Caramelized Onion Burgers

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Introducing summer’s perfect burger: Caramelized Onion Burgers! Cook naturally sweet Vidalia onions low & slow until they're sticky-sweet & golden, then fold the caramelized onions into beef burger patties. Grill each caramelized onion burger to juicy & smoky perfection, & serve on a brioche bun with cheese, Dijonnaise, & any other burger toppings you love! An easy-yet-elevated dinner to enjoy all summer & beyond!

Meal prep-friendlymake-ahead tips included!

Easy-Yet-Elevated Backyard Burgers – Sweet, Savory & Smoky!

There’s something about the sweetness of richly caramelized onions that makes any meal extra delicious & fancy-feeling. This caramelized onion burger recipe is the perfect example! Here, the simple addition of sweet caramelized onions takes the humble summer burger to new levels.

It all starts with Vidalia onions, which come into season just in time for summer grilling. The natural sugars & exceptional flavor of Vidalias make them an obvious choice for caramelized onion burgers. As they slowly & gently cook, the onions soften & darken until they’re irresistibly caramelly.

From there, the gorgeous caramelized onions elevate simple beef burger patties. While our beloved French onion burger recipe piles caramelized onions on top of the cooked burgers, this recipe takes it to another level by folding the caramelized onions right into the burger patties so you get a little in every single bite. Simply cook the caramelized onion burgers on the grill until they’re juicy & smoky, then enjoy with your fave toppings & sides – the perfect summer meal!

Caramelized Onion Burger Recipe Highlights

You are going to love grilling up a burger with caramelized onions! It’s…

SUMMERY PERFECTION. This caramelized onion burger recipe uses naturally sweet & seasonal Vidalia onions, which arrive just in time for spring & summer recipes. They’re the perfect ingredient for grilling season!

SMOKY SWEET. Fold richly sweet caramelized onions into savory burgers seasoned with Dijon & Worcestershire sauce, then cook on the grill until juicy & smoky with glorious grill marks. An easy-yet-elevated dinner to enjoy all summer long!

MEAL PREP-FRIENDLY. Save tons of time by caramelizing your onions in advance, or assemble the caramelized onion burger patties so they’re good to go whenever you want to fire up the grill. You can’t rush this recipe, but a little prep ahead of time makes a world of difference at dinnertime!

Burgers don’t get more glamorous than that! 💃🏻🕺🏻 ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make Caramelized Onion Burgers, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!

Key Ingredients

The 2 main components of this recipe, caramelized onions & beef burger patties, come together using just a few staple ingredients.

Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

You need…

  • Vidalia onions – The best onion for caramelizing! This naturally sweet onion makes a special appearance during the spring & summer, just in time for grilling season. Learn more in the Ingredient Spotlight, below!
  • Dry sherry – A nod to Julia Child’s & Ina Garten’s iconic recipes, this Spanish fortified wine enhances the flavor of caramelized onions, giving them the perfect finishing touch. You’ll use it to deglaze the caramelized onion pan & add tons more brightness & flavor. If you do not have sherry on hand, a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar works in a pinch!
  • Ground beef – 85% lean is my go-to for burgers. Rather than grabbing the pre-packaged stuff off the shelf, buy burger meat straight from the butcher section of the grocery store to ensure it’s as fresh as possible.
  • Flavor boostersWorcestershire sauce is my secret weapon for adding TONS of depth & umami to any recipe. A little Dijon mustard adds brightness to balance all the richness of rich beef & caramelized onions. Plus a punch of garlic powder for extra aromatic flavor. Simple!
  • Burger fixings – We love serving caramelized onion burgers with buttery brioche buns, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, Dijonnaise, & a sprinkle of fresh thyme, but use whatever burger toppings you love most!
Ingredient Spotlight

Vidalia Onions

All varieties of onions (red onions, yellow onions, shallots, etc.) have natural sugars for caramelizing. The Vidalia, however, is a sweet onion with exceptional flavor – ideal for making any caramelized onion recipe!

