Grilled onions that come out tender, sweet, and with plenty of delicious caramelization will be your new favorite summer side dish.
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Easy Grilled Onions Recipe
Learn how to grill onions so that they come out perfectly charred and caramelized every time. These will be a huge hit for dinner and can be used in so many ways. You’ll also want to try this easy Grilled Asparagus and Grilled Zucchini.
There is almost nothing I love more than tender, sweet grilled onions. Throw them on top of burgers, add them to salads, use them as a side dish, they are so good. And for people who don’t like raw onions, this is something completely different. When you grill an onion, it loses that sharp bite and gets sweet and delicious. You have to try them.
Now that summer is here, you can be sure that I am outside using the grill at least 3 nights a week. Since we don’t have air conditioning, it’s a great way to avoid heating up our house even more. Plus every time I go outside to grill, you can be sure that I am throwing a couple of onions on the grill as well. They are one the best on the grill and super versatile. Use them for burgers, tacos, sandwiches, salads, and more. These things are amazing.
The other thing I love about grilling onions is that it turns them into almost an entirely different vegetable. While onions can be pungent and bitter and sharp raw, they are sweet and savory when they are given some time to cook and caramelize. All the natural sugars come out and trust me when I say they get sweet. My kids even gobble these right up. And in case you are wondering, reach for Vidalia or Maui onions if you are just starting out. They will give you the most sweetness and the mildest “onion” flavor.
How to Grill Onions
- Prep the onions: You have two options for grilling onions – in rounds or in wedges. For rounds, slice the onion into round pieces about 3/4-1 inch thick. Remove the outer layer carefully. For wedges, cut the onion in half and then into 4 wedges. Remove the outer peel. Personally, I prefer cooking them in rounds since they more tender and caramelized.
- Brush with oil: To ensure the onions caramelize and don’t stick to the grill, brush them with olive oil or another neutral oil.
- Add seasoning: Sprinkle the onions on both sides with any seasoning you like. Go simple with salt and pepper or use something with more flavor like steak seasoning, Cajun seasoning, or Italian seasoning.
- Grill: Place the onions directly on the grill grates and cook for 5-7 minutes per side. They should easily flip. If they stick they aren’t ready to flip yet. A few tips. Onions sometimes fall through the grill grates, so some people like to skewer the onions to make them easier to flip. You can also use a piece of foil laid on the grill or a grill basket, but you won’t get as much char on the outside.
What kind of onion is best for grilling?
Let me start by saying that I think every type of onion out there tastes good on the grill. However, each will have a slightly different flavor. Here’s what to expect.
- White onions: These are the mildest of all the onions and tend to be universally appealing. For even less sharp “onion” flavor, soak the sliced onions in cold water for an hour before grilling them.
- Yellow onions: These onions have the most onion flavor and are something you normally wouldn’t want to eat raw. These are the onions that always make you cry. However, when cooked, these onions get much sweeter and tend to be the most flavorful and “oniony.” These are great for the grill and great for caramelizing.
- Red onions: These onions bring together lots of onion flavor and lots of sweetness. They are awesome of the grill and the texture tends to stand up really well to the heat of the grill. They won’t get mushy.
- Vidalia, Maui, and sweet onions: For the most sweetness, reach for one of these onions with the highest sugar content. They will get caramelized and extra sweet.
My personal favorite for the grill is red onions and sweet onions like the Vidalia and Maui. I love the extra sweetness and caramelization.
Ways to Use Grilled Onions
There are so many different ways to use grilled onions and in our house, 90% of the time, we are eating them right off the grill trying not to burn our fingers with everyone fighting for the almost burnt, caramelized pieces that we all love. However, if you are lucky enough to get some off the grill, here are some great ways to use it.
- These make an awesome side dish on their own and are even better paired with some more grilled veggies like zucchini, green beans, or cauliflower.
- Make these on the side of some burgers or chicken for a delicious sandwich topper.
- Chop the onions up when they come off the grill and add them to salad, pasta salad, or salsa.
- Use leftover onions in scrambles, frittatas, or to top avocado toast for breakfast.
- Grab some grilled onions for a delicious taco topping alongside some Steak Tacos or Grilled Chicken Tacos.
Can I make grilled onions in a pan?
Sometimes there is some confusion since many restaurants use the term grilled onions to actually refer to caramelized onions that are cooked on a griddle. These “grilled onions” are usually sliced onions that are cooked down until they are soft and pliable. They are used to top burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches. If you are looking to make these type of onions, here’s your recipe.
- Cut the onion in half and remove the outside shell. Then cut into thin slices, the thinner the slices, the faster they will cook.
- Add a couple of tablespoons of butter or oil to a heavy bottom skillet over medium-high heat.
- Once hot, add the onions and sprinkle with salt. Turn the heat down to medium. Cook, stirring every 5-10 minutes, for about an hour until they are browned, soft, and caramelized.
- If the onions begin to burn at all, add a couple of tablespoons of water.