Easy Roasted Cipollini Onions Recipe

A simple method to caramelize small onions or shallots for soups, dips, and more.

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Photograph: Vicky Wasik. Video: Serious Eats Video

Why It Works

  • Cipollini onions are far sweeter than regular onions, making them ideal candidates for caramelization.
  • Cooking the onions slowly allows their natural sugars to break down into sweeter compounds, rather than burning and turning bitter.

I have a deep and abiding love for cipollini onions, the little disk-shaped onions that you used to see only in fancy restaurants, but are now available all over the place. They're far sweeter than regular onions, which makes them ideal candidates for caramelization, and the easiest way to accomplish that caramelization is by using the oven. You can use a similar technique to roast pearl onions and shallots, too.

Roasting cipollini or pearl onions or shallots has the same goals as caramelizing standard onions for soup or dip: The results should be sweet and tender. The toughest part about the whole process is peeling the little guys, especially pearl onions. Blanching them briefly will help with the peeling, and I've found you can use frozen pearl onions in a pinch, too.

The Basics

Start your onions in an oven-safe skillet with butter, then transfer the skillet directly to a moderate (325°F/160°C) oven and roast, tossing occasionally, until the onions are completely tender and caramelized.

The Full Story

Onions are high in sugar, but prone to burning. You want to cook them very slowly so that their sugars break down and form sweeter compounds, all while making sure they don't burn and turn bitter. The easiest way to do this is to start them in a skillet.

A close up of caramelized cipollini onions in a heavy skillet.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

I like to use butter for my onions, though olive oil works fine as well. By starting them in a skillet, then transferring that skillet to the oven, you can very easily toss and flip the onions as they cook, which is important. They get very soft if you're doing it right, so you'll want that easy flip built into the cooking vessel.

A close up of roasted shallots.
Roasted shallots.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Though pearl onions or shallots will work just fine, cipollini are significantly sweeter than either, and thus all the better for caramelizing.

1:16

How to Roast Small Onions and Shallots

December 2013

Recipe Facts

Cook: 35 mins
Active: 10 mins
Total: 35 mins
Serves: 4 to 6 servings

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Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons (55g) unsalted butter

  • 2 pounds (900g) cipollini onions, peeled and trimmed

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Melt butter in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add onions and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to oven and roast, tossing occasionally, until deeply caramelized and tender, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Special Equipment

Large cast iron skillet or oven-safe nonstick skillet

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
134 Calories
8g Fat
15g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 134
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 10%
Saturated Fat 5g 24%
Cholesterol 20mg 7%
Sodium 110mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 6%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 8mg 39%
Calcium 36mg 3%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 253mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)