To say that I am obsessed with caramelized onions is an understatement. It amazes me how you start with one of the most humble ingredients, then add salt, fat, heat and ample cooking time and you are rewarded with rich, sweet caramelized goodness. Combined with fig, goat cheese and fresh rosemary and whoa! What a flavor party! I highly encourage you to make this caramelized onion and fig flatbread at your next soiree…or might I even suggest for an evening in wearing comfies, snuggling and watching movies.
When I studied abroad in London I could not get enough of the smell of onions caramelizing as I’d pass street food vendors. Now when I caramelize onions it takes me straight back to those days rushing to the tube to get to my internship at Estée Lauder as a marketing intern. I love how food has the ability to transport you to another time and place. When I snack on this flatbread, especially during the holidays, I can’t help but daydream about the Christmas lights at Harrods or the festive window displays at Liberty’s.
Making caramelized onions is a labor of love. As I stated above it does take time, as well as some babysitting to make sure that the onions do not burn. Follow these tips to ensure they turn out perfectly every time.
Tips for making the best caramelized onions
Choose the right onions- I have found that I prefer to use sweet onions for their high sugar content and milder flavor. Yellow onions are another good choice as they offer a nice balance of sweetness and flavor. I do not recommend red onions as they have a more pungent flavor that will not mellow and sweeten as with other onions.
Sliced for perfection- The goal is for the onions to cook and caramelize evenly. With that said, slice the onions thin and uniformly. Separate the onions when adding them to the pan.
Use butter and olive oil- I wish I had a better reason other than Ina (Garten) says to do it. I used to spend a lot of time watching her cooking shows and among the many tips I picked up is to use BOTH butter and olive. This combination provides the benefits of olive oil’s high smoke point and butter’s rich flavor.
Choose the right pan- You want to make sure that there is room for the onions to cook, keeping in mind that they will shrink down as they cook. For 3 onions I use a 10 to 12-inch skillet. I do not suggest using a nonstick pan, rather cast iron or stainless steel. They are the better choice as they distribute heat evenly and tend to produce those delicious brown bits that add immense flavor to the caramelization process.
Be patient- You don’t want to rush a good thing. Cook the onions low and slow to avoid burning the onions. Keep an eye on the onions and stir every 5 to 10 minutes. It takes 45 minutes to a full hour to get them deeply brown and jammy. However there are different levels of caramelization so you can be the judge on when to stop cooking. For this recipe the onions cook a total of 30-35 minutes which yields a golden brown caramelization. If you want them richer and jammier, cook an additional 10 to 20 minutes.
What you will need to make caramelized onion and fig flatbread
Onions- Again, sweet onions such as vidalia, Walla Walla or Maui work best. Yellow onions are another fine choice.
Olive oil AND butter- The one-two punch of sautéeing, the oil and butter combo provides a high smoke point combined with buttery flavor.
Flatbread- I used 2 pieces of O’Doughs gluten free flatbread for this recipe to accommodate dietary restrictions. Any flatbread or thin pizza crust will do.
Fig butter- I use the fig butter from Trader Joe’s simply because I love it and the ingredients are simple. You may also find a similar substitute called fig spread at most grocers or specialty markets.
Goat Cheese- You may opt for goat cheese crumbles or a log that you can crumble yourself.
How to make caramelized onion and fig flatbread
Caramelize the onions- First, heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet or cast iron pan over medium heat. Add the onions, separating them as you add them to the skillet. Toss the onions to coat with the oil and butter. Add the salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 8-10 minutes.
Then reduce heat to medium low and cook for another 20-25 minutes until the onions are a darker golden brown.
Add 2-3 tablespoons of water or broth to deglaze the pan, scraping up all of the brown bits.
Assemble the flatbread- For ready-to-use flatbread, spread with the fig jam. Add a layer of caramelized onion and finish with the goat cheese. Alternatively, if using raw, thin pizza dough for the flatbread, first bake according to package directions before adding the toppings.
Bake- Bake the flatbread for 7-8 minutes or until heated through. Turn on the broiler and cook for an additional minute. Garnish with fresh rosemary before serving.
Caramelized Onion and Fig Flatbread
- 3 onions cut into thin half moons slices
- 2 Tbsp grass fed butter or ghee
- pinch of salt
- 2 tsp coconut sugar
- 8-10 oz. flatbread or thin rectangular pizza crust
- ½ cup fig jam
- 2 oz. goat cheese
- Fresh rosemary for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet or cast iron pan over medium heat.
- Add the onions, separating them as you add them to the skillet. Toss the onions to coat with the oil and butter. Add the salt.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 8-10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium low and cook for another 20-25 minutes until the onions are a darker golden brown.
- Add 2-3 tablespoons of water or broth to deglaze the pan, scraping up all of the brown bits.
- For ready-to-use flatbread, spread with a layer of fig jam. Spread the caramelized onions on top and finish with the goat cheese. See note about using raw dough.
- Bake the flatbread for 7-8 minutes or until heated through. Turn on the broiler and cook for an additional minute. Garnish with fresh rosemary before serving.