How To Caramelize Onions Without Oil

Enhance the flavor of your low fat, plant-based food! This short video will show you how to caramelize onions without oil in less than five minutes! It’s so easy you could have your child sauté onions while you finish preparing other food for a meal.

How to:

  1. Preheat pan
  2. Add sliced or diced onions
  3. Move the onions around the pan for around 5 minutes to caramelize
  4. Deglaze the pan with your liquid of choice
  5. Done! Continue preparing your meal as desired.

Preheat pan

Preheating the pan is an extremely important step to caramelize onions without oil.

If you add the onions to a cold pan, they won’t caramelize. The temperature difference between the cold onions and the hot pan creates the caramelization that you desire. No hot pan, no flavor.

Add onions

Obviously you need onions to caramelize onions! Depending upon the dish, I either dice or slice.

I dice my onions when I just need the flavor from the onions. Diced onions that are caramelized have a delightful flavor. Diced onions are the easy route.

I slice my onions when I want my onions to have a more prominent part in my dish. This role can be either a visual one or a textural one. Sliced onions are often visible in the dishes I make. You can actually see the onions in the finished product.

Additionally, sliced onions can add to the experience of eating dish. Sauteed onions act as small noodles that are slurpable akin to pasta noodles.

Here’s an example of sliced onions in Moroccan Bean Variety:

Caramelize sliced onions without oil and then make Moroccan Bean Variety

Move the onions around the pan

Reminder: the temperature difference between the hot onion and the cold pan creates the caramelization flavor. Moving the onions around the pan creates means more contact between cold onions and hot pan. More contact means more caramelization flavor.


Deglazing is the last step. You don’t want to forget or omit this step. Deglazing is crucial because some of the caramelization flavor is stuck onto the pan.

When you pour liquid into the pan, you’re washing the delicious flavor of the onions off of the pan. The flavor is no longer stuck to the pan. It’s now in your onions and resulting, tasty dish.

I prefer to deglaze the pan with vinegar or a water-vinegar mixture. I enjoy the flavor vinegar brings to dishes. You can add different flavors with different vinegars. Other options include water, vegetable stock and wine.

Happy cooking!

Learn how to caramelize onions without oil. Discover this healthy cooking technique to make delicious low fat foods. Get your nonstick fry pan ready to sauté onions.

  • Updated a couple of years ago
Sara Binde

Sara is a health and nutrition coach. She advocates for a whole foods plant-based lifestyle and teaches the world how to achieve weight loss.