Vidalia onions are hand-planted & harvested in just 20 counties in Southern Georgia, & available across the US & in most of Canada. As a result, they’re only available during the spring & summer months (about April – early September). They’re definitely worth grabbing while you can, especially if you’re prepping caramelized onions for burgers, Cheesy French Onion Meatballs, or French Onion Chicken! We love how their distinct flavor & naturally higher sugar content gives an impressive sweet finish. Simply the best!

How to Caramelize Onions

Caramelizing onions is a delicate process that requires low & slow heat to extract the onion’s natural sugars. This takes quite a bit of time to cook – you can’t rush this part! – but the jammy, caramelly, savory-sweet result is well worth it.

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

Caramelized Onion Science, Tips, & Tricks 🤓

If you’re interested in food science, caramelized onion chemistry is pretty cool! 👩🏻‍🔬 Cooking onions releases a bit of their natural moisture, which causes them to soften, but low & steady heat transforms the sucrose within the onion’s cells into simpler, smaller sugars (glucose & fructose) that make them taste even sweeter. The result? The best jammy caramelized onions with rich & savory-sweet flavor.

What kind of onion is best for caramelizing? ⇢ All onions contain natural sugars, but extra-sweet varieties like Vidalia onions ensure a full-flavored result. Slice the onions into uniform, thin pieces for best results. Doing so creates more surface area, giving the onions more contact with the pan so they caramelize faster.

How long does it take onions to caramelize? While caramelizing onions takes a little bit of time, it’s a mostly hands-off process. True epicureans caramelize onions for up to 90 minutes! This caramelized onion burger recipe nearly gets there, cooking the onions for about 1 hour total. Using thinly cut & naturally sweet Vidalia onions helps the process move along.

How to Make Caramelized Onions for Burgers

Caramelized onions are the star of these homemade burgers! Here’s how you prepare them…

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

1

Soften the onions. Cook the onions in butter for about 15 minutes, which allows them to soften & get a little color. Once they’re nice & softened, season the onions well with salt. Why? ⇢ Salt draws out an onion’s natural moisture, which slows down the caramelization process if added too early.

2

Caramelize the onions. Continue cooking for 30-45 minutes longer, until the onions are richly caramelized. You can’t rush this step! Why? ⇢ Low & slow heat is the key to perfectly caramelized onions for burgers. Be patient here. Burnt onions are not caramelized onions!

3

Deglaze the pan. Once the onions are richly browned & caramelized, slowly pour dry sherry into the pan to deglaze, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon as you do. Why? ⇢ Deglazing helps capture all of the flavorful browned bits that developed on the bottom of the pan as the onions caramelized (i.e. fond). The jammy onions also soak up the bright sherry flavor, which helps balance the beautifully caramelized onions.

Meal Prep Tip!

Caramelizing onions admittedly takes a lot of time, so feel free to get this part done ahead of time. You never want to feel rushed in this step! Make the caramelized onions in advance – they’ll keep for up to 1 week in the fridge. When you’re ready to get grilling at dinnertime, simply fold them into the burgers & light the grill. Easy!

A Savory Sweet Burger with Caramelized Onions

You’ll quickly make up all that time spent caramelizing onions with these simple beef burger patties. It couldn’t be easier.

To make the burger patties, simply combine ground beef with caramelized onions, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, & garlic powder, using your hands to mix & form 4 burgers. Simple as that!

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

A few burger tips & tricks to keep in mind…

  • Work delicately. Overmixing leads to tough burgers, so use your hands to mix until just combined & work carefully as you do.
  • Size matters. Press your patties so they’re slightly larger than the size of your bun. Burgers contract a little as they cook!
  • Press a small indent into the center of each patty to prevent them from swelling up on the grill.
  • Chill before you grill. Place the burger patties on a small baking sheet & pop them in the freezer while the grill preheats. This helps the burgers bind together, making them easier to handle & helping them cook evenly on the grill.
  • & lastly, don’t overcook them! Overcooking always results in dry, crumbly burgers – sad! Once the grill is nice & hot, grease the grates & cook the burgers, covered & untouched, for 3-5 minutes per side. They’re perfect every time.

