Recipe Overview

Why you’ll love it: Sautéed onions are an easy and inexpensive enhancement that takes your cooking to the next level.

How long it takes: about 25 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: large skillet
Servings: 8

Sautéed onions in a large black skillet with a wooden spoon.
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You might not make a batch of sautéed onions as a stand-alone side dish like sautéed Brussels sprouts or sautéed cabbage—I mean, unless you really love onions. Think of this recipe as more of an accompaniment, along the lines of marinated tomatoes or Korean pickles.

Add sautéed onions to steak or pork chops and you’ve instantly given it an upgrade—and you only needed one ingredient to do it! (Not counting the oil, salt and pepper since you have those already.)

This recipe can be used with any type of onion and it can be customized in a lot of different ways. I’ll share a few ideas later in this post!

Reasons to Love Sautéed Onions

  • Adds a little extra something to your dinner. I find myself making sautéed onions once or twice a week as an add-on for meats, sandwiches, and even grilled cheese. It gives dishes extra oomph and makes them more filling. Onions add nutrition to your meal, too (one more veggie on your plate!).
  • Sautéed, not caramelized. Yes, we love caramelized onions, but do we always have time for them? Sautéed onions are the next best thing! They’re done in a fraction of the time so they’re practical for a weeknight dinner.
  • Great for using up onions. Sometimes you end up with a whole bag of onions when you only needed one onion for a recipe. (Note to Aldi: Please start selling single onions, thanks!) You can put them to use by making sautéed onions. Pickled red onions are another great way to utilize extra onions.
Sautéed onions on top of a steak on a plate with broccoli.

Ingredient Notes

  • Onions: Vidalia, sweet, yellow, white, red, and any other kind of bulb onion work for this sautéed onion recipe. (Sorry, green onions, we’re saving you for loaded mashed potato casserole!) You can use this recipe to sauté shallots too.
  • Olive Oil or Unsalted Butter: You can use one or the other, or use them both.
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper: I like adding a lot of coarsely ground black pepper for flavor.
  • Balsamic Vinegar: This is optional and very tasty on steak.
Ingredients needed to make sautéed onions, including two large onions.

How to make Sautéed Onions

Prep the onions. Peel the onions (cutting the ends off first can make it easier); then cut them into ¼ -inch thick rings. If you prefer, cut the onion in half before you slice it for half-moon rings (this is safer too, because it gives you a flat surface). Dicing is also an option; they’ll cook faster this way.

Heat the skillet. Warm the olive oil and/or butter in a large skillet set over medium heat.

Cook the onions. Add the onions to the skillet and stir to coat. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper. Cook the onions over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are soft and lightly browned.

Serve. If you’d like to up the flavor with balsamic vinegar, stir it in at the end of the cooking time. Season the onions to taste with more salt and pepper, and serve.

Tips for Success

  • Cut the onions evenly. If you have thicker slices, they’ll still be firm and even a bit crunchy when the rest of the onions are done cooking. A mandoline slicer can help with this but I prefer using a good sharp knife.
  • Lower the heat as needed. If the onions are browning too quickly, reduce the heat to medium-low. You don’t want them to overcook on the outside before they’re softened all the way through. This is the key to good sautéed onions.

Variations

  • Cook longer if you’d like. Want to take these sautéed onions a little bit further? You can cook them as long as you’d like. Keep going and they’ll be jammy and caramelized!
  • Add another vinegar. Sherry vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and red wine vinegar all work too. Each has its own distinct flavor.
  • Increase the flavor with herbs and spices. You can add dried herbs and spices at the beginning of the cooking time or fresh herbs near the end. Rosemary and thyme are always good, smoked paprika is excellent if you’re adding your sautéed onions to burgers, and chili powder is great if you’re making tacos.
Close up of sautéed onions on a wooden spoon.

My Favorite Ways to Use Sautéed Onions

Make Ahead & Storage Tips

I like to make a batch of these sautéed onions and keep them on hand in the fridge to add to meals throughout the week. Refrigerate the onions in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze them for up to 3 months. Reheat in the microwave or in a skillet set over medium heat.

More How-To Recipes

Recipe

Sautéed Onions

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Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Sautéed onions are one of those little kitchen tricks that you can use to jazz up everything from burgers to steaks and salads.
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Ingredients 

  • 2 pounds onions (3 medium or 2 large onions)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter (or preferably, 1 tablespoon of each)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper, more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, optional

Instructions 

  • Peel the onions and thinly slice them (¼-inch thick slices). You can cut them into rings or half-moons, depending on your preference.
    2 pounds onions
  • In a large skillet or pan, heat olive oil and/or unsalted butter over medium heat.
    2 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
  • Add the sliced onions to the skillet. Stir to coat the onions evenly with the oil or butter. Sprinkle salt and black pepper over the onions.
    ½ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste, ¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper, more to taste
  • Cook the onions over medium heat, stirring frequently. Allow them to cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until soft and translucent. If onions are browning too quickly, turn heat to medium-low (cook time may increase slightly if you choose to do this). If you prefer browner onions, increase heat to medium-high and continue to cook until desired color is achieved.
  • If desired, add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar in the last minutes of cooking time.
    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, optional
  • Taste the sautéed onions and adjust the seasoning if needed. You can add more salt or pepper according to your preference.

Notes

  • If you prefer, you can chop or dice the onions. Cook time will decrease slightly.
  • Onion varieties: Any type of onion will work (red, sweet, yellow, or Vidalia). Use what you like best.
  • Serving ideas: Serve these delicious sautéed onions as a versatile topping for burgers, sandwiches, steaks, salads, or as a flavorful side dish.
  • Storage: Cooked onions can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 78kcal, Carbohydrates: 11g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Sodium: 150mg, Potassium: 169mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 3IU, Vitamin C: 8mg, Calcium: 27mg, Iron: 0.3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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