Making tasty vegan caramelized onions is simple! With pan frying You get all the rich, sweet flavour with regular caramelized onions, but skip out on butter or other animal products.
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Select the Right Onions to Caramelize for Your Recipe
It’s important to select the best onions for caramelizing. Yellow onions tend to be sweeter, and with less of a pungent onion flavour, compared to white onions. Because yellow onions are sweeter, they work best in this recipe.
White onions can work, but the final flavour may be a bit more pungent and less sweet. Either work, but yellow does have a nicer, more balanced flavour profile. Therefore, I recommend yellow onions.
You can caramelize any type of onion, including red onions, and the flavours are different depending on your selection. Consider how you want to use the caramelized onions before making a selection!
If the onions will be eaten with few other ingredients, or in a large amount, the sweeter yellow onion remains the best choice.
Vegan Caramelized Onions: Key Tips to Make Delicious Onions
Using a non-stick pan makes caramelizing onions super easy. Just make sure to use a utensil that won’t scratch the surface of the pan. Beyond that, the real key to easy vegan caramelized onions is to use some oil and keep a glass of water on hand.
Use a high heat to get the onions to brown. As this happens, all those tasty golden brown bits (the flavour) stick to the bottom of the pan, no matter how good the non-stick pan is. That’s okay, you’ll want the onions to brown up so you can enjoy all that flavour.
How do you get the flavour up from the bottom of the pan? The easiest way is to splash water into it. Add just a tablespoon or two at a time, while you actively work on scraping up the browning.
Depending on how much oil you like to use (I recommend at least 1 tbsp per medium onion otherwise the final product won’t be as rich and delicious) you may require more or less water. The oil is super helpful to allow you to work up the browning without having to use too much water.
Optional Additions for Vegan Caramelized Onions
You have the option of adding sugar, salt and pepper to your caramelized onions. All three of these ingredients make for a more delicious final product.
Adding sugar helps with the caramelization process. Of course, the final product is sweeter, but we wouldn’t add so much to make a huge difference. If you select white onions, sugar may help make them taste more like caramelized yellow onions.
Adding sugar at the beginning of cooking can help make the process go a bit faster. It’s not a noticeable difference, but why not! The sugar helps draw some moisture out of the onions so they soften faster; as well as helping with the browning! A win-win really.
Salt and pepper are added to taste. I prefer to add both of these towards the end of cooking to balance out the sweet flavours we’ve worked so hard to create! I add salt at the end because that’s when the onions are at their sweetest so it’s easier to gauge how much I need.
Depending on how you want to use your vegan caramelized onions, you may want more or less salt. So start with a smaller amount, give it a taste, and add more if needed!
If you want to change things up a bit, adding sliced mushrooms to the onions is another amazing option. Mushrooms also brown-up quite nicely. The end-product will be caramelized mushrooms and onions!
I love adding these caramelized onions on some homemade vegan pizzas!
Let me know in the comments below how you like this recipe! If you make these vegan caramelized onions, be sure to share your creation on social media and tag me @lettucevegout
- Cutting Board
- Large pan
- 2 large yellow onions sliced
- 2-4 tbsp oil (I love avocado or olive)
- Sugar (optional; about 1 tbsp)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat up 2 tbsp oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick pan.
- Add onions. As the onions start to brown, work up the browning from the bottom of the pan. You may need to add in additional oil or splash in a touch of water to help lift up the browning. Optional to add in 1 tbsp of sugar at this point.
- After each round of scraping up the browning, spread the onions across the pan and let sit for about 1 minute to brown some more. Scrape up this browning and repeat. Please note, it's important to use a silicone/ rubber utensil in a non-stick pan and not something that scratches the coating.
- Repeat the process until you have richly golden coloured caramelized onions. You may need to splash in a additional oil or water as the process goes along, if the browning isn't coming up well anymore.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste towards the end of cooking (optional).
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This is an updated post: Original post date Jan 2019.