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How to make caramelized onion powder?

Onion powder is a versatile ingredient that can add flavor to many savory dishes. It provides a concentrated onion flavor without the texture and moisture of fresh onions. Caramelized onion powder takes this one step further by undergoing a cooking process that leads to rich, sweet notes similar to caramelized onions.

Caramelized onion powder can be used as a seasoning for meats, vegetables, soups, sauces, and more. It’s easy to make at home with just onions, oil, and a bit of time. This article will provide step-by-step instructions for making caramelized onion powder from scratch.

What is Caramelized Onion Powder?

Caramelized onion powder is made by slowly cooking down onions until they are very soft, sweet, and jammy. The onions are then dehydrated and ground into a fine powder. This powder has an incredibly concentrated, sweet onion flavor that adds richness and depth to dishes.

The process of caramelizing onions requires cooking them low and slow. This draws out their natural sugars, resulting in sweeter notes reminiscent of caramel. When the onions are dried and powdered, all of that rich flavor gets condensed down. Just a teaspoon or two of caramelized onion powder can provide the same amount of flavor as a whole cup of caramelized onions.

Benefits of Making Your Own

There are several benefits to making your own caramelized onion powder at home:

– Customize the flavor – Caramelize the onions as deeply or lightly as you prefer
– Avoid additives or anti-caking agents often found in store-bought powders
– Cost effective – Much cheaper than buying gourmet caramelized onion powder
– Long shelf life – Powder form keeps for months stored properly
– Convenient to use – Always have caramelized onion flavor on hand

Overall, making your own lets you control the quality and taste. You can make a large batch for just a fraction of the cost of specialty store-bought powders.

Ingredients Needed

The ingredients needed for caramelized onion powder are simple:

– Onions – You can use any type of onion. Yellow, white, red, or sweet onions all work well.
– Oil – A neutral cooking oil like canola or vegetable oil. You’ll only need about 1 tablespoon per onion.
– Salt (optional) – A small pinch of salt enhances the flavor but is not necessary.

That’s it! With just onions, oil, and a pinch of salt you can make your own deliciously sweet and flavorful caramelized onion powder.

How Much Onion to Use

The amount of onions needed depends on how much powder you want to end up with. A good rule of thumb is that 1 medium onion, when caramelized and dried, will yield around 2-3 tablespoons of onion powder.

So if you want to end up with 1 cup of onion powder, you would need about 3-4 large onions total. It’s better to make extra so you aren’t left with barely any powder after the drying process.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here is a step-by-step guide to making caramelized onion powder at home:

1. Prep the Onions

Start by peeling and slicing the onions. Thin slices about 1/4 inch thick work best, as they will cook down faster.

Trim off the root end and top stem of the onions, then halve them from root to stem. Lay each half flat side down on a cutting board. Making horizontal slices, cut the onions into thin, even strips.

Having uniform slices will help the onions cook evenly. Separate or break apart any larger pieces.

2. Caramelize the Onions

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onions and a pinch of salt if desired. Cook, stirring frequently, for 30-35 minutes.

The onions will slowly soften and release their moisture. Continue cooking and stirring until all the liquid has evaporated. The onions will start to caramelize and turn golden brown.

Lower the heat if the onions start getting too dark. You want them deeply caramelized but not burnt. This step can take 45-60 minutes total.

3. Spread and Cool the Onions

Once the onions are caramelized, remove them from the heat. Spread out the onions on a parchment lined baking sheet. This helps them cool faster.

Let the onions cool completely before moving to the next step. This can take 30-60 minutes depending on how hot your kitchen is. Cooling ensures the onions dehydrate correctly.

4. Dehydrate the Onions

There are two methods for dehydrating the caramelized onions: oven or food dehydrator.

Oven Method:

Preheat oven to 150°F. Arrange the cooled onions in a single layer on the baking sheet. Place in oven and dehydrate for 4-6 hours, flipping halfway through. The onions are done when completely dried and brittle.

Dehydrator Method:

Spread onions on dehydrator trays in a thin single layer. Dehydrate at 125°F for 6-10 hours, checking periodically, until crispy and dried through. Time will vary based on your model.

5. Process into Powder

Once the onions are fully dried, they are ready to be ground. A blender, food processor, or spice grinder all work well.

Working in small batches, pulse the onions into a fine powder. Be careful not to over-blend, which can cause them to become gummy.

You should end up with a lightweight, fluffy powder. Sift through a mesh strainer to remove any remaining chunks or pieces.

6. Store in an Airtight Container

Transfer the freshly made caramelized onion powder to an airtight glass jar or container. Store in a cool, dark place and it will keep for 3-6 months.

You can extend the shelf life by storing in the refrigerator or freezer. Now enjoy adding sweet, savory onion flavor to recipes!

Tips for Making Caramelized Onion Powder

Here are some helpful tips for making the best caramelized onion powder:

– Use low, slow heat while caramelizing to prevent burning
– Constantly stir the onions as they cook down
– Make sure onions are fully cool before dehydrating for best results
– Rotate oven trays and flip onions during dehydrating
– It’s better to over-dry the onions than under-dry them
– Blend in very small batches to prevent onions from gumming up
– A pinch of sugar can help accelerate the Maillard reaction during cooking
– Onion powder has a long shelf life but best flavor within 3 months

How to Use Caramelized Onion Powder

Caramelized onion powder is a versatile seasoning that can be used to elevate the flavor of many savory foods, including:


– Steaks, roasts, chops – Sprinkle on meat before grilling or pan-searing
– Burgers and meatballs – Mix into ground meat for extra juicy onion flavor
– Bacon, sausage, hot dogs – Excellent paired with rich meats


