Hands Off Caramelized Onions

The onion is a noble vegetable, a ball of zip and fire that can be tamed to luscious succulence.

I adore caramelized onions! I mix them into mashed potatoes with dollops of goat cheese, stir them into pasta sauces, pile on top of crisp sautéed green beans, add them to mac n’cheese, layer them in sandwiches and strewn over pizza. They famously compose the base of French onion soup, a dinner I’m slated to make in the very near future.

They are also a pain in the ass to make.

I recall one summer when my late ex requested French onion soup for his birthday dinner, which was an unseasonably hot April day. We were sweltering in the house and he and Miss N__ traipsed off to the pool to swim while I stood over the stove, pink faced and wilting faster than the onions in the pan. That soup was a labor of love and it was received with that feeling but a small part of my brain recalls that long, long, hot afternoon whenever I want caramelized onions, and I think, Ugh.

But not anymore!

Enter my good friend, the crock pot. A pal on the recipe swap shared a recipe for pork chops smothered in onions, which is essentially a crockpot full of chops having a hot tub party in a pool of caramelized onions. So why not just make just the caramelized onions, since I’m out of pork chops at the moment.


I sliced up three giant yellow onions as thinly as I could. These monsters were so full of vapors that my cat left the room!

I piled them in the stockpot, added a good sprinkling of salt and some butter, turned the pot to high and set my alarm for 10 hours.


Every once in a while I would wander into the kitchen and give the onions a stir. After 4 hours they looked like this:


…and 9 hours later they looked like this:


I wish I could describe the tantalizing smell of onions that tormented me the entire day I was home. Just writing about it now makes my mouth water.

To store them for future uses I chilled them overnight and then scooped out little mounds of melty deep brown onions onto plastic wrap and twisted them up into little balls. The little balls were packed into a plastic storage container that fits neatly into my freezer.

Now whenever I need some caramelized onions I can just pull out a neat packet of them from the freezer; unwrapped they thaw quickly in the micro or on the counter on a plate. Tomorrow they will go on my pizza along with bacon and smoked fontina.

And now I am planning on making French onion soup, I just need more onions!

(printer-friendly recipe)


4 responses to “Hands Off Caramelized Onions

  1. Barbara in the mtns

    What a great idea! I haven’t used by crock pot for years, but you have inspired me to dust it off and try the onions. Thanks for the new twist on an old favorite.

    • I hope you give it a shot. I am learning more ways to use the crock pot, some of them are kind of surprising. Imagine: enchiladas….

  2. I never made caramelized onions with butter before, but now I will!!!

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