Caramelized Onions in the Instant Pot

No more hours spent hovering over the stove; use a pressure cooker to speed up the process for making sweet, buttery, Caramelized Onions in the Instant Pot.

Finished Caramelized Onion made in the Instant Pot

While I know there are some Instant Pot aficionados who are determined to make EVERYTHING in the multi-purpose cooker. Personally I find it works best for me when it can actually make something delicious and save some time and have results that are much like those I would expect if cooking from a standard recipe, like these Caramelized Onions.

Which is probably why you will never see a cheesecake on these pages that used one of these appliances. I like a crispy, solid crust, not a steamed one, you know?

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Still I’m always excited when I do try something new and the results are as stellar as they were with this little venture.

Preparing caramelized onions in an electric pressure cooker (i.e. often the Instant Pot brand), results in the same deliciousness in a fraction of the time it would take to do them on the stove-top.

Of course I realize now this might be dangerous; love, love, love these things. I swear if they are handy I can find a reason every day to use a spoonful or two. Eggs for breakfasts? Check. Sandwich for lunch? Another check? On beef, pork, or chicken for dinner? Check, check, check…I”ll even use them in a salad!

And since I made these I’ve used them in two different recipes I’ll be including on this blog; one a re-creation of a burger I had at Ted’s Montana Grill, another in an easy French Onion Gallette; both absolutely divine.

The first one coming up soon will be this French Onion Veggie Burger with Roasted Garlic Aioli and Caramelized Onions.

I LOVE the burgers at Ted’s Montana Grill and have been craving a great burger…but you know, what with a virus and well, the fact that that I’m trying to almost eliminate red meat from my diet, I devised this most delicious alternative to their Avalon Burger.

Cutting back on the bun and making a plant based burger allowed me some indulgence on the toppings and these two were the perfect choice. Still, I didn’t used to make Caramelized Onions very often, they are easy but time consuming and the slicing. Ugh, hate the slicing.

In order to make the effort worthwhile, I like to make a lot of them, and it takes a good long while to slice two pounds of onions and to cook them long enough to melt into something sweet and delicious.

Slicing Onions with a Small Kitchen Slicer

First I used the other tool I wish I had bought 40 years ago, this small kitchen size slicer. It makes such easy work of the one part of the job I have always hated…slicing those onions! I sort of bought this on a whim, and with some encouragement from a friend, and I’ve never regretted it.

If I never used it for anything but onions it would be worth it, but I use it for so much more. Zucchini, cucumber, meatloaf, apples, oranges…I use it all the time. I had planned to store it but instead moved other kitchen items into cabinets, this baby is out all the time!

Of course the real brainiac moment was when I thought…why not the Instant Pot?

Sliced Onions and Butter in the Instant Pot

This is almost too easy. The sliced onions are combined with butter, salt, and pepper, and pressure cooked on High for 5 minutes.

To clarify…that doesn’t mean it takes 5 minutes though; the unit has to reach high pressure which can take from 10-15 minutes for these onions. But still, I normally saute them on the stovetop for 2+ hours!

Caramelized Onions After Cooking in the Instant Pot.

After the five minutes of cooking at High Pressure, the pressure valve is released to let out steam and the cooking stops; for the quick version, it’s just a couple of minutes of final sauteing and you’re done and they can be used at this point…but I like to add some additional steps.

Final Step of Caramelized Onions in the Instant Pot

I’ve made a delicious French Onion Soup for ages, literally decades. The original recipe came from a local department store cafe in my hometown of St. Louis. It’s always delicious and seriously you can make it using these onions and be very happy.

But I did discover an additional step when I last made French Onion Soup that I think is worth a bit more time. I call it the Ultimate French Onion Soup and the biggest different is a tip I got from Cook’s Illustrated.

After the onions have been sautéed for a few minutes and turn a nice golden brown color, I add a quarter cup of water to them, cook it down until the water evaporates and a crust forms on the pan, then do that a second time being sure to scrap the bottom.

The final step and the one that makes the biggest difference is to add a half cup of sherry and continue sauteing until the liquid has evaporated.