Serving Suggestions

We love serving these caramelized onion burgers on a soft & pillowy brioche hamburger buns with plenty of classic summer fixings.

A few caramelized onion burger topping ideas…

  • Dijonnaise – An easy-meets-fancy, French-inspired burger sauce that pairs perfectly with caramelized onion burgers. Simply mix a little mayonnaise with a little Dijon mustard – that’s it! Feel free to add some garlic for aioli vibes or a dash of your favorite spice blend for a little extra je ne sais quai!
  • Cheese – Your choice! We love using sharp cheddar, but slices of Swiss or gouda are also great. Melt a slice on each patty in the last 2 minutes of grilling until it’s nice & gooey.
  • Extra caramelized Vidalia onions, of course! If you still have some in the pan, scrape them up & add a spoonful on top of your burger. Don’t let any Vidalia onions go to waste!
  • …or whatever you love most! Classic burger toppings like lettuce, arugula, tomato, ketchup, & mustard are always fantastic.

Hosting a backyard gathering? ⇢ Enjoy a burger with caramelized onions alongside classic cookout sides like Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad, Grilled Veggies, & a summery salad. Easy!

I can’t wait for you to try this Caramelized Vidalia Onion Burger recipe! These burgers are so juicy, sweet, & smoky – we seriously cannot get enough of them! They’re an easy way to make summer burger nights even better (who knew that was even possible?!).

If you do give it a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!

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Caramelized Onion Burgers

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4
  • Category: Sandwiches & Burgers, Main Dishes, Beef Recipes
  • Method: Grilling & Smoking
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

There’s something about the sweetness of richly caramelized onions that makes any meal extra delicious & fancy-feeling. A caramelized onion burger is the perfect example – the simple addition of caramelized Vidalia onions takes a humble summer burger to gourmet heights, & it couldn’t be easier!

You’ll start by caramelizing the onions. This “low & slow” process cannot be rushed, but using an extra-sweet variety, like Vidalia onions, & slicing them really thinly helps speed things along. Be sure to check out the blog post, above, for lots more tips, tricks, & even make-ahead guidance.

To make the caramelized onion burger patties, simply mix the onions into ground beef with a few other flavor-boosting ingredients & dinner’s well on its way! We love cooking these burgers on the grill, but feel free to use a flat top or a cast iron skillet on your stovetop – whatever works best for you. 

As far as serving goes, we always pop ’em on a buttery-soft brioche burger bun & serve with classic burger fixings. For an extra special touch, whip up a little tangy-creamy Dijonnaise (details in the Recipe Notes, below!), which balances the savory-sweetness of these burgers beautifully. ♡ Enjoy! 


Ingredients

Scale

for the caramelized onion burgers:

  • 1 pound 85% lean ground beef
  • caramelized onions, below
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
  • for serving, as desired: toasted brioche buns, cheese of choice, lettuce, tomato, mustard, ketchup, Dijonnaise (see Recipe Notes), etc.

for the caramelized onions:

  • 2 pounds Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • kosher salt, to season
  • ½ cup dry sherry (see Recipe Notes, below)

