How Long Does It Take To Caramelize Onions (And Why)?

How Long Does It Take To Caramelize Onions (And Why)?

Exact Answer: Maximum One Hour

Food is not cooked by just adding some ingredients. It takes time and patience in each method. Each product needs to be added as required by the recipe. It is necessary to make sure things are cooked to the right degree and added in the correct amount to get the best results.

It goes the same for the most commonly used product in all food preparations, that is onions. Onions are majorly used in almost all food delicacies. However, it might be used in different ways. Some dishes need the onions to be diced, some need onion sliced, and some caramelized.


How Long Does It Take To Caramelize Onions?

Caramelizing onion is no easy task. It is quite an art to caramelize the onions to pure perfection. A lot goes into caramelizing the onion evenly. Out of the many processes that go into cooking, caramelizing onions takes the most time in any food preparation.

People are ready to go through the hassles of cooking the onions to perfect texture because of the aroma and the rich sweetness. These flavors are added to the food because of the caramelized onion. The perfect caramelized onions are brown and can be separated with a spoon. The whole process can take anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour.

The technique to get the perfect caramelized is simple as it takes a handful of things, but a lot of time and patience. There is confusion between sauteed onions and caramelized onions. Sauteed onion is cooked as well, but the sugars in the onions do not get the required heat and thus do not caramelize.  

The ideal distinction of caramelized onion is its color. Getting to that color is not easy as the last few minutes on the gas are the most important. A minute here and there can burn the onion and put all the time to waste.

The right temperature, the right amount of oil, the correct pan, everything matters when trying to make caramelized onion. Since the onions contain water, it takes time to evaporate the water and the sugars in the onion to start cooking. So, ideally, caramelizing an onion can take a maximum of 1 hour, considering different factors.

Type of onionsThe time it takes to caramelize
Diced Onions45 minutes to one hour
Thinly sliced onions30 to 40 minutes

Why Does It Take That Long To Caramelize Onion?

Cooking is a process that needs time and perseverance. When it is about something crucial as caramelizing the onion, it is necessary to put the proper time into the process. Several factors determine the timings it will take for the onions to get caramelized to perfection.

Some of the reasons are below:

  • The reason behind the timeline to caramelize onion is the way it is cut. When the onion is diced or cut into thick chunks, it takes more time to caramelize it. The reason is the thick pieces will take time to cook. On the contrary, sliced onion is very thin pieces that are cooked faster. Hence, the sliced thin pieces will be caramelized faster.
  • Another aspect is the flame or heat it is cooked on. If the heat is high, the time it will caramelize will be shorter. However, if the stove is on very low, it will take a lot of time to caramelize it. With that, it will also not bring the proper taste and texture to the onions.
  • After that, the quality of the onion is also an additional factor. The dry onions will get caramelized faster compared to the ones that have more water content.


Often caramelized onions make the most imminent part of the dish that either makes the dish or breaks the recipe. Hence it is crucial to make sure all other aspects are proper before beginning the caramelization process.

There are various degrees of caramelization that one can find mouth-watering. Some like it a little slick, while some might like it crunchy and salty. Either way, it will take at least 30 minutes to caramelize the onions. If a person is not comfortable with the gas stove system, they can also try doing it in the oven. However, the gas stove will give the best outcomes.


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Hi! I'm Nidhi.

Here at the EHL, it's all about delicious, easy recipes for casual entertaining. So come and join me at the beach, relax and enjoy the food.

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