Grilled Onions

The best burger bar includes not just grilled hamburgers but also grilled onions — their sweet smokey bite makes them the ultimate burger topping.

The best ever grilled onions piled on a purple rimmed platter.
Mike Lang

Invariably, a well-thought-out burger bar will include an endless arrangement of toppings, including onions.

Grilled onions only take a few minutes of preparation and are a delicious pairing for your patties. The grill turns these onions into the perfect match for a well-seasoned burger and fresh bun.

Onion rings are incredibly easy to grill and are transformed from its usual astringent self to something sweet and smokey. The change is so profound, I have friends who will only eat grilled onions, greatly preferring them over their raw state.

The Best Onions for Grilling

My favorite onions to grill are sweet onions, especially Vidalia. They are large and when grilled get, well, sweeter. Win-win.

Readily abundant yellow onions are also a solid choice. Grilled red onions are in my opinion better raw but are still transformed under the heat of the grill to a sweeter less astringent version of themselves.

The best ever grilled onions piled on a purple rimmed platter.
Mike Lang

Tips and Tricks for Grilling Onions

While grilling onions is easy if you don’t keep a few things in mind it can be a challenge. You know, rings and all. Here are a few tips and tricks on how you successfully grill onions:

  • Grill the onions next to the hamburgers. They’ll need 8-10 minutes on the grill which means you’ll be able to plate them and add them to your burger bar before the patties finish.
  • Make sure you cut the onion rounds into 1/2 inches thick rings. The thick slices allow the onion to take on more heat on the grill.
  • Use skewers to grill the onions! The skewers keep the onion slices together. There is nothing worse than chasing a vegetable across the grill grates, or worse, down them.
  • Skewers can either be round or flat. I prefer flat, as their elongated shape keeps whatever is on the skewer from rotating. If you only have round skewers, use two. Place two round skewers through an onion slice, offset by an inch or two, keeps the onion perfectly flat, making for effortless flipping on the grill grate.
  • A lot of people say to soak wooden skewers, but I don't worry if they burn a little bit. The skewer within the onion will not, and that's what keeps the onion together. If the ends burn off, it is nothing to worry about.
Easy grilled onions on skewers set on a wooden board.
Mike Lang

How to Grill Onions

On the grill, the onions need approximately eight minutes to grill over direct medium-heat, 350°F to 450°F. Flip them once. The onions should have grill marks but should not burn.

While onions take mostly direct heat, it is always a good idea to setup a 2-zone fire with both direct and indirect heat in case they need a safe zone to continue to cook. On a gas grill leave one burner off and on a charcoal grill, be sure to leave an area without any lit briquettes.

With the onions sliced and skewered, lightly brush them with extra-virgin olive oil and season generously with kosher salt. If you want to add an extra kick, sprinkle the onions with some ground cayenne or ancho chili powder.

If the grill is too hot, move the onions to the area of indirect heat to allow them to continue to cook outside of flaming coals. If parts of the onion have blackened, remove them. Those pieces are bitter and not worth eating, the remaining onion will be sweet and add a bit of texture to your burger.

Taking the extra time to grill your onions will transform your burger, trust me.

More Recipes to Top Your Burger

Grilled Onions

Prep Time 5 mins
Grill Time 10 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Servings 6 servings
Yield 2 grilled onions

This recipe requires special equipment, 16 wooden skewers.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sweet onions
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, sprinkled across the onions

Method

  1. Cut onions:

    Cut onions into 1/2 inch-thick rings. Keeping the rings together.

  2. Skewer onions:

    Skewer onion slices with two skewers, making sure the skewers are spaced about one inch apart. I like to keep the onion slices flat on the cutting board and then eye their center mass, as I push the skewer horizontally through.

    Skewered sliced onions on a baking sheet for a grilled onions recipe.
    Mike Lang
  3. Brush onions with olive oil and season:

    Brush each onion slice with olive oil and season evenly with salt.

  4. Prepare the grill:

    Prepare the grill for direct medium heat, 350°F to 450°F.

  5. Grill the onions:

    Grill the onions over direct heat until blackened and seared by the grates approximately 8 to 10 minutes, flipping once halfway through cooking.

    Onions on a grill to show how to grill onions.
    Mike Lang
  6. Serve:

    Carefully remove the onion rings from the skewers and serve.

    The best ever grilled onions piled on a purple rimmed platter.
    Mike Lang