The Shortcut To Caramelized Onion Flavor In Soup

Though they might not be the first vegetable to come to mind when you think about your favorite item of produce, there's no question that without multi-layered onions, cooking would be so much less interesting and flavorful. This humble root vegetable — whether it's a plain ol' yellow or white variety or a more nuanced Vidalia or Cipollini — brings, variously, crunch, spiciness, freshness, and melty sweetness to dishes, all depending on how it's prepared.

As we've all experienced, cooked onions have a mellow sweetness to them, which comes out when exposed to heat, thanks to the veggie's high water content. Onions are about 90% water, according to Living Well Kitchen, and when that water cooks off in a stew, say, or over direct heat, what's left, to a high degree, are the vegetable's sugar molecules. Once they reach 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the outlet explains, these large sugar molecules break down into smaller ones that are easily recognizable by our taste buds. And that is why caramelized onions are so darn delicious.

As anyone who has caramelized onions in a pan knows, it can take a while for those sugars to really break down — to the tune of up to an hour. It's a simple process that doesn't require much babysitting, but when you're short on time, can be a bit difficult to accomplish.

A smaller dice + a splash of wine = shortcut caramelized onions

If you've made French onion soup from scratch, you know that the cold-weather favorite consists of little more than sliced, sweated onions and some beef broth — plus, of course, that cheese-laden crouton. You also know that it's a time-consuming dish, with the step of slowly and deliberately caramelizing the cups and cups of onions taking its sweet (pun intended) time.

For those nights when you're craving French onion soup — or any other soup where sweet, soft onions would be welcome — but don't have the time or patience to painstakingly caramelize the onions, The Washington Post has a handy shortcut you can employ. Instead of using sliced onions, their recipe for Creamy Chicken Soup with Caramelized Onions calls for cutting the root veg into a small dice; With more surface area exposed to the heat of the pan, the onions will more quickly reach that magical 212-degree point where the large sugars start to break down. To help things along even more, the recipe calls for splashing dry white wine into the cooking onions, whose sugars will quickly caramelize as the wine boils, lending an extra hit of sweetness to the onions.

With this double-whammy hack, the onions should be sweet and golden within just 10 minutes — a fraction of the time they usually take. Now excuse us while we grab some French bread and Gruyère and get to work.