Grilled Onions

published May 7, 2023
Grilled Onions Recipe

The best and tastiest way to grill onions all summer long.

Serves4

Prep5 minutes to 10 minutes

Cook10 minutes to 15 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Grilled onions on skewers.
Credit: Kelli Foster

Whenever I’m stuck on ideas for dinner, I reach for an onion (yes, even in the summer). Onions often play an ancillary role when adding depth and flavor to many dishes, but rarely do they get top billing. But onions are a vegetable and can be cooked just as you would any other produce — and in the summertime, they’re perfect for grilling. Grilled onions might not have the celeb status of charred corn on the cob, yet they are among the best side dishes you can make this season. Here, I’ll teach you two ways to cut, grill, and serve onions all summer long. 

What Is the Best Type of Onion for Grilling?

The best types of onions to grill are red and sweet onions because they become sweet, tender, and caramelized over the fire. Don’t fret if you have yellow or white onions on hand — this method works for those onions as well.

With so many varieties of onions at the market, it can be hard to know which one to choose. Luckily, when grilled onions are on the menu, every variety can benefit from a bit of smoky char.

What’s the Best Way to Cut Onions for Grilling?

Cut onions into wedges or rounds for grilling, depending on how you plan to serve them. 

How to Cut Onion Wedges

Halve the onion and remove the peel before cutting each half into quarters. Leave the root end intact when cutting into wedges, so that the layers do not separate and fall through the grill grates. 

How to Cut Onion Rounds

Trim the ends of the onion and remove the peel. While the onion is still whole, insert a row of skewers from root to tip, 1/2- to 3/4-inch apart. Slice between each skewer to form rounds. The skewer will keep the rounds intact on the grill, keeping them from slipping through the grates and allow for easy flipping.

Credit: Kelli Foster

What Is the Difference Between Grilled Onions and Caramelized Onions?

Despite what you may have heard, grilled and caramelized onions are two wildly different things. 

  • Grilled onions are cooked hot and fast over an outdoor grill. These tender onions maintain their shape (either wedges or rounds) well and have prominent grill marks. 
  • Caramelized onions are cooked low and slow in a skillet on the stovetop until the onions are very soft, sweet, and caramel-brown in color.
Credit: Kelli Foster

How to Serve Grilled Onions

Tender, grilled onions are a tasty side dish that you can serve alongside almost any main dish, including a spread of other grilled vegetables. Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy them:

And don’t forget to save space on the grill for onion rounds when serving juicy beef or mushroom burgers this summer. 

Grilled Onions Recipe

The best and tastiest way to grill onions all summer long.

Prep time 5 minutes to 10 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes to 15 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2

    large onions, any kind

  • 8

    (10 to 12-inch) skewers, if grilling onion rounds

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil, plus more for the grill

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat an outdoor grill for medium-high, direct heat (about 400°F).

  2. Option 1: Wedges — Cut 2 large onions in half through the root end, then peel. Cut each half into quarters through the root.

  3. Option 2: Rounds — If using wooden skewers, soak 8 (10 to 12-inch) skewers in water for 30 minutes. Peel and trim the ends from 2 large onions. Insert 4 skewers through each onion: Arrange them in a row from root to tip, spacing them 1/2- to 3/4-inch apart. Slice between the skewers so that you are left with 8 (3/4- to 1-inch-thick) rounds held together with the skewers.

  4. Brush the onions all over with 2 tablespoons olive oil, then season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Scrape the grill grates clean if needed, then rub the grates with a paper towel dipped in olive oil.

  5. Place the onions on the grill in a single layer. Cover and grill until grill marks appear on the bottom, 3 to 4 minutes for wedges and 4 to 6 minutes for rounds. Flip the wedges or rounds, cover, and grill until grill marks appear on the second side and the onions are tender, 3 to 4 minutes more for wedges and 4 to 6 minutes more for rounds.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.