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A flavorful, vegetarian, caramelized onion risotto recipe that does justice to each of its ingredients. It’s creamy, soft, and balanced.
a bowl of caramelized onion risotto

Risotto has a place in the cookbook of many chefs and home cooks worldwide for one simple reason: with the proper technique and simple ingredients you can create a masterpiece. This Caramelized Onion Risotto recipe provides you with an exquisite dish that every home cook should make at least once.

caramelized onion risotto

Ready to drool and impress even the most demanding critics? This recipe is armed and ready to stimulate your taste buds to infinity! If you have never cooked risotto or feel like you have questions on how to make this caramelized onion risotto recipe, let us explain some of the science behind risotto.

Arborio Rice Recipe or Carnaroli Rice

Carnaroli is the best type of rice, the most authentic rice, you can use for risotto. According to many Italian chefs. However, Arborio is the most common one. If you can find Carnaroli, please do use it. It’s better. If not, use Arborio, and don’t feel bad about it. Just as good.

Can You Use Normal Rice for Risotto?

No! It’s a different starch! The common types of rice used for risotto share a few common qualities that make them ideal for the task. The amount of starch in its constitution is the most important for the final product. Such starch is present on regular rice but in insufficient amounts to give the preparation its texture. This starch separates itself from the grain, and mixes with the broth, thickening it. We aim to meet that consistency and density when preparing risotto.

Flavor Adds and Substitutes

  • Add herbs like rosemary or thyme
  • Swap mushroom for asparagus or sundried tomatoes. 
  • If you want to add a sweet touch to your dish, you can use sweet corn
  • Toasted artichoke can help you get an extra crunchy texture to your risotto

All these go well with the caramelized onion. Remember not to swap the caramelized onion as this is the main flavor maker.

How to Make Caramelized Onions

Step 1:

Slice the Onions. Slice the onion first lengthwise and then in half-moon slices. Create even slices for a consistent result.

Step 2:

Add the Onions in a Heated Pan. Heat the olive oil in the pan and then add the onions in batches. To avoid overcrowding only add a new batch once the first one has softened and shrunk in size. Stir to coat them with oil.

Step 3:

Once all the onions are added, add the salt and stir. Then add the butter and stir again. According to the famous chef Roy Choi, you don’t season your onions immediately. Wait until they start breaking down to season them so they can absorb the salt and butter better.

Step 4:

Cook the onion for about 45 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir. Add a splash of water to remove the bits from the bottom of the pan. Don’t stir too much but don’t let the onions burn either.

Tip: Make the caramelized onions beforehand and store them in the fridge. And, check out this blog post for detailed instructions on how to make perfect caramelized onions.

Frequently Asked Questions for Caramelized Onion Risotto Recipe

Should you put cream in risotto?

No. It is like diminishing the authenticity of the dish. We get it, you want to achieve that creamy consistency. But follow our recipe above and with no-cheating, you’ll get to that smooth texture.

Do you cook risotto with the lid on or off?

Off. For the traditional method you have to stir constantly and make sure to gradually let the liquid get absorbed by the rice.

How do you fix dried risotto?

“Oh no! My risotto is too dry, is it ruined forever?” Not exactly. It is normal to panic when seeing your dusty risotto die in front of your own eyes. With a little butter and water added to a pan, stir softly and patiently wait till fully cooked or achieved the desired consistency. Pro-tip: You can use wine instead of water for additional flavor!

Why is my risotto rice still hard?

One of the worst feelings ever? Hard-rock rice when eating risotto, a dish that is known for its creamy and soft texture. There are three possible reasons why your risotto rice is hard: You didn’t toast the rice properly, the heat was too high, and the liquid absorbed too fast, or you didn’t add the right amount of liquid from the beginning. Watch out for any of these three, and you will master the NO- hard-rock rice challenge!

a bowl of caramelized onion risotto

Caramelized Onion Risotto Recipe

A flavorful, vegetarian, caramelized onion risotto recipe that does justice to each of its ingredients. It’s creamy, soft, and balanced.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 20 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 people


Caramelized Onions

  • ¾ lb (330 gr) yellow onions (peeled (about 2 large onions))
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • Water


  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic ( chopped)
  • 1 cup (300 gr) arborio/carnaroli rice
  • ½ cup (120 ml) dry white wine
  • 1½ cups (354 ml) vegetable stock
  • 2¾ cups (210 gr) mushroom (brushed, stem off, sliced)
  • 1¼ cup (125 gr) Parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper (to taste)


Caramelized Onion

  • First, slice the onions in half, lengthwise. Then slice the onions evenly in thin half-moon slices. Slices of about ⅛ inch (3 mm).
  • Heat the oil in a pan over low heat and add the onions gradually without overcrowding the pan. Add them in small batches, if necessary, by letting one batch soften first before adding the next one. Stir to coat them in oil.
  • Once all the onions are softened, season them with salt and add the butter. Stir again. Cook the onions on low heat. Stir only when necessary using a wooden spatula to prevent the onions from burning. Add a splash of water to scrape down the pieces stuck on the pan. Keep cooking the onions and scraping the pan for about 45 minutes until the onions are deep golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.


  • On medium-low, heat 1 tbsp of olive in the same pan as the onions. Add the mushrooms and toss around until the mushrooms are soft and slightly browned. Season with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl and set aside.


  • Add 1 tbsp. of olive oil to the same pan. Add the chopped garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the arborio/carnaroli rice and cook until toasted and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the white wine then stir to combine. Gradually add in the stock while the rice cooks at a medium simmer, pausing until each portion of the liquid has been absorbed before adding more. This process shouldn’t take more than 20-25 minutes. Once the risotto is done, add the mushrooms, caramelized onions, parmesan cheese, and stir. Season with salt and pepper and grate some fresh parmesan on top.


Tip: Make the caramelized onions the day before to cut on cooking time.
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