Every fall, my favorite stand at our local farmers market has these enormous, super-sweet onions called candy onions. You could not ask for a better onion for caramelizing. They release tons of juice while cooking, so they don’t require much butter, and almost taste more like a fruit than an allium.
I wanted to create a salad that showcased these juicy onions, so I combined some of my favorite local flavors for this caramelized onion salad. With pears, hazelnuts and blue cheese, this salad is almost like a cheese board on a bed of greens.
Choosing your ingredients
I went with a local blue cheese, but any creamy blue cheese should work great. Shoutout to Rogue Creamery for the cheese, whose Rogue River Blue was recently named the world’s best cheese by a panel of cheese connoisseurs in Italy.
For the pears, Anjou, Barlett, Bosc or Asian all work beautifully for this caramelized onion salad. Just be sure to buy them several days in advance to allow them to ripen.
Oregon is famous for its hazelnuts, but walnuts would work fine if you can’t find any. Bitter and peppery greens stand up well against the sweet onions and creamy cheese. Any mix with arugula or mizuna would work nicely.
Serving the caramelized onion salad
I made a red wine vinaigrette with honey and mustard to bring everything together. You could eat this caramelized onion salad as your main meal, or as a side dish with a steak or a stew. I could definitely see this salad making an appearance at the Thanksgiving table.
This caramelized onion salad is not quick, but it’s worth it. You only have to stir the onions once in a while, so you can easily do other things while they cook. And you could always caramelize the onions ahead of time and make the rest of the salad the next day.
Caramelized Onion Salad with Pears and Blue Cheese
For the salad
- 2 tablespoons butter, more as needed
- 2 large sweet onions, cut in half and sliced thin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
- 1 pound fresh ripe pears, sliced thin
- 1 cup dry roasted hazelnuts* roughly chopped
- 8-10 ounces salad mix
For the dressing
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup + 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Melt butter over medium-low in large saucepan. Turn heat up to medium and add onions and cook, stirring initially to ensure onions are coated in butter. After 10 minutes, add salt. Cook about 30-40 more minutes (or more if onions are particularly juicy), stirring occasionally, until caramelized and deep golden brown. If onions are browning too quickly or start to stick to the pan, add more butter. You can also reduce the heat slightly.
- While onions are cooking, make the dressing. Combine all dressing ingredients in bowl or mason jar and whisk or shake until emulsified.
- Assemble the salad by topping the greens with hazelnuts, pears and cheese.
- As onions begin to caramelize, scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Taste the onions and add more salt if desired. Once onions are a nice deep golden-brown, remove from heat and place in bowl to cool. You should have about 1 cup of onions.
- Once somewhat cooled, add onions to salad and serve with dressing.
Looking for more fun fall salads? Try my butternut squash salad, my bacon apple kale salad or my artichoke, beet and chèvre salad. Enjoy!