similar. So both veggies cook in a similar amount of time, cut your onions and peppers into similar-size pieces. Then follow the instructions above and cook the onions and peppers together in oil until both are tender (it should take closer to 7 minutes).
Test Kitchen Tip: The onions will cook more evenly if you don’t crowd them. Stir the onions frequently and keep an eye on the heat. If the heat is too high, the onions can burn.
Easy Ways to Use Sautéed Onions:
Now that you know how to sauté them, put your cooked onions to use in all kinds of recipes. Here are ideas to get you started.
- Burger Topper: Top burgers or panini sandwiches with sautéed or caramelized sliced onions.
- Potato Bar: Add sautéed sliced or chopped onions to your potato-bar toppings.
- Omelet Filling: Tuck onions inside an omelet along with blue cheese and chopped pear, or try shredded Swiss cheese and chopped ham.
- Side Dish: Stir fresh spinach into a pan of sautéed onions and cook just until the spinach wilts. Season with salt and ground black pepper.
- Appetizer: Spread toasted French bread slices with goat cheese and top with sautéed onions and a sprinkle of snipped fresh thyme.
Image zoom Blaine Moats
How to Caramelize Onions
Cooking onions longer at a lower heat results in onions that are soft and golden brown. This breaks down the natural sugars so the onions taste extra sweet. We recommend using butter for the best flavor.
- Thinly slice 2 onions. Sweet onions, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, are preferable, but any kind of onion will work.
- In a large skillet melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions. Cook, covered, for 13 to 15 minutes or until the onions are tender, stirring occasionally. Uncover the skillet; cook and stir over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes more or until onions are golden.
Image zoom Blaine Moats
Purchasing and Storing Onions
Before you sauté an onion, be sure you’re starting with a good-quality product and prepping it correctly. Use these onion pointers to get started:
- Choose onions that are firm, heavy for their size, and free of blemishes and soft spots. Avoid those that are starting to sprout.
- 1 small onion = 1/3 cup chopped; 1 medium onion = 1/2 cup chopped; 1 large onion = 1 cup chopped
- Store onions loosely in a container in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place, preferably not the refrigerator. Fall and winter onions store longer (several weeks) than the more delicate and sweeter spring and summer onions.
Image zoom Scott Little Image zoom Scott Little
How to Chop and Slice Onions
Rinse the onion thoroughly under cool tap water. On a cutting surface, use a chef’s knife to slice off the stem and root ends. Remove the papery outer skins and cut the onion in half from the top end to the root end.
Buy It: Wusthof Pro Chef’s Knife, $39.95, Sur La Table
Place each onion half, flat side down, on the cutting surface and make side-by-side vertical slices from stem end to root end. Holding slices together, cut across the slices, making tiny pieces. If you’re looking for speed, this is the best way to sauté onions because the small pieces will cook more quickly than larger slices.
Image zoom Scott Little
Place a peeled onion on its side on a cutting surface and use a chef’s knife to cut it crosswise, making slices as thin as desired. Discard the top and root slices.
To Slice into Wedges
On a cutting surface, cut the peeled onion in half from stem to root end. Place the flat side of a half down and cut from end to end, angling toward the center to make desired-size wedges.
No matter how you slice it, sautéed onions and caramelized onions make a great addition to a lot of different recipes. Sautéed onions can also be the start of a delicious dinner, as they’re usually included in stir-fry recipes and recipes with ground meat, like meatloaf. Once you’ve mastered this cooking skill, there’s no limit to the number of recipes you can upgrade with sautéed or caramelized onions.
Caramelized Onions are easily one of the most deliciously-sweet and versatile things you can make. With just a few ingredients (onions, butter and olive oil) and a bit of time you can easily make perfectly sweet and golden onions!
They are the perfect addition to many dishes, and are often used as a base flavor for things like soups (and of course Slow Cooker French Onion Soup) and casseroles and of course perfect for topping Hamburgers!
Some of my favorite uses for caramelized onions include caramelized onion dip or caramelized onion pizza (with brie… and balsamic reduction so good right?!)! I find the sweetness from the onions pairs perfectly with a salty or meaty dish! They really take any dish from ordinary to extraordinary!
When you make caramelized onions, they release their sugars which then caramelize, creating a sweet yet savory addition to many dishes such as burgers, steaks, or even your favorite soup recipes!
What kind of Onions to use for Caramelized Onions? I find sweet onions work the best but you can truly use any kind of onion to caramelize.
