My Favorite 5-Ingredient Jammy Caramelized Onions with Sherry

How to Caramelize Onions: a tried and true method with just 5 simple ingredients and mostly hands-off cooking! Thin sliced onions slowly cook until golden and jammy, then finish with dry sherry for balanced sweetness. The resulting caramelized onions are a versatile flavor booster for everything from burgers to cozy pasta dishes, and, of course, iconic French onion soup!

A foolproof recipe with plenty of tips and tricks included!

A close-up overhead shot of a wooden spoon stirring caramelized onions in a white skillet.
Photography by Gayle McLeod

The BEST Caramelized Onions You Will Ever Make – And They’re Totally Foolproof!

Learning how to caramelize onions is an essential kitchen skill for flavor-obsessed home cooks. You can use their rich and jammy sweetness to elevate just about any recipe. I use caramelized onions for burgers, creamy dip, savory galettes, and, of course, iconic French onion soup.

As far as I’m concerned, you really can’t go wrong when caramelized onions are involved!

And the really fun part? They’re so easy to make!

A foolproof recipe for caramelized onions that are perfectly golden and jammy – a versatile flavor booster for everything from burgers to iconic French onion soup!

If you’ve never learned how to make caramelized onions at home, the process might seem a little intimidating. But it honestly couldn’t be simpler and you’re in very good hands. I’ve been making these beauties for years, tweaking them to perfection along the way.

This foolproof recipe is the result and I’ve included lots of tips and tricks to help set you up for success.

To get started, you need just 5 simple ingredients and a trusty skillet. From there, it all comes down to managing time and temperature. Pretty simple!

Then comes the fun part – using their rich sweetness to amp up any dish! 😋

A Quick Caramelized Onion Chemistry Lesson 👩🏻‍🔬🧪

If you’re interested in food science, caramelized onion chemistry is pretty cool! 🤓

Caramelizing onions is a delicate process that uses gentle, slow heat to extract the onion’s natural sugars. As the onions cook, the heat transforms the sucrose within their cells into simpler, smaller sugars (glucose and fructose) that make the onions even sweeter. The onions also release a bit of moisture, which causes them to soften.

This process takes time – you simply can’t rush it. Low and slow heat is essential for turning raw onions into lightly browned, sweetened versions of themselves. (But all that time it takes to let the onions turn a jammy, golden brown? That’s totally hands-off cooking – easy! 🙌🏼)

Use your preferred onion of choice (yellow, white, sweet, or even shallots!) and thinly slice them into uniform pieces. Slicing root-to-tip (vs into half moons) works best for caramelization.

3 Easy Onion Prep Tips

Before you learn how to caramelize onions, it’s important to make sure you’re set up for success!

A few quick prep tips to prioritize before you turn on the stovetop…

  • The best onions for caramelized onions? ⇢ Many of my French onion-inspired recipes use extra-sweet Vidalia onions but most onions (red, white, yellow, even shallots) have enough natural sugars to caramelize. Feel free to use whatever you already have on hand!
  • Slice the onions from root to tip! Cutting your onions from the root to tip (vs into half moons) works best for caramelizing. Doing so slices along the onion’s natural fibers (vs across them) which helps the onions stay intact as they slowly cook. Otherwise, they’re prone to disintegrating and becoming mushy – no good!
  • Slice your onions into thin, even pieces. ⇢ It’s important to cut your onions into uniform pieces because then they will cook at the same rate. A thin slice creates more surface area, which helps the caramelization process move faster.

How to Caramelize Onions for Deliciously Jammy Results

Caramelized onion recipes have a time-consuming reputation, sure. But in reality, it’s a mostly hands-off process with very minimal effort required. 💁🏻‍♀️

🎉 Quick Pep Talk! Be patient. TIME is the most important factor when learning how to make caramelized onions. It takes up to 45 minutes, but the rich and jammy result is well worth it. Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy the process!

Cook the onions in butter until completely softened. This takes about 15 minutes. The onions don’t need much attention at this point.
Once softened, season with salt and continue to slowly cook. After 25 minutes total, the onions will be beautifully golden brown.

Soften the onions. Add thinly sliced onions to a heavy-bottomed pot on the stove, cooking them in melted butter. Put the lid on to retain moisture – this helps the onions soften without burning. (This step is pretty low-maintenance but can take a while so don’t sweat it. 😉) Once the onions are soft, remove the lid, lower the heat, and season with salt. Why? ⇢ Salt releases even more moisture from the onions – osmosis, baby!

Quick Tip! ⇢ In the beginning, your main goal is to let the onions do their thing. The closer they get to caramelization, the more often you’ll need to stir them to prevent burning.

Once the onions develop rich color, stir often and adjust the heat as needed. After about 50 minutes total, the onions will be beautifully caramelized.
Deglaze the pan by pouring in dry sherry wine and using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the surface.

Caramelize the onions. Keep cooking the onions until they’re deeply browned. This takes time but resist the urge to walk away. Keep an eye on things and lower the temperature if they’re cooking a little too fast. The closer the onions get to caramelization, the more often you’ll want to stir to prevent burning. How long to caramelize onions? ⇢ This step can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes. You’ll know the onions are ready once they’re evenly and deeply browned.


Deglaze with sherry. Pour dry sherry into the skillet to deglaze, scraping up all those flavorful browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Let the wine reduce. Why? ⇢ Sherry is a crisp fortified wine perfect for cutting through the richness of caramelly onions. Culinary icons like Julia Child and Ina Garten use it in their French Onion soup recipes, but its brightness is great for any caramelized onions. See the Recipe Notes, below, for sherry shopping tips!

Rich and jammy with complex sweetness, these sherry caramelized onions are perfect for everything from French onion soup to grilled burgers.