This can take from 15-20 additional minutes so in crunch time, it’s not required…but if you want a deeper, richer flavor…try it sometime; they are amazing!

Fun fact too…you can freeze caramelized onions. I did and the other day I defrosted some and made this delicious French Onion Galette.

While I will often make a pie crust from scratch, this baby was in the oven only minutes after I was inspired with the help of a Pillsbury Crust and my already made onions. I’ll share this recipe soon too…great for an appetizer, or a light meal if combined with a salad. Either way…indescribably yummy!

French Onion Gallette

When I’m asked what I think is the best reason for an Instant Pot, I’ll often cite that I use it regularly as a rice cooker, it makes beautiful hard boiled eggs, it’s the only way I make pulled pork, and now…I can share that it makes the easiest and quickest Caramelized Onions. Those reasons alone are enough for me!

PIN IT! ‘Caramelized Onions Made in the Instant Pot’

Finished Caramelized Onion made in the Instant Pot
Finished Caramelized Onion made in the Instant Pot Served with a Veggie Burger
Caramelized Onions in a White Serving Bowl

Caramelized Onions in the Instant Pot

Use your instant pot to make homemade caramelized onions in a fraction of the time normally required with stovetop preparation.
3.83 from 50 or more votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Vegetables
Cuisine American
Servings 2.5 Cups
Calories 115 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 ½ pounds yellow onions sliced 1/2-inch-thick (8 cups)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter cut into small pieces
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine; I used a Chardonnay

Instructions
 

  • Add onions, butter, salt, and pepper to the container of an Instant Pot or other multi-use pressure cooker and stir to combine.
  • Secure the lid and adjust vent to seal. Cook on high "Pressure Cook" setting for 2 minutes. Once cycle is complete, immediately release pressure. Carefully remove lid.
  • Drain excess liquid from onions and return them to pot.
  • Cook over high "Saute" setting, stirring constantly, until onions are deeply golden and caramelized, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Optional – Add white wine and cook down again until wine is evaporated.
  • Remove from heat and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Caramelized Onions in the Instant Pot
Serving Size
 
1 Serving
Amount per Serving
Calories
115
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
3
g
5
%
Cholesterol
 
8
mg
3
%
Sodium
 
557
mg
24
%
Carbohydrates
 
13
g
4
%
Protein
 
2
g
4
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Calories
115
Keyword caramelized onions, French, onion soup
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25 Comments

  1. This is my first time using the recipe and I DO see this in the recipe (now on 12/21/2023)This is only 2 months later so this may have been fixed or was there all along. I will let you know the results

    1. I have completed the recipe and enjoyed the meal. We had Reverse Seared Pork Chops with Homemade Apple Sause and the wonderful Caramelized onions!!
      I have never made these onions but have had them in restaurants. I was VERY HAPPY with these onions!! I will share they did NOT look like the browned onions shown in the photos BUT they tased WONDERFUL!!!
      I followed the recipe exactly. They turned out much lighter during the sauté, I continued to scrape the pot for any caramelization.. The timing was a bit longer than stated … (Be sure to set your IPot Sauté on HIGH) and watch … I set my timer for 2 mins and stirred each time and sometimes continuously.
      I will surely make this recipe again!!!
      Members of my household want these to put on a Meatloaf Sandwich. I can’t wait to taste that too!!!

      1. Hi Vicki; thanks for touching base! I have nothing but success when I use the Instant Pot for my onions but with so many complaints, I modified the length of cooking time. I would rather they cook less and not get ‘mushy’ like some have said…so mine were a bit browner. As far as a complaint about instructions? They were there! This happens a lot, someone messes up and blames the blogger; I’m used to it. 🙂
        But the most important part is they worked for YOU! Thanks for letting me know…Barb

  2. 1 star
    I had just over 2.5 pounds of yellow onions sliced to 1/2 inch. I follow the instructions to only add onions, butter and seasonings before closing my Instant Pot Duo. A few minutes after heating up, it shut down. There was not enough moisture for it to trigger a seal for pressure. I opened it up and added a scant cup of water and tried again. I allowed it to process for 3 minutes since the onions had already begun cooking in the original attempt. The onions were quite soft with LOT of liquid in the pot. I drained most out so I didn’t have onion soup. What followed was 45 minutes of stirring on Saute to try to get the onions to brown without sticking. I still didn’t get a good golden brown but I was done with the “faster” recipe. I have chunky onion mush.