You can cook them on the stove top or in the slow cooker and both are equally delicious!
The real key to amazing caramelized onions is low and slow. Just add some heat, some butter, and lots of time!
How Long do Caramelized Onions Take?
If you cook them in the crock pot, they’ll take about 8 hours. Literally just add the ingredients and walk away! If you cook them on the stove top they cook much quicker but require attention and stirring.
So many recipes out there claim that you can create perfect caramelized onions in just a few minutes on a stovetop. I wish this was true, but good things take time and these onions are included!
Onions are full of sugars so cooking them at a high temp can cause them to burn. I have had the most success with cooking them about 40 -50 minutes. The slower you cook them down, the more uniform the caramelization process is. Set your burner to low and take your time.
How do you Caramelize Onions Quickly?
If you need to caramelize onions quickly, adding sugar or a pinch of baking soda (to raise the pH level and help them brown quicker) can help to speed up the caramelization process but truly they aren’t a dish that cooks up quickly. If using baking soda I’d suggest about 1/4 tsp per pound of raw onions.
How to Caramelize Onions in the Slow Cooker
The slow cooker has the capability to make perfect caramelized onions without having to babysit a pan for an hour.
To make caramelized onions in the slow cooker, add the onions and butter to the slow cooker, set it to low, and cook for 8-12 hours!
It couldn’t be easier, and the result is a delicious and tender caramelized onion without the hassle of cooking them on a stovetop.
How to Freeze Caramelized Onions
Caramelized onions are a favorite but take a long time to make right. For this reason, I always try to make extra.
The leftovers can be frozen to add flavor to a weeknight meal that will taste like it’s been cooking all day!
They’ll keep for 4-5 days in the fridge but can also be frozen to use in casseroles at a later date! The easiest way to freeze is to place in a freezer bag and press until flattened. Once frozen, break off pieces and add them to your recipe directly!
I generally label them with the amount of raw onion that was cooked, this allows me to use them as a guide for recipes calling for caramelized onions!
Add Caramelized Onions to:
- Favorite meatloaf recipe – tender & juicy
- Homemade French Onion Soup – Of course!
- Homemade Patty Melt Recipe – Adds so much flavor!
- Philly Cheese Steak Wraps – just combine with leftover steak
- Salisbury Steak Burgers – 2 dinnertime classics combined!
5 from 3 votes Review Recipe Prep Time 10 minutes Cook Time 35 minutes Total Time 45 minutes Servings 8 servings Author Holly Nilsson Course Side Dish Cuisine American Sweet tender caramelized onions are the perfect addition to any dish and the perfect topper to any sandwich!
- 6 large onions approx. 2lbs, any kind (I prefer white onions)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar optional, see note
- salt to taste
OR SLOW COOKER CARAMELIZED ONIONS
- 3 pounds onions sliced
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
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- In a large non-stick pan, cook onions, butter, olive oil and brown sugar over medium low heat.
- Stir frequently until golden and caramelized. (About 45 minutes).
- Combine sliced onions, butter and salt (no brown sugar required).
- Stir, cover and cook on low 8-10 hours.
If you are using sweeter onions (red onions, Walla Walla, vidalia) you will likely not need the brown sugar as they contain enough natural sugars on their own. If using white onions (with yellow-ish papery skin) I would suggest adding brown sugar to help with the caramelization process. Nutrition Information Calories: 261, Fat: 17g, Saturated Fat: 10g, Cholesterol: 41mg, Sodium: 158mg, Potassium: 368mg, Carbohydrates: 25g, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 12g, Protein: 2g, Vitamin A: 485%, Vitamin C: 18.7%, Calcium: 63%, Iron: 0.5%
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)
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Some ingredients are transformed by cooking. Take vegetables such as fennel, or fruits that you would normally eat raw, but that taste amazing when grilled.
And so it is with onions. Raw they are sharp. I’m not a fan, although I know folks who do eat slices of raw onion on sandwiches. Lightly sautéed they lose that sharp taste. But honestly, at that point they are just tangy – nice but nothing more. Caramelized, however, is a whole new ball game. While retaining a hint of that tangy flavor, caramelized onions become almost buttery in texture. Their taste is definitely more complex and they have an aroma that is nothing short of heavenly.
Want to know how to caramelize onions? It’s simple. The ingredients are just onions, fat, salt and pepper. Plus liquid at the end – water, vinegar, or wine.
