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Best Pan Seared Caramelized Onions Recipe

Chef Cindy Mooney , On March 3, 2023


If you’ve never tried a caramelized onion recipe, you’re in for a treat! It’s a quick, easy way to cook onions (white, yellow or red) and give it amazing flavor. Add the onions to your tri tip sandwich, skirt steak recipe, chicken salad or any other salad to elevate the dish.

Caramelized onions go great on any protein from beef to chicken and seafood.

It only takes a few minutes to caramelize onions, so stay close to the stove!

Ingredients for this caramelized onions recipe

  • 2 medium sized onions* sliced thinly

  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar

  • 1 tbsp butter

  • Salt and pepper – to taste

  • 4 tbsp olive oil

*for a caramelized onions recipe any type of onion will do the trick! Yellow onion tends to be a tad sweeter but red onion keeps its color better.

*To get an in depth tutorial on how to thinly slice these onions, reference our step by step guide on how to cut vegetables!

Step-by-Step Cooking Instructions for this pan seared caramelized onions recipe

  1. Slice the onions. Cut the onion from tip to tail in half, and slice into the uncut side of the onion, making the slices of onions as thin as possible.

    Place shrimp under running water

    Peel, then half your onion, and slice thinly.

  2. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and the butter over medium high heat in a skillet.

    Melt butter in pan

    Melt butter in the pan.

  3. Add the sliced onions, sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and sauté for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. I recommend staying by the pan.

    Melt butter in pan

    Add the onion to the pan

  4. Once the onions are opaque, wilted, and begin to turn brown in color, add the sugar. Cook for just a couple minutes more. Remove from the pan and set aside.

    Melt butter in pan

    Add Brown Sugar

  5. Plate your caramelized onions and enjoy with a protein of your choice.

    Melt butter in pan

    Caramelized onions

Protein that go great with this caramelized onion recipe include pan seared shrimp, pan seared flank steak or chicken to name a few. A perfect recipe that incorporates protein and this caramelized onion recipe is our New Orleans cajun shrimp recipe, that can also be served over some dirty rice.

Helpful Pan Seared Caramelized Onion Recipe Cooking Tips

Don’t crowd the pan: Don’t add more than 1 pound of caramelized onion to the skillet at once. The onion should create a thin layer to cover the bottom but there should not be multiple layers of onion. This enables you to toss the onion in the skillet and ensure even and nice roasting.

Use a wide skillet: A 12-inch skillet allows plenty of room to evenly space out the shrimp in a single layer. Use a non-stick skillet to prevent the onion from sticking, which helps keep all of the yummy browned flavor on the onions.

Error on the side of more cooking, not less: Caramelized onions can handle a bit more time on the stove. To ensure the onion is tender and soft without the crunch and zest of a raw onion allow error on the side of cooking too long vs too little.

Chef Cindy Mooney

With a personal mission to spread the good name of nutrition through mouthwatering recipes, Chef Cindy's philosophy around nutrition is deeply rooted in food as medicine. In the kitchen, she offers a conscious, restorative, and functional approach to cooking; an approach she has cultivated during her years working in farm-to-table restaurants.