Grilled Onion Salad

A grilled onion salad. Why not? Grilled onions can be just as good chilled as hot, especially when you let them marinate in an herb dressing. The grilling produces all sorts of caramelized goodness in the onions, taming their bite and bringing out their natural sweetness. An herby dressing acts like a marinade, further softening the onions, and infusing them with flavor. The best thing? The salad lasts for days, and actually improves with age, as the dressing soaks into the onions. So, it’s a great party make-ahead salad.

We used a rosemary vinaigrette with this grilled onion salad, but you could use a basil vinaigrette or even a store-bought salad dressing.

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Grilled Onion Salad Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

We use red onions for this recipe, but any sweet onion will work. If you do not have access to a grill, you have a couple of choices. You can brown the onions in a cast iron pan on high heat, and then lower the heat to low, and cover the pan and cook until the onions are cooked through. Or you can broil the onions a few minutes on each side, then cover with foil and cook in a 300°F oven until softened.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds medium red onions
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tbsp minced rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 Tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Method

1 Peel the onions, then cut in half from root to top. Slice the halves into thick wedges, making sure to keep some of the root end attached; this will help keep the onion wedges from completely falling apart on the grill.

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2 Coat the onions in the 2 tablespoons olive oil and some salt. Prepare your grill for high, direct heat. Grill the onion wedges on each side until you get nice grill marks, about 3-5 minutes per side, depending on how hot your grill is. After you've achieved grill marks on the second side of each onion wedge, turn the grill down to medium-low (or move some of the coals away from the grill grate), cover and roast for 15-20 minutes to soften the centers of the onions.

4 While the onions are cooking, make the dressing. Put the mustard, minced shallot, garlic, salt, rosemary, and vinegar in the bowl of a blender, and purée for several seconds. With the blender on a low speed, drizzle in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified.

5 Once the onions are cooked, remove the onions from the grill and slice off and discard any tough little root ends, and any outer skins that have become too dried out by the grill.

6 Toss the onions with the dressing and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving. The salad improves with time, as the dressing flavors blend and penetrate the onions. Great to make ahead. Will last several days chilled.

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Links:
Beet and Onion Salad - from The Perfect Pantry
Potato and Cippolini Onion Salad - from Fearless Kitchen
Grilled Sweet Onion and Tomato Salad - from Laura Rebecca's Kitchen


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19 Comments

  1. Garrett

    This was a delicious little treat to have for lunch, Elise. Excellent job. =)

  2. Katrina

    This looks super yummy! Great recipe!

  3. Jerry (CbsoP)

    This looks pretty amazing. I don’t think I would have thought of it on my own, but now that I’ve seen it, I’m going to have to try it.

    I wonder though, what would the onions taste like if they were pickled after being grilled?

  4. Arundel

    This looks great! I was never a fan of raw onions, and I used to be a little wary of grilling them, but my husband loves them. We’ve wrapped them in heavy foil and let them cook in the coals, and he loves them on kebabs, but I find they just twirl on the skewers.

    We just got a wire grilling basket with a closed top and a long handle that makes it easy to grill things like onions that fall apart easily. You can toss them around and get them thoroughly charred without losing them into the coals. This sounds like a great salad to go with the classic shish-kebabs with lamb and tomatoes, pita and tzatziki that we’re having tonight.

  5. Val from PA

    Yum!!! I adore cooked/grilled onions and you’re right – they’re good hot or cold… Never thought about making a salad with them. Will have to add that to the bucket list!

  6. Granny Smith

    To Arundel whose onions twirl around on the skewers: I have found that to be a problem with many vegetables, mushrooms, etc. My trick is to use two skewers for each kebab, at least 1/2 inch apart, and use them together – sort of like using 2 tines of a fork. Nothing twirls and you’ve got a lot more control when turning over the kebab.

    It takes a bit of practice, especially keeping the skewers very parallel as you push them into the food, otherwise they spread or start pointing inward when you have to do the rest of the meat and veggies. But it’s worth it – no more losing vegetables down the grates or burning one side while the other side stays raw.

    Another thing I do is, I put the meat on separate skewers from the veggies, and then I serve each person one serving of each, the meat and the vegetables. Not as charming as having them all on one, but everything is more evenly cooked.

    It’s probably how I’ll grill these onions. It seems like it would be tricky to get each and every one of the chunks flipped over without messing them up or losing some between the grates.

  7. Bethany

    This is totally inspiring! I always feel that the person who discovered cooking onions is a genius, since they are such tear jerkers when raw. I’m going to try this with mint and cucumber for lunches this week. :)

  8. Sara

    I sure could have used this recipe when I was pregnant. I was totally craving grilled onions, but I never thought to have salad with onion as the star!

  9. Ally

    This looks really good. The herbs are a great addition. I have grilled onions and marinated them in balsamic vinegar. They are great on a sandwich. I will add herbs next time I make this.

  10. tobias kocht!

    great simple salad. I am sure it is very aromatic.

  11. Hillbilly Willy

    Willy loves grilled onions – anyway you want to cook them.

    10-4 Willy

  12. Rocky Mountain Woman

    I had a burger the other day with a grilled red onion jam on it…

    Oh my it was good! This looks like it would be just wonderful on a burger!!!!

    lovely…

    xxoo,

    RMW

  13. Sues

    Seriously, why not?! There’s nothing more perfect than a grilled onion and these would be just perfect as a side with a nice juicy burger ;)

  14. Kay

    Hey, this sounded like a great dish to take to my church covered dish on Monday (the Fourth). I went out and spent all that money buying ingredients for the dressing and then re-read the article. You mention that one could use bottled dressing!! What kind of bottled would you recommend? I’m curious. I didn’t have any garlic, shallots, rosemary or olive oil (GASP!)on hand, so this homemade dressing is kind of expensive for me!

    Currently unemployed and counting pennies (but I’m usually somewhat frugal anyway). Anyway, I’m looking forward to trying it out, but would like to know your recommendation for storebought dressing for this.

    An Italian dressing would work fine, as would a vinaigrette. ~Elise

  15. Don C

    Looks good!! We take a whole peeled onion, a bit of olive oil, wrap it in foil and throw it on the campfire coals for a bit.. great camp food!!

  16. Kathleen

    I just made this, using your recipe for basil vinaigrette. It tastes great and looks inviting. I am serving it this evening with potato salad and hamburgers for our July 4th. dinner. Thank you for the recipe.

  17. melissa littrell

    i do red onions in a bowl with a bit of butter, cover tightly, and microwave for about 8 minutes(may vary) then open and you now have a red onion gravy. You can eat it alone or over mashed potatoes, or steak, etc… the possibilities are endless. Add a bit of worshteshire sauce and it makes them taste grilled.

  18. KimH

    Yummmm… We grill large slices of grilled red onion with a little bit of olive oil and/or Italian dressing on it… too divine!

  19. Cecilia Gunther

    Absolutely loved this onion dressing and you are so right about it being better the next day.

    I always hit your site first when I pick something new from the gardens.. and you always have something yummy to try.

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