Leena Cooks: Oven Caramelized Onions

By on Nov 4, 2011 in The Gastronomical Leena | 3 comments

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Need a ton of caramelized onions? Too busy/lazy to stand at the stove all day? Check out this oven recipe–it kicks ass!

I have a four and a half month old daughter, and I’m not gonna lie—I made a damn cute baby. I love holding her on my lap in the early morning light, seeing her slowly rub her eyes and wake up. She stretches this adorable baby stretch, turns her innocent blue-gray eyes towards mine, and coos a little, making my heart melt. And that is when I hear a familiar sound, an almost-empty ketchup bottle-style fart vibrating across my thighs.

And I treasure the moment.

But the more moments that I treasure, the less time there seems to be for one of my favorite past times—cooking. Most of her treasured moments come with a lot of clean up, so if I actually want to cook something, it needs as little active cooking time as possible.

Read more after the jump!

That pretty much meant no caramelized onions for me. And I LURVE me some caramelized onions. Caramelized onions the traditional way (stove-top method) took a solid 45 minutes of constant standing at the stove, stirring the pot. There is no way in hell my baby would give me that sort of luxury time to myself. I can hardly get two minutes alone to go to the bathroom, let alone 45 to caramelize an entire onion.

But my appetite has a mind of its own, and after two months of fantasizing about those melty, soft and golden brown onions, I gave in. I needed a good excuse to caramelize a crap ton of onions. After a little research, I discovered that eating onions regularly (especially the strong flavored ones like the Western Yellow, New York Bold, and Northern Red) can prevent certain cancers, improve lung function, and provide relief for coughs, colds, asthma and bronchitis. Early American settlers didn’t have Tylenol, they had onions! And if onions are good enough for early settlers, damn it, they are good enough for me.

Some more research yielded this (http://www.americastestkitchen.com/recipes/detail.php?docid=11811) oven caramelized onion recipe from America’s Test Kitchen within another recipe for French onion soup. Yes, the cooking time is almost three hours for six onions, but it would take even longer on the stove top, and active cooking time is only 45 minutes, of which I only need to be active once every five minutes to stir the pot. Done and done!

I started with the raw onions in a covered Dutch oven (I used my 7 quart Le Creuset pot) sprayed with oil, butter and a little salt.

Here are the onions after an hour in the oven.

After one hour in oven.

And again after two hours

After two hours in the oven….

Again at 2 hours 45 minutes

After two hours and 45 minutes in the oven….

and the finished product (after a little time on the stove)

The finished onions!

Ok, so there is a little stove time involved, but much less active cooking time, which I’m all about, especially with a baby. The finished caramelized onions will last for 3-5 days in a covered container in the fridge. You can freeze it, but the texture may change when you thaw it out, so be warned. The way you use it is up to you, but here are a few of my favorites—on top of burgers, mixed with black vinegar for a quick Asian dumpling sauce, in grilled cheese sandwiches, to make caramelized onion jam (https://www.leenaeats.com/blog/recipes/leena-cooks/leena-cooks-and-cans-caramelized-onion-jam-with-a-no-napping-2-month-old/), on top of grilled pork sausages, in scrambled eggs, French onion soup and pizza topping (I liked it with Italian sausage).

If these aren’t slap yo mama good, you have my permission to slap yo mama.

: Oven Caramelized Onions

: An America’s Test Kitchen recipe, altered slightly by me.

 6 large yellow onions (4 pounds) peeled, halved, and sliced into ¼ inch slices from pole to pole

Nonstick cooking oil spray

3 tablespoons of butter, cut into three pieces

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, adjust rack to the lower middle position. Spray the inside of pot with cooking spray. Add onions, salt and butter, cover with lid and place in oven for one hour.
  2. Remove pot and stir onions, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot. Return pot to oven with lid slightly ajar for 1 ¾ hours. *Remove pot after one hour to stir onions and scrap bottom and sides of pot again.
  3. After 1 and ¾ hours, remove pot from oven, remove lid and place pot on medium-high heat. Cook onions for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently until liquid evaporates and onions brown.
  4. Cook for another 6-8 minutes until a brown crust forms on the bottom of the pot. Scrap off, and stir in ¼ cup of water, scraping any additional bits off. Cook until liquid evaporates and another brown crust forms, stirring frequently.
  5. Repeat process 2 to 3 more times until onions are dark brown. Stir in balsamic vinegar, and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid evaporates. Set onions aside to cool, and then use in your favorite dish!


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  1. oooohhhh, now grab some pita bread, spread a generous proportion of your smashing caramelised onions, scatter some goats cheese , grill for 5 mins, then top with rocket (arugula) . HEAVEN.  love this time saving method! cheers. Cheers kari

  2. Laurie

    10 Jul ’14

    Post a Reply

    I’m confused…recipe calls for 2 cups water, but I only see instructions to add 1/4c in step 4 – When does the rest of the water go in?

    • Leena

      29 Jul ’14

      Hi Laurie,

      If you read the recipe, it actually says to continue adding water and scrapping the pan several times while cooking the onions, which is where the remaining water will be used.


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