    1. I’m so sorry this happened for you; I have done it multiple times without an issue so I need to try some different onions and see if I can re-create the problem. I do think the amount of water you added might have been excessive and they were steamed instead of being sauteed?

  3. Mine came out mushy and I had to strain as well. Too much butter would be my guess because it wouldn’t evaporate. Flavours were just fine so perhaps add a quarter the amount of butter.

    1. Did you strain off the liquid after cooking in the Instant Pot? You are supposed to drain the onions after pressure cooking and then continue cooking with the saute function. I have never had an issue so would really like to clarify. After they are sauteed the wine is added and they are sauteed again until it has evaporated…I would suggest less wine maybe but not less butter.

      1. You say “You are supposed to drain the onions after pressure cooking” but if so this important step is not included in the recipe directions.

  4. I’ve followed this and other similar recipes a number of times now, and the result is always the same: burnt onions caked all over the bottom of the pot with some underdone onions on top. Fortunately they’re still usable for me since I just chuck them in the Vitamix when making soup, but I’d really prefer to learn what’s going wrong so I can fix it. I have the Instant Pot Duo Crisp, which never seems to be used or mentioned in any online recipes, so I’ve been assuming the instructions are ubiquitous for all Instant Pots—but maybe I should be doing something differently with my pot?

    1. 2 stars
      I have a regular IP, and got a burn notice the second it got up to pressure. I think next time, I’m going to try putting the onions in my instant pot basket, so they can’t touch the bottom, and I’m going to add ¼th cup of water to the butter.

  5. 4 stars
    We doubled the recipe! There was a lot of liquid left in the pot we drained the liquid and continued on. Thanks for the recipe

      1. I do hate hearing that Jon but I also have to recognize if I hear it enough that my experience is not the same as the one readers are having. If I had enough onions I would test it again today but in the meantime I’ve changed the time to be 2 minutes instead of 5; if more than one person has had bad results, that time needs to change. I would rather you have to finish them off a couple of minutes longer after they’ve cooked than have you be disappointed.

  6. How does this work without liquid? I understand there’s butter and the onions will sweat, but I’ve been told never to pressurize the Instant Pot without sufficient liquid in the pot.

    1. Once his onions start to sweat there’s plenty of liquid in the pot and if you add more then you won’t be able to caramelize them.

    1. I imagine that it would but I would suggest you cut back on the time a little bit depending upon the quantity you’re using. It’s very hard for me to make a recommendation when I have not cut back on that quantity like you intend to. I would suggest you make 2 lbs worth and freeze the extra for the next time you want some!

    1. Gosh I’m sorry to hear that Remy; my only thought is that they cooked too long? Pressure Cookers can behave differently and since these don’t need a long time at pressure that’s the only thing I can imagine. Mine actually came out just firm enough that I could saute them down a bit in the pot to get them a bit browner but they were never mushy.

    1. I haven’t gotten to putting it on the blog just yet. I wish I could promise when I will, but you could sign up for my feed and you’ll get notified of any new posts.

  7. I am one of those devoted Instant Pot fans. I’ve been wondering about caramelizing onions in my IP, and you answered my question! The onions look gorgeous, as well as all of the ways you’ve used them. I do have to say, though, that the reason I like to make cheesecake in my IP, is that it’s small. With just the two of us, the last thing I need is a full-sized cheesecake in my kitchen. I’d eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Still, baking a cheesecake is fun as well.

    1. I had a whole bunch of friends try to sway me but the truth is it’s just me…and I love an excuse to have the neighbors come visit! I do a cake a month of some sort to celebrate birthdays on my street, a little cheesecake would not last long. 🙂
      Plus I’m in the cleaning out mode, not the buying a pan for a specific reason mode too. Heck I almost didn’t take a chance on the IP because of that…and I’m glad for that reason I ignored my desire to have less, not more!

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