Caramelised Onions

caramelised onions

Caramelised Onions

makes heaps

Onions are one of the biggest gifts to cooks on a budget because they pack amazing flavour for their tiny price tag. These onions may seem like a bit of work, but you’ll be well rewarded with a super versatile condiment.

Feel free to halve or quarter this recipe if you don’t feel like chopping up so many onions.

1.5kg (3lb) onions
6 tablespoons cheap balsamic vinegar

1. Chop onions in half, lengthwise. Cut off the top and tail and peel the skins. Slice onions into thin half moon shapes.

2. Heat about 6 tablespoons oil in a large pot and fry the onions, covered over a medium low heat until the onions are super soft. About 40 minutes.

3. Remove the lid and add balsamic and cook the onions, uncovered on a medium heat until the onions are well browned and caramelised. Another 15-20 minutes.

4. Taste & season.

Prepare Ahead

Given these take about an hour to prepare, they’re definitely a do-ahead item.

Leftover Potential

Will keep for a fe months in the fridge. Longer if you store in sealed, sterilised jars.


different vinegar – by all means replace the balsamic with a cheaper vinegar. Malt vinegar would be lovely just start with about 3 tablespoons and add from there.

thyme – if you have access to a garden with fresh thyme, a few sprigs add a lovely fragrance.

rosemary – if you have access to a garden with fresh rosemary, a few sprigs add a lovely fragrance.

onion jam – for something sweeter and more chutney like, add in about 1/4 cup brown sugar with the balsamic.

Problem Solving Guide

too bland? – add in a little more vinegar and salt. And keep cooking until you have lovely caramelised flavours.

bitter – this means you’ve either burnt the onions too much or the vinegar is overpowering. Try adding a little white sugar to balance but it may not help the situation if it’s gone too far.

watery eyes – the hardest part is definitely chopping the onions. Pop a slice of bread in your mouth to hang down while you chop the onions. It’s weird but I’ll guarantee you no tears every time..

short on time – try slicing the onions in the food processor and try a higher heat for the first cooking stage, just keep a super close eye on them to make sure they don’t burn too much.

Serving Suggestions

Makes a great accompaniment to pretty much all meat and poultry. Also great with hard cheese or as a dip.

Ingredients List

onions, vinegar, salt

Serving Suggestions

as a sauce – serves as a sauce to cooked meat, sausages, fried tofu, or roast vegetables.

in salads – lovely tossed into salads. Especially more hearty earthy salads made with lentils or roast vegetables.

in stews and soups – serve a spoonful of onions on top of soups and stews to give depth.

delux cheese on toast – serve grilled cheese on toast with a generous topping of these onions.

on pizza – sprinkle onions over cooked potato pizza.

cheese board –serve a little bowl of these with your favourite cheeses instead of fruit or quince paste.


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  • Hello Jules,
    Your slice of bread in the mouth trick really worked!!
    I was very skeptical, my eyes did tear at first, then I began to breathe through the bread and the tears stopped!
    Thank you!
    I’ve seen a few caramelized onion recipes that include butter. I thought butter was somehow essential to the browning process, you know like when roasting a chicken, but maybe this isn’t true here? Is the flavor compromised w/o butter, that is, less buttery and rich? I’d prefer to not use the butter because some family members are allergic to dairy.


    • I was skeptical at first too Trudy! I thought my Irishman’s mother way playing tricks on me 🙂

      Good question on the caramelisation process + dairy. Caramelisation reactions are all about sugars so the butter is really there to just stop the onions sticking to the pan and for richness. So you could easily use olive oil instead if you wanted to keep it dairy-free.

      With roasting a chicken, the sugar in butter will contribute some (a tiny bit) to the browning but it’s mostly the proteins in the chicken skin. SO again oil will give you good results… just not the buttery flavour.


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