Perfect Grilled Onions, Every Single Time!
ICYMI, I totally stan grilled veggies! Charred, smoky-sweet veggies are my absolute favorite thing to grill – it’s both a miracle & one of my deepest joys that grilling season coincides with summer’s abundant harvest. From cauliflower & corn to asparagus & peppers, I can’t think of a single vegetable that isn’t improved by the sizzling of the grill.
& while I’ve never met a grilled vegetable I didn’t like, char-grilled onions are superlative. Out of all the veggies we throw on the grill throughout the summer months, these easy grilled onions are my absolute favorite. In fact, whenever I fire up the grill, there’s a 90% chance that I’ve got onions prepped & ready to go.
The grill brings out the natural sweetness of onions beautifully. With their high sugar content, they get a delightful burnt sugar flavor wherever they get charred, while the rest of their petals become sweetly caramelized. The trick is to cut them so the root ends remain intact, which helps to prevent them from falling apart (or, worse yet, falling through the cracks!).
Plus, these best-ever grilled onions are so versatile – there’s really nothing better than whipping up a platter of grilled onions for burgers, sausages, grilled chicken, & grilled steak. Summer’s little superstars, if you ask me!
Grilled Onion Recipe Highlights
If you’re still on the fence about these grilled alliums, consider this – grilled onions are…
- PRACTICALLY PERFECT IN EVERY WAY. An onion’s natural sugars instantly caramelize when it hits hot grill grates, while the grill helps mellow out any sharp or pungent flavors. The result? Seriously aromatic & subtly sweet goodness, every single time!
- QUICK & EASY. Made with just 4 ingredients & less than 10 minutes of prep, gorgeous grilled onions are always within reach any time you fire up the grill.
- SERIOUSLY VERSATILE. Enjoy them straight off the grates, or use them to pep up a grain bowl, bring dimension to homemade hibachi, make the quickest fajitas, or take burger night to the next level.
Deliciously quick & endlessly versatile – I have a feeling you are going to love this easy grilled onion recipe just as much as we do! ♡ Read on to learn more about How to Make Grilled Onions, or jump straight to the recipe & get grilling!
Key Ingredients for Grilled Onions
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
The shopping list for this perfect grilled onions recipe is pretty darn short – in fact, you probably have everything you need in your kitchen already!
- Onions – I suggest grilling with small- to medium-sized onions. They’re naturally sweeter & more flavorful than larger onions, plus they grill a bit more quickly. Any variety will work, but read the Ingredient Spotlight below for more thoughts on which onions are the cream of the grilling crop!
- Avocado oil – I always have a bottle of avocado oil at the ready when grilling. It’s the perfect neutral oil with a nice, high smoke point. Feel free to swap in grapeseed, vegetable, corn, or even peanut oil.
- Kosher salt & ground black pepper – Simple, simple!
- (Optional!) Fragrant finishing touches – A little drizzle of sweet, syrupy balsamic vinegar is particularly delightful against the shockingly sweet flavor profile of these grilled onions. Fresh herbs are also great! If you opt to add in fresh herbs, fresh basil, oregano, or thyme all pair with onions beautifully. A vibrant fresh herb sauce, like basil pesto or chimichurri, also takes already delicious grilled onions completely over the top!
Craving even more flavor for your grilled veggies? ⇢ Be sure to check out our Go-To Grill Marinades!
What are the Best Onions to Grill?
If you weren’t aware, there are tons of types of onions in the allium family (along with hundreds of other species like garlic, shallots, leeks, chives, & more!). Brightly-hued red onions, sharply flavored white onions, & sweet yellow onions each have a number of different varieties, like Vidalia, Walla Walla, Maui, Texas Supersweets, Spanish onions, Red Beauties, & more!
So, with this vast array of options, what are the best onions for grilling?? ⇢ While I’m a fan of any type of onion on the grill, my faves tend to be the sweeter varieties. If you’re perusing your supermarket aisles, those will tend to be the red & yellow varieties.
