When I first read about “caramelizing” onions in a slow cooker a few years ago, I was skeptical. So, I tucked the notion in the back of my head and pretty much forgot about it until a family members begged for French Onion Soup. The thought of standing over the stove for 40 minutes or more whilst coaxing a potful of onions into caramelizing what not high on my list, but then I remembered my slow cooker. So, after being in hibernation for most of the winter, out came the slow cooker, which I filled to the brim with about four large cut and sliced onions. Set on low, the onions were left to cook overnight. The next morning, with the house fragrant with the aroma of simmering onions, there they were: soft, sweet smelling – and for my purposes – caramelized enough. Though “wetter” than traditionally caramelized onions, they would surely suit my purpose for making onion soup. And, in addition to the onions, there would be plenty of lovely stock left in the bottom of the slow cooker that could be added to the soup, or even used for making gravy. In making slow cooked onions, it may be somewhat difficult to achieve a deep caramelized color without making the onions too “jammy,” so if you want darker onions, just add a little browning sauce (like Kitchen Bouquet) or a pinch of powdered caramel color to the onions (see note following recipes). Slow cooker caramelized onions may not be suitable for all applications, but for stew, soup, gravy and more, all that intense onion flavor is still there.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.