The really crucial element is time. If you have an hour, then caramelized onions are in your future. The long and slow cooking transforms the onions the way long slow cooking takes ribs or brisket from just meat to barbecue.
Caramelization is a process, not a magic trick. Don’t try to rush it. And while you can find blogposts that claim to provide shortcuts, beware. There is no substitute for this process, though you may be able to achieve it in different ways. (I’ve never tried the slow cooker method and I suppose an Instant Pot would work.) In any event, the rewards are worth the time you put in.
Besides, caramelized onions last in the refrigerator for as long as a week. Make them in an hour when you have some downtime and reheat them in a microwave or on the stove for use in lots of dishes. You can freeze caramelized onions too. So if you’re taking the time to tend the onions, might as well make a double batch. While onions do cook down considerably as caramelize, a little goes a long way.
Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Caramelize Onions (with Tips)
- Preparing the onions – Slice the onions. (Chopping them works, but the result is not as pretty.) I like to use a food processor. or slice them by hand. You can also use a mandoline. (I used one for the potatoes and onion slices in my No Fuss Potato Casserole.) However, I find the mandoline more trouble than it is worth for this purpose. A food processor with a 4 mm slicing disc does just fine. And if you’re fast at hand slicing, do that. These slices do not need to be paper-thin.
- Use about 1 tablespoon of fat per eight ounces of onion. Figure that each medium-large onion is about eight ounces. I like to use half butter and half olive oil. For butter or other non-liquid fat, melt it first. (I put both the butter and oil in the pan so they mix together while the butter melts.) Then toss the sliced onion with the fat. Use a heavy pan, preferably one that is cast iron. I use a 10-inch pan (measured at the top) for one pound of onions and a 12-inch pan for two pounds.
- Once the onions are coated in the fat, cook them over a medium-low flame. Depending on the heat and other factors, it will take 45-60 minutes for the slices to turn from white to golden to brown. Be sure to stir every few minutes. If you are inclined to, set a timer, and do something else nearby. Stirring avoids burning and ensures that all pieces get a chance to touch the bottom of the pan. The onions go from from stiff and sharp to smooth and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
- After the onions are done, take them out of the pan and add a small amount of liquid to the pan to scrape up what is left. Drizzle the liquid over the onions and use them immediately or refrigerate/freeze them for later.
Here’s how the onions progress from raw to done in 45-60 minutes.
Onions when they first go in the pan, coated with the fat and ready for their long, slow cooking:
My dream is to fry up a bunch of bacon, use the fat for the caramelized onions and crumble the bacon back into the onions. Then schmear the stuff on rye bread and bite into it – savory heaven!
After 15 minutes, the onions are less stir and they become begin to lose their bright white hue:
With another 15 minutes (after cooking for 30 minutes), they are starting to brown:
After 45 minutes, they turn golden (Sometimes they caramelize completely in 45 minutes. But not in this instance.):
And finally, after 60 minutes, they are golden brown:
How can you use caramelized onions? Here are just a few ideas:
- In my Apple and Caramelized Onion Chutney
- On a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich (in the spring/summer when you can get decent tomatoes)
- Or on white pizza.
5 from 1 vote
An easy way to caramelize onions and take them to a whole new level. Cuisine American Keyword caramelized onions, onions Prep Time 10 minutes Cook Time 45 minutes Total Time 55 minutes Author Laura
- 1 pound onions Thinly sliced works best, but chopped is OK too. One-pound equals about 2-3 medium-large onions.
- 2 tablespoons fat (oil Butter, olive oil, or a combination – or other fat such as bacon drippings)
- 2 tablespoons water Alternatively, use wine, juice or vinegar (I like light vinegar such as apple cider or unseasoned rice wine vinegar but balsamic works too)
Toss the onions in the fat (melted, if the fat is solid at room temperature.)
Cook the onions in a heavy pan over a low heat for 45-60 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes.
Remove the onions when done, then add the liquid to the pan. Scrape up the browned bits and liquid and add them into the cooked onions. Use salt and pepper to taste.
Cast iron pans are an excellent choice for caramelizing onions because they retain the heat while minimizing burning. Heavy gauge stainless steel also works fine. Avoid light pans, which may not prevent burning and those with no-stick coating, which inhibit browning and caramelization.
Onions sizes can be tricky. I prefer to weigh my onions. One-pound of onions, sliced and cooked down ends up to be about 3/4 cup of caramelized onions.
What’s your favorite way to use caramelized onions?