Nothing compliments the flavor of a burger as much as a good onion. What exactly are the best onions for burgers? Which ones you will like the most is a matter of personal taste but with the information we provide, you will be able to make an informed decision based on your flavor profile of choice.
Onions are a necessary ingredient for many fabulous dishes and burger recipes are no exception, whether you are choosing ground beef vs ground chuck. Nearly every burger build recipe includes onions of some type. That being said, slicing onions is no fun. If the onions are strong or you aren’t prepared, it can be a recipe for disaster.
Here are a couple of tips to help you cut an onion without tears.
- A cold onion is less likely to bring on the fountain. Chill your onion in the refrigerator before slicing to avoid this nasty chemical reaction.
- Slice your onion quickly. Work as fast as you can safely chop, and minimize your exposure to the onion’s surface as much as possible.
- Blow a fan past your face as you chop the onion to clear away the fumes that are released as you cut the onion skin.
- Wear a mask. You’ll need a fancy one.
- Get someone else to cut your onions. 😀
How to Slice an Onion for Burgers
You have a few different choices.
You can slice an onion into whole slices for rings, cut long pieces, or dice it into small pieces. Diced onions are very trendy. These work great for the Cheeseburger Kebabs.
Rings are a fan favorite, but leave you wanting more when you get to the middle of your burger.
Rings are harder to keep on the burger but make it easier to take a bite. If you’ve ever accidentally pulled out an entire ring of onion with your first bite, you might prefer diced.
However, you might have also picked up a burger full of diced onion only to have it all fall out of the bun. Long slices of onion seem to be a good compromise.
Types of Onions on Burgers
You have all kinds of choices when it comes time to choose. Each type has a different flavor profile and adds something a little unique to your burger. Each of these might be the best onion for your burger, depending on your desired effect.
We’ll give a quick overview of each onion and then break it down into more detail.
A few things to note. Onions soften during the cooking process. The texture listed is for the uncooked version unless the type is specifically a cooked onion. All of these will also be sweeter and milder after they are cooked.
|Type of Onion||Flavor Profile||Texture|
|Yellow Onions||Intense raw, Mild cooked||Moderate|
|White Onions||Mild and sweet||Soft|
|Sweet Onions or Vidalia Onions||Mild and very sweet||Soft|
|French’s Crispy Fried Onions||Mild||Crunchy|
|Grilled Onions||Caramelized||Very Soft|
|Green Onions||Bright and fresh||Crispy|
|Spring Onions||Strong and fresh||Crunchy|
The yellow onion is the hardest to chop without tears and has the most intense “oniony” flavor raw. Cooked, it becomes sweet and mild.
The flavor of any onion gets stronger as it ages but this seems especially true of these. They are also dryer than most other onions. These are also known as “brown onions.”
Adjectives used to describe: intense, strong, dry, complex, firm, crisp, juicy, translucent, astringent, rich, versatile, and common.
How to use these on a burger. This onion is generally considered too intense to use raw but can be grilled, sautéed, or caramelized.
The white onion is a very plain, mild onion variety and very soft whether cooked or uncooked. It is considered one of the mildest onions and is perfect with a huge variety of flavor profiles. They become very sweet and lose all astringency when cooked.
Adjectives used to describe: light, mild, sweet, soft, translucent, fresh, sour, palatable, and versatile.
How to use white onions on a burger. Raw, grilled, sautéed, or caramelized, this onion is very versatile and would be a great choice for the Travis Scot Burger.
If you are looking one with a bite and a slight sweetness, these are the ones you want. You might think the bitter edge is a bad thing, but in fact, it’s exactly what is needed in some recipes.
Red onions cut the richness of aioli, and provide contrast and depth of flavor lacking in other onion choices.
Adjectives used to describe: spicy, bitter, crispy, sharp, eye-watering, pretty, overwhelming, pungent, peppery, and sharp.
How to use red onions on a burger. These onions are the most common raw onion found on a burger, but can also be pickled, grilled, sautéed, or chopped and added to the beef mixture before forming patties. Red onion is the perfect choice for grilled cheeseburger kebabs.
Sweet Onions or Vidalia Onions
When you want to grill, sauté, or caramelize your onions, this would be the onion of choice. Vidalia onions are specifically grown in Vidalia, GA where there is a surprisingly low sulfur content in the soil. This results in an onion that doesn’t have as much pungent flavor as others.
Already naturally sweet, these are amazing cooked low and slow in butter or grilled and also work well chopped up and used raw on your burger. Several other sweet onion varieties exist besides Vidalias.
Be careful: sweet onions cooked too long will turn to mush but this mush begins to resemble onion jam. It’s still delicious if you don’t mind the texture.
Adjectives used to describe: soft, mild, sweet, versatile, large, flat, translucent, buttery, delicious, sugary, and juicy.
How to use on a burger. This onion is exceptional raw or cooked and can be grilled, sautéed, caramelized, or battered and fried for onion rings on your burger. It can also be mixed into the burger meat as in this Smoked Burgers Recipe. These are considered by some to be the best for burgers.
Shallots are very mild comparatively. These tiny veggies aren’t always considered onions, but they have a similar flavor profile and are considered a botanical version.
Shallots are most similar to a red onion but with significantly less of a bite. Cooked shallots are mild and sweet with a deeper flavor than raw. Pickled shallots are a fun and distinctive choice.
Adjectives used to describe: small, crisp, mild, deep, bite, fresh, smooth, sweet, firm, and crunchy.
How to use shallots on a burger: These onions are used fried, pickled, or raw or try them crispy from the air fryer.