– Roasted vegetables – Toss cubed veggies with oil and onion powder before roasting
– Green beans, broccoli, carrots – Mix into veggie sides for more depth
– Salads – Whisk into dressings or sprinkle over finished salads

Starches and grains:

– Potatoes – Sprinkle over mashed, roasted or fried potatoes
– Rice, couscous, quinoa – Stir into cooked grains for savory flavor
– Popcorn – Shake on along with other spices for gourmet popcorn

Sauces, dips and spreads:

– Gravies and pan sauces – Whisk in pinch at a time until desired flavor
– Mayo-based sauces – Mix with mayo when making aioli or remoulade
– Cheese spreads – Add to cream cheese, goat cheese, etc. for oniony kick
– Bean dips – Stir in to lend rich flavor
– Salad dressings – Whisk in to homemade vinaigrettes

Soups and stews:

– Beef, chicken, and vegetable soup – Sprinkle on at serving
– Chili – Mix into the pot along with other spices
– Stews like beef bourguignon – Add depth of flavor
– Broths – Whisk in when making soup broth for extra umami

A little caramelized onion powder goes a long way. Start with 1⁄4-1⁄2 teaspoon at first, taste, and add more from there if needed. Enjoy its versatility in all your favorite savory dishes and snacks!

Substitutions for Caramelized Onion Powder

If you don’t have caramelized onion powder, here are some possible substitutions:

– Regular onion powder – Use double the amount. Will lack sweetness
– Garlic powder – Provides complementary flavor
– Onion salt or onion flakes – Not as concentrated
– Minced dried onion – Rehydrate before using
– Caramelized fresh onions – Saute down onions until caramelized
– Worcestershire sauce – Adds umami flavor
– Soy sauce – For savory saltiness
– Beef or chicken bouillon powder – Boosts meaty notes

While nothing can truly replicate caramelized onion powder, those alternatives can work in a pinch. But it’s worth making your own to have the real deal on hand!

Storing and Shelf Life of Caramelized Onion Powder

When stored properly in an airtight container, caramelized onion powder will stay fresh for 3-6 months at room temperature. It will keep even longer when stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

Here are some storage tips for maximum freshness:

– Store in a glass jar or other airtight container
– Keep away from direct light, heat, and moisture
– Place in a cool, dark spot like a pantry or cupboard
– Refrigerate for 6-12 months shelf life
– Freeze for 1-2 years shelf life

Over time, the powder may lose some potency of flavor and start tasting more dull and papery. If it develops an unusual color or smell, it’s time to discard. But homemade onion powder holds up very well compared to store-bought.

The Benefits of Onion Powder

Onion powder offers several benefits in cooking compared to fresh onions:

Concentrated flavor – Provides an intense hit of oniony goodness without the high water content of fresh onions. Just a bit of powder packs a lot of punch.

Long shelf life – Dried onion powder keeps for months, while fresh onions last about 2 weeks. Have onion flavor ready on your shelf anytime.

Space saving – Onion powder takes up much less storage space than bulky whole onions. Easy to tuck away.

Adds flavor without texture – Powder seamlessly integrates into dishes without altering texture. Great for smooth purees or sprinkling into rubs.

No prep needed – You can skip chopping onions and just shake the pre-ground powder into recipes! Saves time prepping.

Convenient to transport – Easily take onion flavor anywhere by bringing the lightweight powder in its jar. No need to pack whole onions.

For cooks looking to add instant oniony goodness to dishes with no fuss, onion powder is an invaluable staple in the pantry.

Related Recipes Using Caramelized Onion Powder

Here are some recipes that can benefit from the sweet, savory flavor of homemade caramelized onion powder:

Caramelized Onion Powder and Goat Cheese Flatbreads – Mix powder into an easy goat cheese spread and top flatbreads or naan.

Caramelized Onion Powder Burgers – Add onion powder to the ground beef before forming patties for juicy flavor in every bite.

Steak with Caramelized Onion Powder Rub – Coat steaks with onion powder, salt, pepper and any other spices before grilling.

Roasted Carrots with Caramelized Onion Powder – Toss carrot coins in olive oil and sprinkle with onion powder before roasting in the oven.

Creamy Onion Powder Mashed Potatoes – Fold caramelized onion powder into mashed potatoes for a rich, creamy flavor.

Chicken and Rice Soup with Caramelized Onion Powder – Add depth by seasoning a chicken and rice soup with the powder.

The sweet and savory notes of caramelized onion powder make it a perfect addition to so many recipes. Get creative with this versatile homemade ingredient!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a different type of onion?

Yes, any type of onion works! Yellow, white, red, or sweet onions will all caramelize beautifully into powder. Go with what you have on hand.

Is a dehydrator necessary or can I use the oven?

You can absolutely use the oven if you don’t own a dehydrator. Just spread the onions on a baking sheet and dehydrate at 150 F, stirring periodically, until dried.

How long does caramelized onion powder last?

Stored properly in an airtight container, the powder will stay fresh for 3-6 months at room temperature or up to a year refrigerated.

What’s the best way to grind the onions into powder?

A blender or small food processor works great for pulverizing the dried onions into a fine powder. Just work in small batches to prevent gumming up the blades.

Can I substitute onion powder for caramelized onion powder?

Regular onion powder will work in a pinch but the flavor won’t be as rich, sweet, and complex. You can use double the amount of regular powder.


With just a few onions, minimal time, and the oven or dehydrator you likely already own, you can easily make delicious caramelized onion powder from scratch. This versatile homemade seasoning saves money compared to store-bought, allows you to customize the flavor, and provides a long-lasting pantry staple.

Sprinkle the sweet and savory powder into meats, vegetables, sauces, and more for an instant flavor boost. Make up a big batch to keep on hand for elevating everyday dishes and meals anytime.