Instructions

  1. Soften the Vidalia onions: Add the butter to a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid over medium heat (I use a 5-qt Dutch oven). Once melted, add the sliced Vidalia onions, stirring to coat. Cover the pot. Cook 12-15 minutes, until softened & fragrant. The onions shouldn’t require too much attention at this point, but feel free to uncover & stir occasionally.
  2. Caramelize the Vidalia onions: Once softened, uncover the pot & reduce heat to medium-low. Season the onions with 2 teaspoons kosher salt, stirring to combine. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, fragrant, & deeply browned, 30-45 minutes more. Helpful hints: Be sure to adjust heat as needed to allow the onions to caramelize slowly & prevent burning. The closer the onions get to reaching caramelization, the more often you will want to stir to promote even browning & prevent burning.
  3. Deglaze: Once the onions are caramelized, deglaze the skillet. Slowly pour in the dry sherry, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits formed on the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high to bring the wine to a simmer, then simmer 2-3 minutes or until reduced. Remove from the heat & set aside in a small bowl to cool slightly for caramelized onion burger assembly or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  4. Mix & form the caramelized onion burger patties: To a large mixing bowl, add the ground beef, caramelized Vidalia onions, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, & garlic powder. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Use your hands to mix until just combined – overworking the blue cheese burger mixture will lead to tough burgers, so take care not to overmix. Divide the burger mixture into 4 even portions. Form each portion into a burger patty slightly larger than the size of your buns, pressing a small indent in the center of each patty to prevent the burgers from swelling on the grill. Place the caramelized onion burger patties on a plate or a small baking sheet & set aside for grilling.
  5. Grill the caramelized onion burgers. Preheat the grill to medium heat, about 450-500 degrees F. Just before placing the burgers on the grill, generously oil a wad of paper towels. Use grilling tongs to run the oiled paper towels over the grill grates, generously oiling the grates. Place the burgers directly on the grill grates. Grill 3-5 minutes per side, keeping the grill lid closed as the burgers cook. If you’d like to top your caramelized onion burgers with cheese, do so when there are 2 minutes left of grilling time. Once cooked to desired doneness (3 minutes per side yields medium doneness on our grill), transfer the burgers to a small baking sheet or plate & let rest for a couple minutes before serving.
  6. Serve caramelized onion burgers as desired, on toasted buns with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, & whatever burger toppers you love most. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Ingredient Notes:
    • Vidalia onions are a super special sweet onion variety harvested exclusively in 20 counties in South Georgia. While all onions have some natural sweetness, a Vidalia onion’s abundance of sugars makes them a fantastic choice for caramelizing. Look for Vidalia onions in the produce section at your grocery store during spring & summer months (from about April to early September).
    • Sherry is a Spanish fortified wine, meaning it is a wine that is “fortified” with a distilled spirit, most often fortified with brandy. While sherry ranges in style, you will want to use dry sherry (often labeled “Fine” or “fino“) for this recipe. Dry sherry is often used in French onion soup (just take a look at Julia Childs’ & Ina Garten’s iconic recipes!), as its nutty flavor complements the nuttiness of gruyère cheese & its crispness helps cut through the rich flavor of the caramelly onions. You should be able to find dry sherry easily in the fortified wine section at your favorite wine or liquor shop. Sherry substitutes. ⇢ If you cannot find dry sherry, you can substitute with dry vermouth or dry, unoaked white wine for this recipe. If you prefer not to cook with alcohol, substitute with an equal amount of beef stock with a splash of apple cider vinegar whisked into it.
    • Dijonnaise: My favorite burger sauce for caramelized onion burgers is dijonnaise, which is essentially a Dijon mustard aioli. To make, simply combine ⅓ cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 1 clove garlic. Season to taste & mix to combine well.  Set aside for burger assembly, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Alternate Cooking Method: Stovetop Caramelized Onion Burgers: If you do not have access to an outdoor grill, you can also cook these caramelized onion burgers on the stovetop using a grill pan or a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the caramelized onion burgers, working in batches as needed to avoid overcrowding the pan, & cook according to Step 5 of Recipe Directions, above.
  • Meal Prep: While there’s a few components involved in this caramelized onion burger recipe, you can easily cut down on active prep time at dinnertime by prepping one or two in advance:
    • Caramelize the onions according to Steps 1-3 of Recipe Directions, above. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. (20 minutes active prep)
    • Prep & form the caramelized onion burger patties according to Step 4 of Recipe Directions, above. Transfer the formed patties to an airtight container, separating them with a piece of wax or parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. When you’d like to make dinner, simply preheat the grill & get cooking – easy! (10 minutes active prep)

Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, & Pinterest for more easy, modern recipes & fun!

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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