Quick-Browned Sautéed Onions

Recipe for quick browned onions

The Spruce / Julia Estrada 

  • Total: 14 mins
  • Prep: 2 mins
  • Cook: 12 mins
  • Servings: 4 servings
  • Yields: 2 cups
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
45 Calories
0g Fat
11g Carbs
1g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
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.)

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.


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

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for browned onions
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada 
  2. Slice the onions into thin half-moons (or dice, if desired).

    Slice onions
    The Spruce / 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.

    Add butter to pan
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada 
  4. Add the onions. Sprinkle with salt and stir to coat the onions with the butter and to distribute the salt.

    Add onions to the pan
    The Spruce / 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.

    Cook onions
    The Spruce / 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.

    Stir onions until browned and slightly firm
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada 
  7. Add to your recipe and enjoy.

    Browned onions
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada 

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.


  • 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.

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.