Caramelised onions -sugar free recipe

You don’t need sugar to taste the sweetness of this recipe. With just one ingredient, the right equipment, a little loving care, and time, you can make (healthy) caramelised onions yourself.

Cheese lovers across the world know that a good strong cheese tastes even better with the right pairing. ‘Tis the season of indulgence and a good cheese platter, served with unsalted brown crackers and/or wholegrain sourdough bread, makes a regular appearance in many households. Walnuts, fresh grapes and caramelised onions can elevate an otherwise simple spread.

However, in the spirit of leading a sugar-free life, I am going to share a simple way to make your own caramelised onions, without the sugar.

The original recipe usually relies on the addition of a good deal of sugar, but we are getting enough of that in our western diets, and even more than that during the festive season. It is possible to make caramelised onions without the use of any added sweeteners by simply bringing out the natural sweetness of the onion itself.

When I make caramelised onions I use long, banana scallions instead of the red onions the more traditional recipe calls for. This is both due to a matter of personal preference based on taste, as well as well as the slightly different characteristics attributed to each by Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The secret of getting this recipe right is patience. It will take a while, but the effort is well worth it and I can guarantee you’ll be going back for more. The amount of onions you use will depend on how much you need.  Don’t forget that as they cook, they will reduce in size. If you are worried there won’t be enough you can cook up a larger batch. The good thing about making extra is that caramelised onions will keep in the fridge for a few days, and they can also be frozen for use at a later date.


2 to 3 large long, banana shallots

approx. 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

lukewarm water

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional)



 a large flat, (non-stick) ceramic frying pan

a wooden spoon

a glass jar with airtight lid



1.       Peel and cut the shallots in half. Then slice them lengthways to obtain small strips.

2.       Place the pan on the cooker and lightly oil the bottom. Once the pan has warmed up add the onions.

3.       Gently cook on a medium to low heat, stirring the onions occasionally with the use of a wooden spoon so that they don’t stick and burn. 

4.       Continue cooking for approximately 30 minutes. Caramelisation is a slow process and it takes time.  You will know when this starts happening when you see the onions change colour and turn a caramel brown.

5.       If they start sticking just add a little water a tablespoon at a time, and stir.  You can also add a little balsamic vinegar if you wish, but bear in mind that, although it will enhance the flavour and add sweetness, it will also add calories and sugar. (Most of the “balsamic vinegar” sold in shops is not the real thing, and it is full of sugar in an attempt to mimic the original pricey one.)

6.       Once the onions are soft and completely browned and begin to look more like a lumpy sauce than solid chunks, turn off the heat and allow them to cool down.

7.       Transfer to a serving bowl and serve at room temperature with mature strong cheeses.

8.       Store any excess or leftovers in a glass jar either in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, or in the freezer.

That’s all there is to it.

Happy New Year!

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