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What Are the Best Onions for Burgers? It Depends

For many burger enthusiasts, a good burger doesn’t start with the meat. It all starts with the onion. A versatile vegetable, onions bring a vast range of tangy flavors to the palette. They also combine perfectly with beef. It turns out the chemical that makes you cry while slicing also opens your taste buds for meaty flavors. Who knew?

The best onions for burgers are a matter of taste, but yellow onions are the most popular type. They are versatile and work well, whether they are included raw or sautéed. It is recommended that you try a variety of different onions to find out which one you like the best on a burger.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the different options you have when it comes to onions. That way, you can make an informed choice and get on with the grillin’!

Cheese burger top with onions on brioche bun and served with steak fries

Which Onion Is Best for Burgers and Why?

Because tastes differ vastly, there’s no one best onion for your burger. But if you’re craving that tangy topping, here’s a quick run-down of available onion types to choose from:

Yellow Onions

The most common all-purpose onion is the yellow onion. It has a sharp taste when raw, but that mellows considerably when cooked because of its high sugar content. It’s the go-to onion for most major cooking and used primarily in dishes that call for a long cooking time, stews, and meat roasts. Use yellow onions when you want the sweet mellow flavor of a caramelized onion on your burger.

Sweet Onions

Sweet onions have a great mild flavor, so they are a safe option if the onion type isn’t specified in a recipe. They are so mild, excellent eaten raw, and often used for onion rings, onion soup, and any dish that includes onions in a mix of roasted veggies. They slice easily and hold their shape, making them great for grilling or caramelizing. Pair a grilled burger with a grilled slice of sweet onion to double the smoky flavor.

Red Onions

The red onion stands out for its vivid purple skin. It not only adds a bright color to your burger but also a sweeter peppery taste. While the onion grills superbly, it’s most often used raw on a burger. Slap a raw slice on your burger for a great crunch and mild “oniony” flavor.

White Onions

These crisp onions are most found in Mexican dishes because of their sharp taste. Their crunchy texture is perfect for tacos, salsa, and stir-fry. These onions are best diced and sauteed as a burger topping. One neat trick to keeping them together-place the onions between the burger and a slice of cheese.


Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain called the shallot the essential ingredient of great restaurant cooking. Shallots are mild and sweet. Perfect for almost any recipe.

Green Onions / Scallions

Usually not in the mix when talking about onions for a burger, green onions make a great salsa or mixed topping for a garden burger.

Related 4 Ways To Cook Frozen Ground Beef (When in a Hurry).

How Do You Prepare Onion for Burgers?

Sauteed onions and mushrooms on top of a hamburger

What can’t you do with an onion? As it turns out, not much.


Slice, sliver, or dice raw onions as a garnish. Two or three raw onion rings give your burger both a classic look and taste. Reserve an entire slice of onion for the true onion lover. To tone down the bite, submerge raw onion in a cold-water bath for fifteen minutes. Salt or lemon juice adds to the flavor.


A grilled onion, like a grilled burger, requires high heat and a quick cooking time. An onion slice is ready to go in five to fifteen minutes, depending on how crisp you like it. Just remember– the longer you grill, the softer the onion.

Sauté and Caramelize

To add cooked onions to your burger, you can sauté them to doneness or continue to brown them until caramelized. For sauteed onions, throw sliced or diced onions in a pan with cracked pepper and olive oil, then stir continuously. Add garlic towards the end of the process for a little kick. Once the onions turn translucent, you know they are ready.

To properly caramelize onions, you must take it slower and lower. Cooking times can range from forty-five to sixty minutes. The trick is to brown the onion over medium-low heat, not char or burn it. In fact, it’s the sugar coming to the surface and turning into caramel during the cooking process that gives the onion its brown glaze and sweeter taste.

What Kind of Onions Do McDonald’s® Use on Their Hamburgers?

It will come as no surprise that McDonald’s® is exceptionally good at keeping secrets. However, a recent Tik Tok clip by an employee pulled back the curtain. Those little diced onions on your favorite burger? They use dehydrated white onion. Does that mean they are fake? Of course not. If you’re a fan and want those little nuggets on your quarter pounder instead of the slivered white onion, just ask for “sub dehyd” with your next order.

Making Your Selection

What is the best onion for a burger? It depends on what you want.

  • Can you tolerate raw onions? Then choose a tasty red onion.
  • Love the taste of sauteed onions? Add a little white onion to the frying pan.
  • Long for that caramelized taste? Grab a yellow onion and get cooking.
  • Want the best of both worlds? Fry up some onion rings with a sweet Vidalia and stack your burger with flavor.

Any way you slice it, onions sit proudly atop most great burger recipes.

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss 9 Yummy Substitutes for Barbecue Sauce (And Easy DIY Recipe).