December 14, 2011

How to: Brown Onions

Carrots, onions and celery are the base if you want to make soup. Browned onions are the base if you want to make a curry.  Some people brown the onions just before they start to make their curry, others (like myself) tend to make a large amount of the base beforehand and freeze it in small packs. I'm always looking to save time in the kitchen and by having the onions pre-cooked shaves 20 minutes off of my cooking time.  Also, by making the onions in big batches beforehand, I reduce the amount of onion stink in the house..BONUS!

I remember as a kid, my mom would gather the troops, meaning me, my sister, and my grandmother, and we would sit at the kitchen table and peel and chop 50 lbs of onions.  My dad would then hook up the gas stove in the garage and my mom would cook the onions in a HUGE pot over the fire.  Once the onions reached the right texture and colour, the onions were cooled, blended in the food processor and then put into neat packs and stocked in the freezer.  Those onions would usually last about 3 months and then we'd have to start the whole process over again.

Now I'm not crazy to handle 50 lbs of onions all by myself! I stick with 6 lbs-10 lbs at a time, use 2.5 hours making/watching/stirring the onions and then the rest of the day is spent airing out my home!

Browned Onions

Browned onions

6 lbs yellow onions, peeled and chopped
1 cup olive oil ( I know that sounds like a lot, but I generally don't add anymore oil to my dishes because the onions have enough to help with the cooking process)

6 lbs of onions BEFORE cooking
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
In a large roasting pan, mix together the onions and oil.  Cover the roasting pan and place it on the lower rack of the oven.  Every 20-30 minutes give the onions a good stir.  After about 2-2.5 hours, the onions should be a rich brown colour and the quantity reduced by half.

Cool the onions down for 20 minutes.  In a food processor, blend the onions to a somewhat chunky paste. Scoop out the paste into small freezer friendly dishes to stock in your freezer.

When you're going to make your curry, you'll want to take out a dish of browned onions 5-6 hours in advance and let it defrost on the counter.

My Measurement notes:  1-2 heaping tablespoons onion paste  = 1 uncooked onion


  1. What a great idea! We will puree a whole lot of garlic, but never thought of onions. And I laughed at the onion stink, I love the smell of frying onions. Maybe I'm weird. And I never would have thought to freeze them.

  2. I mince up garlic and ginger in big batches too! It's so much easier to pop a container out of the freezer than to start smashing/peeling and mincing while cooking.

  3. I am always too impatient to wait for onions to carmelize!! But I LOVE them when they are already prepared for me ;)

  4. Alicia, it's such a time saver when they're ready to go!

  5. What's your take on store bought fried onions?

  6. Saman, to be honest, I've only used them once or twice in dum keema (steamed ground beef) ( My mom tried cooking with the store-bought friend onions, but because the onions are coated in flour, all of her dishes were completely off and us kids didn't eat any of it!! So now we just stick to homemade onions for curries and leave the store-bought stuff for haleem or dum keema.