Shopping Tip! ⇢ If you get the option to hit your local farmer’s market, ask the vendors for their favorite sweet onions, then taste them side by side. I’m often amazed at the nuanced flavors that particular varieties offer. As a Midwestern gal with Hawaiian roots, Maui onions & Red Wings are a few of my favorites, but I encourage you to find your own grilled onion bliss!
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How To Grill Onions
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
If you’ve ever wondered, “exactly how do you grill onions?”, you’re in the right place. Here’s what you’ll do…
Prep the onions for the grill. Slice the onions into 1/8ths lengthwise (i.e. tip-to-tail), leaving the root end intact. Why? ⇢ This knife work makes the onions much easier to handle on the grill since the root end holds all the layers of the onion intact (compared to rounds or rings, for example). From there, place the onions on a small baking sheet or large plate. Drizzle with oil over top, season with salt & ground black pepper then toss to coat. Simple as that!
Grill the onions. Place the cut side of the onion directly on the grill grates of a grill preheated for medium-high direct heat grilling (about 450-500 degrees F). Grill 7-8 minutes, flipping the onions halfway through. Grilling Tip! ⇢ The easiest way to flip the onions is to grab the root end with the grill tongs & gently turn it. Work carefully, as you don’t want to break off the root – it’s what holds the onion together on the grill!
Serve! You can serve your grilled onions immediately, hot off the grill. Enjoy them on their own, with a splash of balsamic & a sprinkling of fresh herbs, or slice them up for a smoky-sweet add-on for your favorite summer meals.
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How To Use Grilled Onions
Just think about it: onions go into just about everything savory, right? They’re nearly as ubiquitous in the kitchen as olive oil or butter. So it should come as no surprise that a grilled onion is a thing of beauty on pretty much any plate.
Here are a few ideas to get your wheels turning…
- Grilled Vegetable Salad or Grilled Vegetable Platter – Pair your grilled onions with an abundance of grilled veggies & serve with a zippy, herbaceous sauce or dressing.
- Grilled BBQ Chicken Bowls – Pair with spiced BBQ chicken, smoky-sweet grilled sweet potatoes, & greens for the BEST light-yet-hearty summer dinner.
- Chicken Fajita Burritos or Grilled Veggie Burrito Bowls – Pair with hearty beans & creamy green rice!
- Grilled Steak – Create the ultimate summer dinner by pairing with grilled steak & zippy chimichurri sauce…so good!
- Burger Night – Toss your grilled onions atop any sandwich, burger, or wrap, & serve with a side of grilled veggies.
Quick Tips & Tricks
Small- to medium-sized onions work best for a quick & easy grill experience, but you can totally make it work with larger ones too. Of course, how long to grill onions varies based on their size. If you go for a small or medium onion, it should only take 3-4 minutes per side, whereas larger onions will take upwards of 5 minutes per side.
Keep the root end intact for easy flipping. The layers of an onion wrap around each other, & the only thing holding them in place is the root end. Be sure to keep it intact for easy grilling!
If you happen to accidentally lose the root end, don’t worry. Your onion grilling can be salvaged by using foil to contain the pieces. If you’re wondering how to grill an onion in foil, follow the same seasoning procedure outlined above, then wrap the pieces tightly in a foil packet. Grill for 5-6 minutes per side, then open the packet to assess whether or not you want to give them more time. Note: this approach yields softer onions with fewer visible char marks because they steam inside the foil.
To serve, leave the grilled onions on the root or slice them off & cut them into smaller pieces. Dealer’s choice!
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference in how you grill onions on a charcoal grill vs. a gas grill?
So long as your temp is within the range of 450-500 degrees F, there should be no difference in how you approach making grilled onions!
What’s the difference between caramelized onions & grilled onions?
Caramelized onions are an absolute wonder, but they are usually made painstakingly slowly on the stovetop. There’s a lot of stirring & babysitting that takes place, & while the results are 1000% worth the effort, they take 3-4x as long to make as grilled onions. In addition, caramelized onions are usually much softer & jammier than grilled onions because they have been broken down over a longer cooking period.
