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This sauteed onions recipe comes out golden brown and tender every time! Here’s how to saute onions for a side dish, sandwich topping, and more.

Sauteed onions
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Here’s another in our kitchen basics: and this one is a skill every home cook should know. How to sauté onions! These easy Sauteed Onions are a building block of the kitchen: you can use them on sandwiches, in grilled cheese, in dips, or even as a side dish. They’re tender, golden brown, and make anything more rich and savory: yet they only take 10 minutes to whip up! Here’s all about how to saute onions.

Sauteed onions vs caramelized onions: what’s the difference?

First thing to note: sauteed onions are not caramelized onions. What’s the difference?

  • Sauteed onions are cooked only 10 minutes in the skillet, so they hold their shape. The onion flavor is more pronounced than a caramelized onion.
  • Caramelized onions are cooked for about 40 to 50 minutes over low heat until they completely break down. They are dark brown and have a very soft, mushy texture and intensely sweet flavor.

Looking for caramelized onions instead? Go to Perfect Caramelized Onions.

Sauteed onions recipe

How to saute onions

Caramelized onions are great and all: but most of the time, we don’t have 40 to 50 minutes to spare! That’s where these sauteed onions come in. You can use them as a side dish or a sandwich component, and they only take 10 minutes to cook. Here’s what to know about sauteed onions:

  • Use butter for best flavor, but olive oil works too. There’s something about the rich savory flavor of butter. But olive oil is nearly as good!
  • Keep the heat on medium high. Don’t go higher or the onions will burn before they’re tender!
  • Cook until browned and tender, about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it and taste test at the end. You may find you want to go a little longer: that’s ok too.

How to cut onions: a primer!

If you asked us one of the top skills for any home cook, we’d say: “how to cut an onion!” Yes, onions are required in so many great recipes that it’s almost impossible to get anywhere without this building block skill. For this sauteed onions recipe, we like to cut the onions in a style called French cut. This makes lovely sliver shapes of the onions, which looks more attractive than the long strings you get when you cut the other way. Here’s how to cut an onion…the best way:

  • Slice off the ends, then cut in half: Once the ends are removed, stand the onion on its flat cut side and cut it down the center.
  • Remove the paper. With your fingers, remove the paper and outer layer of the onion.
  • Cut following the curve of the onion. Place the onion on its flat side then cut slices following the curve of the onion, from the tip to the root. Want to see? Go to minute 1:40 of this How to Cut an Onion video.

Optional adder: balsamic vinegar!

Want to jazz up your sauteed onions? Add a hint of balsamic vinegar! When you are about 5 minutes into the saute, add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. It will evaporate for the rest of the cooking, but leave behind a tangy, sweet essence to the sauteed onions. It’s one of our favorite treats!

Speaking of, you can also add a splash of red wine to onions while you’re cooking them! It infuses a bit of complexity into the flavor as well.

Ways to serve sauteed onions

OK, you’ve got your sauteed onions: now how to serve them? There are endless ideas of ways to use sauteed onions: and we’d love to hear yours! Tell us in the comments below. Here are a few of our top ways to enjoy them:

What else would you use them for? Let us know in the comments below. Or, keep reading for a few variations…

How to saute onions

Variations on sauteed onions

Onions are fantastic at playing second fiddle. In fact, they’re one of the best supporting characters in all of your pantry ingredients! There are a few ways we love to combine sauteed onions with other veggies. Here’s what to try:

  • Sauteed mushrooms and onions: Dare we say, these are even better than plain onions! These mushrooms and onions make a killer side to steak or vegan dishes.
  • Sauteed peppers and onions: Bell peppers are even sweeter with onions along for the ride. Try these sauteed peppers and onions.

This sauteed onions recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

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Sauteed onions

Simple Sauteed Onions

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5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings as a side 1x


This sauteed onions recipe comes out golden brown and tender every time! Here’s how to saute onions for a side dish, sandwich topping, and more.


  • 3 medium yellow onions (or sweet onions)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter (or 1 tablespoon of each)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Optional adder: Add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar with the kosher salt


  1. Slice the onions
  2. In a large sauté pan or skillet, heat the olive oil or butter over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and cook another 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste to assess doneness and add a few pinches or salt until the flavor pops. 
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Sauteed
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

More with onions

Love onions, or got some to use up? Here are more tasty onion recipes:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Randy Mcgeehan says:

    I like to add liquid smoke to mine it gives them that nice Smokey flavor for topping steak and burgers just be careful not to add to much just a couple drops does the trick.

  2. Robin says:

    I sauté onion, bell pepper, celery and green onion in butter and add to my cornbread dressing before cooking! Great flavor!

  3. Marsha Marlowe says:

    Thx for the onion cutting video — very helpful! Also, really like the sauteed onion option, good flavor with less time–thank you!

  4. David Houston says:

    I cook them in butter and serve them on hamburgers. I cook the burgers with a season similar to Fudruckers. I add real bacon bits and melt cheese over it all. Add your tomatoes if desired. Eat em up.

    1. Randy Storc says:

      Came here just to kill time while my onions sautee and share my favorite dish pairings. (Sautéing in butter is a must. I suggest Kerry Gold Salted Butter, the best around!!)

      Sautéed onions are amazing on top of homemade Mac n Cheese as well as pierogies!!! (The onions I’m sautéing right now are to top with pierogies! Don’t forget the sour cream on top too!!)

      P.S. If your pierogies aren’t filled with cabbage and onions, you’re doing it wrong #PolishDeliciousness