From the article: How to Cook Onions in Slate
In truth, the best time to caramelize onions is yesterday. Often enough, you need to have them ready before you can start on the rest of the dish. Thus the recipe-writers’ impulse to deceive. Browning onions is slow work, and it comes first. So get a pan going after dinner, and they’ll be ready when you need them. Or throw the onions in a crock pot and go to bed. In recipe time, that’s hours and hours. In your time, the time that matters, it’s less than five minutes.
I don’t have much to add to Tom Scocca’s article “How to Cook Onions” other than emphatic agreement. On a daily basis I try to convince myself that the onions in a given dish are caramelized. More likely though, the brown tint is from the just added cumin or coriander powder. If you read about a 30 minute meal it certainly sparks you’re interest so the motivation to fudge is understandable. I cannot think of a single exception where a recipe said to brown onions more than 10 minutes with the average probably being 5 minutes. Thank you Slate for validating that recipes take a lot longer than they usually indicate.