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Instant Pot Caramelized Onions add a ton of flavor to any dish. Making this caramelized onion recipe in your pressure cooker cuts the cooking time in half compared with traditional cooking methods.

a glass jar of pressure cooker caramelized onions with rosemary and a spoon
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We’re making this caramelized onion recipe in the Instant Pot in half the time of the normal way. Go put on some fancy pants because you’re about to rule the kitchen.

“Why not just caramelize onions on the stove” I’m sure you’re asking yourself right now. Well, for a few reasons.

One: the Instant Pot heats consistently so you’re unlikely to get hot/cold spots. Even and consistent cooking is the goal here. Two: caramelizing onions can make your house smell like a middle school locker room. With the Instant Pot, you can move the cooking process outside if you’d like.

Ingredients

This recipe uses just four simple ingredients:

  • Onions (shocked?!) – I like a mix of white, yellow, purple/red, sweet, or even shallots. You do you!
  • Unsalted butter
  • Sea salt
  • Baking soda – optional but highly efficient at cutting down the total cooking time.

How to make Instant Pot Caramelized Onions

*I’ll walk you through it here with some photos and tips, and you’ll also find a printable recipe card at the bottom of the post with exact measurements, etc. You can also click “jump to recipe” to skip down.

Start by cutting the onions into consistent slices. Don’t make your slices razor-thin or your chopped onions too small as they will break down and become too mushy to be appetizing.

You’ll want enough heft to keep them looking like onions when all is said and done.

Sustainability Tip

Sustainability Tip

Save the tops of the onions in a freezer bag with other veggie scraps like carrot peels, celery bits, and discarded pieces of fresh herbs.

When you have enough scraps saved, you can make up a batch of Chicken Bone Broth or Turkey Bone Broth. You can even can chicken broth!

Press Saute on the Instant Pot and allow it to heat up until the display shows “HOT”. Add the butter to the Instant Pot insert and allow it to melt.

Add the onions, salt, and baking soda, and give everything a good stir. Then, like a toddler having a meltdown in public, go ahead and ignore it for 2-3 minutes.

After that, stir the onions semi-constantly for 15-25 minutes or until onions are browned to your preference.

How to know when caramelized onions are done cooking – will all comes down to personal preference for deciding the “doneness” of your onions and the color of onions you use.

If you using white or yellow onions, your finished product should be a golden brown. Like the color of drawn butter. When using red/purple onions they’ll look like a smoky purply brown.

three recipes showing how to caramelize onions in a pressure cooker

How to Store and REheat

Storing leftovers: You can keep your onions in an air-tight container in the fridge for 2-3 days

Reheating leftovers: Microwave the caramelized onions for 20-30 seconds or, reheat in a shallow pan on the stovetop for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Freezing leftovers: Allow the caramelized onions to fully cool before freezing. Store for up to 3 months.

I freeze mine in 1/2 cup Souper Cubes or in 4 oz canning jars. If you just need a small amount for a garnish on Baked Brie With Garlic, freeze your pressure cooker caramelized onions in 4 oz canning jars. 

To reheat: thaw for a few hours on the countertop or overnight in the fridge. Then follow the reheating instructions above.

How to Use Caramelized Onions

Try them as a garnish on our Baked Brie With Garlic, or as the ready-to-go base on our Instant Pot French Onion Soup or Onion Pizza.

They’re also incredible piled high on top of Air Fryer Turkey Burgers, Dry Brine Chicken, or Air Fryer French Onion Pork Chops.

caramelized onions in a glass jar with rosemary and onions in the background

Pro Tips/Recipe Notes

  • If you have issues with onions making you cry (I totally do), you could wear swim goggles, onion goggles, or even cut them outside in fresh air. But I find the simplest (and totally free) way to prevent the constant watery onion eyes is to put the onions in the fridge for 1 hour before cutting. This method has never failed me.
  • You can add in fresh herbs if desired. Thyme is a classic pairing.
  • The pressure cooker caramelized onion method works best with at least 4-6 cups of sliced onions. I found a smaller amount led to burning issues. There is some safety in numbers with this one!
  • Unsalted butter or ghee works best. My first attempt used salted butter and it was scorch city!
  • Onions cook down a lot when you caramelize them. I recommend cooking a bit more than you think you’ll need.
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Instant Pot Caramelized Onions

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
a glass jar of pressure cooker caramelized onions with rosemary and a spoon
Instant Pot caramelized onions add a ton of flavor to any dish. Making this caramelized onion recipe in your pressure cooker cuts the cooking time in half compared with traditional cooking methods.

Ingredients 

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 6 cups onions, sliced (~4 large onions)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda {optional}

Instructions 

  • Set your Instant Pot to saute. Wait for the display to turn from "on" to "HOT".
  • Add butter to the Instant Pot and allow it to melt before adding onions.
    4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Add onions, salt, and optional baking soda to the butter, stir, and let everything sit for 2 minutes.
    6 cups onions, sliced, 1 tsp sea salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Stir semi-constantly for 15-25 minutes or until onions are browned to your preference.

Notes

  1. Makes ~2 cups
  2. The pressure cooker caramelized onion method works best with at least 4-6 cups of sliced onions. If you need to cook smaller amounts, it is best to stick to the stove top or the slow cooker.
  3. Unsalted butter or ghee works best. 

Nutrition

Serving: 2tbspCalories: 49kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 1gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 148mgPotassium: 88mgFiber: 1gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 89IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 15mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Condiments
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @sustainablecooks or tag #sustainablecooks!

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About Sarah

Helping you serve up budget-friendly sustainable recipes with a side of balanced living.
Come for the food. Stay for the snark.

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4 Comments

  1. Have you ever tried adding fresh herbs? I have some lemon thyme I think would be delicious with Caramelized red onions on salads, but not sure what point to add it in…

    1. It depends on how you intend to use it. I add it (frozen) to beef broth to make French Onion Soup. If I want to use it on something like burgers, I would defrost overnight in the fridge. I’m a fan of a gentle reheat in the microwave.