Grilled leeks are a huge trend for burgers these days and have a nice mild onion flavor with a little more crunch.
Although leeks will soften if cooked, they stay firm longer. Leeks can be grilled or chopped and sautéed for use on a burger.
Adjectives used to describe: very mild, sweet, unique, limp, fibrous, stringy, strange, versatile, nutritious, dirty, slimy, and expensive.
How to use on a burger. These are grilled or sometimes chopped and mixed into the burger patty for diffused mild onion flavor throughout.
French’s Crispy Fried Onions
When you want salty crunch out of your onions, French-fried onions are the only choice. These tasty morsels are a cross between an onion and a potato chip.
Create a nice contrast with french fried onions stacked on top of other burger toppings. If I was going to pick my favorite hamburger onions, these would be my go-to choice.
French’s Crispy Fried Onions complement most burger recipes beautifully. I’ve even seen crispy fried onions used with raw onions on the same burger.
Tip: French-fried onions are not gluten-free.
Adjectives used to describe: crispy, crunchy, salty, greasy, contrasting, flavorful, gourmet, deep-fried, and savory.
How to use on a burger. These are toasted and added to the burger for crunch, flavor, and texture.
Grilled or Sautéed Onions
Grill or sauté any onion to bring out the natural sweetness and mellow out the flavor. You can cook your onions for a short amount of time for a little more crunch or leave them on low heat for a while to really emphasize that sweetness and soften them up.
The browning of the onion on the grill brings out the natural sugar. The cooking process brings the goodness to your burger without the bite or intensity of raw onion. Nothing matches the sweetness of a grilled onion allowed to caramelize slowly. Just be careful not to overcook your onions lest they become stringy or mushy.
Adjectives used to describe: soft, sweet, stringy, flexible, mushy, delicious, and golden.
How to use on a burger. Add a scoopful of grilled or sautéed onions to your burger straight off the heat.
For a slightly different and mild flavor, green onions will add brightness to your burger. Serve green onions raw. The heat of your burger softens them slightly.
Adjectives used to describe: mild, crunchy, pretty, bright, fresh, stringy, and garnish.
How to use on a burger. These onions are used raw or mixed into the patty.
Spring onions, also known as scallions, have a more pungent and interesting flavor that’s a bit more intense than green onions. Use these interchangeably with green onions when you want a little more bite and flavor. These can be crunchy and a little strong, especially if you include the white parts.
Adjectives used to describe: sharp, bitter, intense, strong, fresh, stringy, and flavorful.
How to use on a burger. Use Spring onions raw or mixed into the patty.
Condiments Made With Onions on Burgers
When you don’t want raw onions or cooked onions on your burger, but you know it could benefit from a touch of onion flavor, try onion-based condiments. The nice thing about condiments such as these is that they also add moisture and bring other flavors to the stack.
|Onion Jam||A delicious and little-known condiment made from caramelized onions cooked down and pureed with sugar and sometimes added ingredients such as garlic.|
|Onion Chutney||Similar to onion jam, this jarred version has the addition of vinegar to give it more of a pickled taste.|
|Salsa||Most fresh salsas include onion as an ingredient and are a great way to add intense flavor without the astringency of a straight raw onion.|
|Relish||This condiment is basically a combination of pickled cucumbers and pickled onions in one jar and adds a flavor punch. We use relish in our homemade burger sauce on frozen burgers for extra flavor.|
One other thing, if you want to build the best burger possible, make sure to read about the best buns for burgers.
Cut whole slices of an onion and then break the onion slices apart to create rings, or dice an onion in the traditional way for small pieces of onion in every bite.
Slice your onions and place whole slices on the hot grill for three to five minutes. Flip once halfway through. Remove your onions from the grill carefully. This results in a sweet, soft ring of onion that still has a little bit of chewiness or crunch but is starting to caramelize on the edges.
The best way to caramelize onions is low and slow in a skillet on the cooktop. You can also grill your onions. The lower your heat and the longer you let those onions cook down, the sweeter flavor you will get.
You have so many great options! Each of the different types of onions has a different flavor profile and will pair differently with your other burger toppings of choice. Use our comparison chart and information about each onion to choose from one of these options: yellow onions, white onions, red onions, sweet or Vidalia onions, shallots, leeks, French’s crispy fried onions, grilled onions, green onions, or spring onions.
Yes, absolutely! The best raw onion for burgers is either a sweet or a red onion.
One slice, one or two rings, or a spoonful of cooked onion is usually sufficient unless you want the onion flavor to be dominant.
The best diced onion for a burger would be red, white, or sweet onion.
Yes! Onions and hamburgers can be cooked at the same time on the grill. Onions won’t take quite as long to cook so plan accordingly.
Yes. Green onions are often chopped up fine and used in the hamburger patty mixture to add mild onion flavor throughout the burger.
Yes. However, once onions are cut the flavor tends to intensify over time and might be off-putting after one or two days. Cut onions can also be frozen to be used later in soups, stews, or omelets. They tend to get mushy once frozen so won’t work in salads or raw form.
Yes. Place your extra cooked onions in a sealed plastic baggy and keep them in the fridge for a few days and reheat them in the skillet with your meat of choice.
Grated onion may be cooked into a sauce or mixed into the raw meat before a patty is formed. It doesn’t work well to put grated onion directly on a burger because it tends to generate too much liquid and create a soggy bun.
No matter which type of onion you choose, your hamburger will always be better with it as a topping. Onion on burger = perfection. Use our analysis of the best onions for burgers to choose an onion that will match and complement the flavor profile of your other burger toppings and the seasoning of your burger.
Which of these best onions for burgers is your favorite? We’d love to read your comments.