Grilled onions, on the other hand, usually retain a bit of that al dente bite we’d associate with other grilled veggies.
What’s the best way to cut an onion for grilling?
I personally prefer to cut my onions vertically, from tip to tail, keeping the root ends intact to help with flipping them on the grates. Depending on the size of the onion, I usually cut them into 6-8 pieces (sometimes more if they’re larger).
If you want more proof that cutting onions vertically is the way to go, I’ll leave you to the mad kitchen science skills of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt.
I can’t wait for you to try this Perfect Grilled Onions recipe! Once you master it, you’ll be grilling onions all summer long – I guarantee it! If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations!
Looking for more grilling season inspiration? You’re in the right place! 🙌🏼 Be sure to try our Best-Ever Grilled BBQ Chicken, Perfectly Grilled Buffalo Wings, or Best-Ever Grilled Turkey Burgers next, or check out our A-Z Guide to the Best Grilled Vegetables. ♡ Happy grilling!Print
Perfectly Grilled Onions (How to Grill Onions)
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: serves 2-4 1x
- Category: Side Dish Recipes, Techniques & How-Tos
- Method: Grilling & Smoking
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegan
Learn how to grill onions perfectly this summer with this simple Grilled Onions recipe. It calls for just 4 ingredients & 10 minutes of prep, & results in a pile of impossibly sweet & irresistibly caramelized goodness. A welcome addition to any summer meal – burger night, BBQ bowls, grilled sausage, you name it!
Naturally vegetarian, vegan, & dairy-free.
- 2–3 small or medium onions
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- for serving, as desired: aged balsamic vinegar, fresh basil, fresh oregano, fresh thyme, etc.
- Grilled onions prep: Preheat the grill for medium-high direct heat grilling, about 450-500 degrees F. While the grill preheats, prep the onions. Slice the onion in half lengthwise, leaving both the tip & root end in tact. Peel away the tough outer layers & discard. Slice lengthwise through each half 2-3 more times, taking care to leave the tip & root end in tact, creating 6-8 wedges. Place the sliced onions on a small baking sheet or large plate. Drizzle the oil over top, tossing to coat in the oil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired, tossing again to coat.
- Grill the onions: Place the onions on the grill, cut side facing down. Grill 7-8 minutes, flipping the onions halfway through, until tender & charred as desired. For larger onions, the total cook time may be closer to 10 minutes.
- Serve immediately, with a splash of balsamic & sprinkling of fresh herbs as desired. If serving on a grilled vegetable platter, drizzle with a light & bright herbaceous sauce, like pesto or chimichurri. Grilled onions are also amazing add-ons for any variety of meals, from grilled chicken bowls to the best-ever burgers to grilled pizza. Enjoy!
- Best onions for grilling: If you weren’t aware, there are tons of types of onions in the allium family (along with hundreds of other species like garlic, shallots, leeks, chives, & more!). When it comes to grilled onions, I’m a fan of sweeter onions, which tend to be red & yellow varieties (Walla Walla, Vidalia, Maui Sweet Onions, Red Wings, etc.).
- Storage & Freezing Instructions: Leftover grilled onions will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 1 week.
Keywords: grilled onions, grilled onions recipe, easy grilled onions
Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Eat Love Eat
Ready to Hit the Grill?
If this all still feels new to you, I encourage you to head over to Grilling 101, a compilation of tips & tricks for all of the grilling basics – everything from how to light your grill to how to clean your grill.
All this talk about grilling have you feelin’ ready to hit the grill? Me too! Be sure to check out this post for my 15 go-to marinades you need this grilling season. At our house, a good marinade is at the heart of grilling season. I’m positive these marinades will be on repeat at your house this summer! For even more grilled goodness, be sure to check out all of our Grilling & Smoking recipes.
& lastly! Be sure to give @playswellwithbutter a follow on Instagram – I’ll be teaching you how to grill up some goodness all summer long, & we have so much fun on Instagram!
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