Quick-Browned Sautéed Onions

Bowl of sautéed onions on a black napkin
The Spruce
  • Total: 14 mins
  • Prep: 2 mins
  • Cook: 12 mins
  • Yield: 2 cups (4 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
45 Calories
0g Fat
11g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2 cups (4 servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 45
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 79mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 11g 4%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Protein 1g
Calcium 26mg 2%
*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.)

While these sautéed onions are deeply browned and very flavorful, they differ from caramelized onions in texture. The onions retain their shape and do not soften completely because they aren't cooked as long. This quick-browning approach also retains a stronger onion flavor, which you may prefer for sandwiches or on top of steaks or chops. They're great on a patty melt and in French onion soup.

Whenever possible, choose yellow onions for this recipe. The variety contains less moisture, so it works best for the quicker cooking method. The recipe can be used with almost any onion, and it's interesting how each variety tastes when quick-browned.


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  • 2 to 3 large onions (about 1 pound)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons butter or oil
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Optional: 2 to 3 tablespoons sherry (dry; highly recommended)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

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

  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.

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

  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.

  6. Stir the onions once or twice more, getting as much browning as possible without burning them. When they're thoroughly browned but still slightly firm (usually about 10 minutes), deglaze the pan with the sherry, if using.

  7. Scrape up any browned bits from the pan and let the sherry evaporate almost completely.

  8. Serve on top of food and enjoy.


  • 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.
  • When selecting an oil, make sure it can withstand the high heat sautéeing 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 one that's made for drinking 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, try apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar, both of which have a mild flavor. Apple or pineapple juices may yield interesting results as well.