How to Caramelize Onions in 20 Minutes or Less
I recently learned that adding a pinch of baking soda helps onions to caramelize much faster by raising their pH level. A higher pH level speeds up the Maillard reaction, which is responsible for the browning of the sugars in food. It can increase the browning rate by over 50%, and it doesn’t take much. Use about 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per pound of onions.
The sweet, mellow flavor of caramelized onions will enhance any soup or main course, and they also taste great as a side dish.
1 medium yellow onion
1 to 2 tbsp. cooking oil of your choice
1 to 2 tbsp. butter
Prep Day: Cut off the top of the onion. Slice it in half lengthwise and peel. Place half of the onion flat side down and slice it into thin half-rings ¼ inch wide. The thinner the slice, the faster it will cook.
To preheat the skillet by placing the oil and butter in a large skillet over low heat. When ripples appear in the oil, it’s hot enough.
Add the sliced onion and stir to coat evenly with oil and butter. Add a dash of salt and baking soda to draw out moisture and speed up the caramelization.
To enhance the flavor and sweetness, add pepper and a dash of sugar.
Let the onions cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Stirring too often will prevent the onions from caramelizing. They will darken as they cook.
Cover the skillet with a lid for the first few minutes to speed up the process. If they stick, deglaze the pan by adding a small amount of water and stirring.
Remove the onions when they have a deep golden color and are soft and melting.
You can freeze any cooled onions or leftovers for up to three months.