Caramelizing Onions the Quick and Easy Way: No Muss, No Fuss and in Half the Time or Less

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When a recipe calls for you to ‘caramelize onions’ you can be sure it is going to be a tasty treat! Caramelized onions add a unique, sweet flavor to any dish. However, if you’re short on time, waiting (and waiting!) for your onions to caramelize, can try your patience and waste precious moments. Here’s how to speed things along.

Tool and Ingredients:

  • Onions
  • Splash of cooking oil (preferably a good quality olive oil)
  • Stove
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Salt
  • Non-stick frying pan
  • Spatula or wooden spoon for stirring
  • Microwave oven and some plastic cling wrap

Turn on the stove and begin to heat the pan. Medium heat is ideal.

Use the knife and cutting board to cut the onions. If the recipe you are using the onions in does not specify which cut is necessary, opt to dice the onions (cut them into small, uniform cubes) or shave them thinly with the knife. The smaller and/or thinner your onion, the more quickly it will cook/carmalize.

Place sliced/diced onions in a microwave safe dish, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on medium heat for 5 minutes. This will shave off approximately 10 minutes in stove top browning time

While the onions are in the microwave, add a splash of olive oil to the pan. If your stove runs very hot, reduce the heat to ‘low’ to avoid splattering or smoking. 

Add your sliced/diced onion to the heated pan and oil. If it begins to splatter too heavily, or if the oil has begun to smoke, reduce the heat immediately. You do not want to burn the onions as this will ruin the flavor of the caramelization.

Stir your onions gently to heat them through. After approximately 5 minutes, as the onions are really beginning to cook, add a couple pinches of salt.

Keep stirring. The salt helps to draw out the extra moisture in the onions more quickly, which allows for the carmelization to take place much faster than pan frying alone.

After your onions have reached a nice, deep, rich brown color, remove them from heat and use accordingly.

If you’d like to make the flavor to your carmelized onions more intense, deglaze the pan before you remove them from the heat by adding a couple tablespoons of water, red wine or apple juice to pick up all of the droppings and extra flavor from the bottom of the pan. Let the onions sit for approximately 2 minutes afterwards to absorb the extra bit of tasty liquid.


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