Need caramelized onions? Let your slow cooker do all the work!
Caramelized onions are a really special treat–and can be used in lots of recipes. French Onion Soup is the best-known use for caramelized onions, but there are many others too.
They are pretty easy to make the conventional way, but that way is quite tedious. You have to babysit the onions, stirring every couple of minutes and making sure the heat under them is low, low, low. The process seems to take forever and for me, it was about 45 minutes to one hour. Needless to say with arthritis in my hip, this was a process I’d preferred to avoid, so I’d make a lot at one time and freeze them. Caramelized onions do freeze well.
Then I was reading an article in The Kitchn about making them in the crock pot. The crock pot cooks low and slow so it’s the perfect environment for these onions. When most of us discover this method, we take to hitting ourselves upside the head that we never thought of this ourselves. Overlooking the obvious!
That article gives a basic recipe which works out just great, but you can always make additions like I do.
Many times I’ll add some herbs in, like thyme which I do like and goes well with most dishes that contain the onions. One sprig is all it takes–you want a whisper, not a big bite in the butt as far as the herb flavors go. So get creative and do your own flavored versions. After all, it’s no work at all making them with the crock pot method.
First of all you have to slice your onions really thin no matter what method you use. I tend to leave the root end in tact when I slice so the onion doesn’t separate. And the way to slice is different than just chopping onions–you slice parallel to the root as shown below.
Then basically all you do is mix these up with some oil or butter and seasonings and dump them all in your slow cooker. FYI they reduce like crazy so make sure you use the appropriate-sized cooker. The cooker should be 2/3 full. Three huge onions filled my 4 qt cooker 2/3 full.
You can stir periodically–they’ll caramelize a bit more evenly–but it’s not necessary. You can extend the cook time with the lid ajar to get a deeper color and make the liquid get a bit more “jam like” in consistency. I didn’t end up with any water/liquid at all after the base cooking time, but I did extend the cook time with the lid ajar to get a deeper color.
- 3-5 very large onions (baseball sized), sliced (see photo and description in post)
- 3 tbs olive oil -OR- melted unsalted butter
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp sugar
- pinch of white pepper
- 1 small sprig fresh thyme (optional)
- Mix sliced onions with all the ingredients in a large bowl--mix up well so the onions are coated with the oil/melted butter.
- Place in a 4-6 quart slow cooker (see NOTES)
- Cook on low 10 hours, stirring every so often if desired.
- For deeper color, cook an additional 2-3 hours on low with the lid ajar.