Quick-Browned Sautéed Onions

Browned sautéed onion slices in a small bowl

The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada 

Prep: 4 mins
Cook: 12 mins
Total: 16 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Yield: 2 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
84 Calories
6g Fat
8g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 84
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 8%
Saturated Fat 4g 18%
Cholesterol 15mg 5%
Sodium 61mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 4mg 20%
Calcium 18mg 1%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 127mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Browned onions add deep, rich flavor to a variety of dishes, from steaks to soups to sandwiches. While these sautéed onions are deeply browned and very flavorful, they differ from caramelized onions in texture. Here, the onions retain their shape and do not soften completely (as in caramelized) since they aren't cooked as long. This quick-browning approach also retains a stronger onion flavor than caramelized onions, making them great on a patty melt, as a burger topping, and in French onion soup.

Whenever possible, choose yellow onions for this recipe; this variety contains less moisture, so it works best for the quicker cooking method. However, almost any onion can be used, with each variety tasting slightly different when cooked. This recipe cooks fairly quickly and requires just a simple skillet; because it requires frequent stirring, other methods such as an Instant Pot won't work as well.


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"These sautéed onions were excellent, and they were perfect after 12 minutes of cooking time. The dry sherry is a nice touch, depending on how you will be using the onions, but it is not necessary. They taste great with or without it." —Diana Rattray

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A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 2 to 3 large onions (about 1 pound)

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons butter or oil

  • Pinch of kosher salt

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons sherry, preferably dry, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for quick-browned sautéed onion recipe gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada 

  2. Slice the onions into thin half-moons (or dice, if desired).

    Sliced onions in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada 

  3. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the butter or oil.

    If using butter, heat just until the butter stops foaming. For oil, heat until the oil shimmers and flows easily. You want a heavy coating of butter or oil in the pan, so add more if necessary.

    Melted butter slightly foaming in a cast-iron skillet

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada 

  4. Add the onions. Sprinkle with salt and stir to coat the onions with the butter and to distribute the salt.

    Sliced onions added to the cast-iron skillet

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada 

  5. Without stirring, cook the onions for 1 to 2 minutes, until they start to brown. Stir the onions so that more of them are exposed to the pan and let sit for another minute to promote more browning.

    Partially browned onions being stirred with a wooden spoon in a cast-iron skillet

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada 

  6. Stir the onions once or twice more, getting as much browning as possible without burning them. They are done when they're thoroughly browned but still slightly firm, usually in about 10 minutes.

    If using the sherry, deglaze the pan. Scrape up any browned bits from the pan and let the sherry evaporate almost completely.

    Limp browned onions being stirred with a wooden spoon in the skillet

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada 

  7. Add to your recipe and enjoy.

    Browned sautéed onions in a cast-iron skillet
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada 


  • If your onions are high in moisture, choose a large pan and don't crowd the onions. This helps the moisture evaporate quickly so the onions can start to brown right away. It might also be necessary to work in batches.
  • If using oil, make sure it can withstand the high heat sautéing requires. Pure or light olive oil is a better choice than an extra-virgin olive oil, for example. Any cooking oil (e.g., canola, peanut, etc.) with a high smoke point will work.
  • Either cooking sherry or drinking sherry can be used.
  • For a sherry substitute, try rice wine, dry vermouth, Madeira, or dry white wine. When you want to skip the alcohol completely, use apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar, both of which have a mild flavor. Apple or pineapple juices may yield interesting results as well.

How to Store Browned Onions

  • Store the cooked onions in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. Gently reheat in the microwave before using it.
  • To freeze, cool the sautéed onions and store them in freezer bags or small containers for up to three months.

How to Use Sautéed Onions

  • Use them as a burger topping.
  • Serve with steaks.
  • Add to mashed potatoes.
  • Serve with baked, grilled, or sautéed chicken.
  • Homemade onion dip.
  • Sprinkle some over a homemade pizza.
  • Toss them with fresh steamed green beans.
  • Add some to grilled cheese sandwiches.

Should I add sugar to make the onions sweeter?

There's no need to add sugar, since onions are high in sugar. As the onions cook and soften, the sweetness intensifies.

What is the difference between sautéed and caramelized onions?

Sautéed onions are cooked for a short time and retain their shape, while caramelized onions are cooked much longer and become very soft and deep golden brown.

Are browned onions healthy?

As with most vegetables, cooking onion depletes its nutrients; onions are high in sulfur, which has several health benefits, and cooking lowers the sulfur content. Since these browned onions are only cooked for about 10 minutes, however, some of the nutritional value is retained—especially compared to caramelized onions, which are cooked for longer than 30 minutes. Of course, the health factor also depends on the amount of butter or oil used when sautéing.