How to make EASY Caramelized Onions in an Instant Pot. Or in other words, how to turn a ho-hum dinner into fine dining in no time flat! Forget sitting at the stovetop for an hour, this pressure cooker caramelized onion trick is so easy and rewarding!
Caramelized Onions. What is it about this sweet, slightly funky, bundle of squiggly joy?
Basic simple ingredients that will elevate any meal and make it feel genuinely special.
Allow me to prove my point:
What would you pick?
- Cheeseburger OR Gourmet Burger topped with Caramelized Onions and Swiss
- Pepperoni Pizza OR Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Pizza
- Grilled Cheese OR Gruyere and Caramelized Panini with a shmear of Fig Jam
The votes of my narrow-minded, boring children do not count here.
But seriously, add caramelized onions to any dish and watch people just go crazy town on you!
Because I want all of you to be minutes away from dazzling any crowd you might be feeding, it's time for an Instant Pot 101 lesson on:
HOW TO MAKE CARAMELIZED ONIONS IN THE INSTANT POT WITHOUT MAKING YOUR HOUSE SMELL LIKE A LOCKER ROOM FOR A WEEK
Do I get you or do I get you?
For my first attempt, I followed the technique at Serious Eats. Unfortunately, with the 20 minute cook time, I was left with an onion puree. A tasty puree, but totally not what I was going for.
But what I did learn from the Serious Eats article, is that the browning process of onions that gives it that sweet, golden flavor is called Maillard Browning.
It can be quite time-consuming to develop this type of browning which is why caramelizing onions is such a long, painstaking process.
The article goes on to tell how the high heat inside a pressure cooker will start to caramelize the sugars quickly without burning the onions. The addition of baking soda raises the PH which also assists in speeding up the Maillard reaction.
Once this process is complete, you only need to saute the onions for a short time to complete the process.
You can refer to the article for all the details, but I found it fascinating and wondered if I could use the same technique and tweak it so I didn't end up with onion jam mush.
With a few more experiments, and an accidental finding that this method worked amazingly well for creating this French Onion Soup (I love silver linings), I finally nailed it.
HOW TO MAKE CARAMELIZED ONIONS IN A PRESSURE COOKER
- First, you want to slice your onions on the wider side of things. This helps prevent the mush problem.
- Use the saute button on your Instant Pot to melt the butter. Let it get bubbly and just start to brown.
- Then add your onions, baking soda, salt, and pepper.
- Cook just until the onions start to release their juices, about 4 minutes.
- Cook at high pressure for 4 minutes. You'll end up with this beautiful pot of golden “soup”.
- Since we don't want soup right now though, pour off the extra liquid and reserve for another time.
- Use the saute function again to carmelize the onions a bit more as you evaporate the rest of the liquid.
- The color will deepen and the pan will get dry.
- In about 5 minutes, you'll have perfectly caramelized onions.
SEE RECIPE CARD BELOW FOR DETAILED COOKING INSTRUCTIONS
Stovetop caramelized onions take an hour and a lot of babysitting! Instant Pot takes about 30 minutes and less than 15 minutes of your attention.
Are you excited? Cause I'm excited!
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR MAKING INSTANT POT CARAMELIZED ONIONS
- Use sweet onions if you can find them. I buy nothing else, I love them so much.
- Cut them thick. Cutting them thin will allow them to go soft before they've had a chance to develop the flavor we want.
- It's not a typo, do not add any additional liquid to the pot for cooking. The onions will create enough steam on their own to get the pot to pressure.
- TAKE IT OUTSIDE! I think I love the smell of cooking onions as much as the next person, but smelling it all week is another story.
- Save that miraculous onion broth and use it for your next recipe that calls for chicken broth. You will be amazed.
- Don't be tempted to half the recipe. Onions cook down a ton!
Not sure how to use your new pot of Caramelized Onions? I got you.
RECIPES TO AMP UP WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS
- Instant Pot Egg Bites – chop them up and drop in the batter before you cook them
- Stirred into Instant Pot Risotto!
- Caramelized Onion Mac and Cheese . . . do it!
- My absolute favorite salad of all time Balsamic Steak and Peach Salad
- Ultimate topping for this Instant Pot Philly Cheesesteak or this French Dip
Hit me with all your ideas in the comments below! I'm dying to try them all.
HOW TO STORE YOUR CARAMELIZED ONIONS
They will store nicely in the fridge for 4 – 5 days.
For longer storage, divide into snack-size ziplock bags, then place those bags inside a freezer-safe bag and place in the freezer.
When you're ready to use them, place 1 small bag in a bowl of warm water and they'll be ready in just a few minutes.
Enjoy this trick! It's a good one!
And might I add, if you choose to cook these outdoors, which I highly advise, plan on neighbors popping up in your yard unexpected. The nose knows. Better throw extra burgers on the grill.
TOOLS USED TO MAKE INSTANT POT CARAMELIZED ONIONSPrint
Instant Pot Caramelized Onions
Sweet, soft Caramelized Onions, done in a fraction of the time! Perfect for topping sandwiches, pizzas, salads, and more.
- Prep Time: 4 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 2 cups 1x
- Category: Side Dish
- Method: Pressure Cooker
- Cuisine: American
- 4 pounds sweet or yellow onions, about 3 – 4 large onions
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Cut the root and top end off of an onion. Slice the onion in half from top to bottom and remove the peel. Lay flat side on the cutting board and slice the onion into about 3/4 inch wide moon shapes. Repeat with remaining onions.
- Preheat the pressure cooker by selecting saute.
- When hot, add butter. When butter is melted, bubbling, and starting to brown, add the onions, baking soda, salt, and pepper.
- Cook just until onions start to release their juices, 4 – 5 minutes.
- Secure the lid and turn pressure release knob to a sealed position. Cook at high pressure for 4 minutes.
- When cooking is complete, use a quick release.
- Strain liquid into a separate bowl, leaving the onions in the pressure cooker pot.
- Select saute and gently stir the onions to allow excess liquid to evaporate and to let the onions brown a bit more, about 5 minutes.
- Use immediately on a salad, sandwich, pizza, etc or refrigerate for up to 5 days.
- To freeze, put 1/2 – 1 cup of onions in individual bags, press flat. When you need caramelized onions to top your dinner, just pull out a single bag and let it thaw for an hour at room temperature or place it in a bowl of warm water for quicker thawing.
- Use sweet or yellow onions for the best flavor
- Cut onions into thick slices to prevent them from becoming too soft while cooking
- I suggest cooking these outdoors. It's quite a fragrant process
Keywords: Instant Pot, Easy Caramelized Onions, Quick Caramelized Onions