Time-Saving Shortcuts

True epicureans argue that making caramelized onions should take up to 90 minutes. But let’s be real, there’s not always that much time to spare! Here are a few ways to speed up the caramelized onion process without sacrificing any caramelly sweetness:

  • Thinly slice your onions. Thin onions have more surface area that can come in contact with a hot pan – which means, a faster cook!
  • Use other flavor-boosting ingredients like Dijon mustard, fresh thyme, and Worcestershire sauce. These enhance the rich flavor of caramelized onions so they taste like they’ve caramelized for hours.

Serving and Storage Suggestions

Learning how to caramelize onions is a staple skill for any home cook because you can use them in so many ways! You may first think of French Onion soup when you think of caramelized onions, but their use doesn’t stop there.

Jammy caramelized onions are an easy way to amp up the richness of a dish.

They’re a staple in French Onion-inspired recipes like my Cheesy French Onion Meatballs or Hearty French Onion Pasta with Braised Beef.

I also love caramelized onions on top of a juicy French Onion Burger or wrapped into a savory French Onion Galette for weekend brunch.


I love to keep caramelized onions in the fridge all week long so I can use them in lots of different recipes. They’re also really freezer-friendly! See the Recipe Notes, below, for full storage and freezing guidance.

I can’t wait for you to learn How to Make Caramelized Onions! It’s a phenomenal skill that opens your kitchen up to a whole world of rich, sweet-savory flavor.

If you give it a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo and tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!

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A close-up overhead shot of a small bowl of caramelized onions atop a white surface, alongside a gold fork and a striped cloth.

5-Ingredient Jammy Caramelized Onions with Sherry (How to Caramelize Onions)

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  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 2 cups 1x
  • Category: Condiments, Techniques and How-Tos
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian


As far as I’m concerned, learning how to caramelize onions is an essential kitchen skill for flavor-obsessed home cooks. You can use their rich and jammy sweetness to elevate everything from from grilled burgers to cheesy French onion soup.

This foolproof recipe is my go-to. A nearly hands-off process, the onions slowly cook until browned and caramelly. Finishing with a splash of dry sherry wine helps balance their sweetness with crisp acidity – a Julia Child-approved trick I swear by!

Check the blog post, above, for some of my favorite serving suggestions, along with tons of tips and tricks for success. ♡ Happy cooking!


  • 4 large yellow or sweet onions, thinly sliced (approx. 2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup dry sherry (see Recipe Notes, below)


  1. Soften the onions: Add the butter and oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid over medium heat (I use a 4-quart braising pan). Once the butter is melted, add the sliced onions, stirring to coat. Cover the pot. Cook 12-15 minutes, until softened and fragrant. The onions shouldn’t require too much attention at this point, but feel free to uncover and stir occasionally.An overhead shot of sliced and softened onions in a white cast iron skillet atop a white marbled surface.
  2. Caramelize the onions: Once softened, uncover the pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Season the onions with 2 teaspoons kosher salt, stirring to combine. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, fragrant, and deeply browned, 30-45 minutes more. See the Recipe Notes, below, for a few more helpful pointers.An overhead shot of finished caramelized onions with a wooden spoon in a white skillet atop a white marbled surface.
  3. Deglaze the pan: Once the onions are caramelized, deglaze the skillet. Slowly pour in the dry sherry, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits formed on the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high to bring the wine to a simmer, then simmer 2-3 minutes or until reduced. Remove from the heat.An overhead shot of a woman's hand pouring sherry into dark brown caramelized onions in a white skillet atop a white marbled surface.
  4. Serve: Enjoy your caramelized onions immediately! They’re the perfect way to add rich and sweet depth of flavor to practically any dish. Use them to make classic Caramelized Onion Dip or French onion-inspired anything – from the iconic soup to Cheesy French Onion Meatballs or Hearty French Onion Pasta. You can also serve them on a pizza or salad. My personal favorite is a juicy Caramelized Onion Burger. Enjoy!A close-up overhead shot of a small bowl of caramelized onions atop a white surface, alongside a gold fork and a striped cloth.


Jess’ Tips and Tricks:

  • Best onions to use: I typically use yellow onions since I always have them on hand. The truth is most onions have enough sugars to properly caramelize – red onions, white onions, and shallots can all be caramelized. Extra-sweet varieties like Vidalia onions also work exceptionally well for caramelizing, so feel free to grab them if they’re in season!
  • Sherry is a Spanish fortified wine, meaning it is a wine that is “fortified” with a distilled spirit, most often fortified with brandy. While sherry ranges in style, you will want to use dry sherry (often labeled “Fine” or “fino“) for this recipe. Dry sherry is often used in French onion soup (just take a look at Julia Childs’ and Ina Garten’s iconic recipes!), as its crisp flavor helps cut through the rich flavor of the caramelly onions. You should be able to find dry sherry easily in the fortified wine section at your favorite wine or liquor shop. Sherry substitutes. ⇢ If you cannot find dry sherry, you can substitute with dry vermouth or dry, unoaked white wine for this recipe. If you prefer not to cook with alcohol, substitute with an equal amount of chicken stock with a splash of apple cider vinegar whisked into it.
  • Tips for perfectly caramelized onions: Caramelizing onions is a pretty hands-off process, but there are a few tricks that will help ensure a perfect result. Monitor the onions pretty closely as the cook and be sure to adjust heat as needed to allow the onions to caramelize slowly and prevent burning. When you stir the onions, try to scrape up any browned bits formed at the bottom of the pan; they’re full of flavor! The closer the onions get to reaching caramelization, the more often you will want to stir to promote even browning and prevent burning.

Storage and Freezing: Caramelized onions will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 1 week. You can also store them in a freezer container for up to 3 months. I love using these freezer trays for the perfect small grab-and-go portions. 

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Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.


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