Everyone knows that a good burger is incomplete without the savory allium flavor of onions, but what is the best onion for burgers? This humble root vegetable can be prepared in many ways to add depth to any dish instantly.
However, there are hundreds of varieties of onions out there. And each variety is capable of imparting a uniquely delicious umami flavor to your beef patty.
When it comes to onions, most burger lovers are interested in two things only texture and taste. If these two conditions are met, we will likely forgive even the sloppiest presentations. (Because aren’t they the most delicious?)
Out of all the different types of onions to exist, the culinary world (of hamburger eaters) has acknowledged 8 types as the best onions for burgers.
Let’s find out which varieties of onions you need to achieve a perfect combination of crunchy, soft, savory, sweet, pungent, and even mild flavors. We’ll also explore how to prepare onions in ways that will take our burger to the next level.
The 8 Best Onions for Burgers (Ranked by Flavor Profile)
Onions are great sources of vitamin c, folate, vitamin B6 and potassium. They also contain quercetin, which is a potent flavonoid that prevents inflammation. It also lowers cholesterol levels within the body.
In addition to the wonderful health benefits onions provide, their role as a food seasoning is unmatched in the culinary world. Especially for us burger lovers!
Here are the best onions to pair with burgers and the best ways to prepare them:
Yellow, White and Red Onions
Yellow, white, and red onions are the three most common species of onions. These types of onions appear to be very dense on the outside, yet they are approximately 1.7% fiber, 9% carbohydrates, and 89% water.
Out of the three, yellow onions, also known as ‘brown onions’, are the most widely available type of cooking onion. They have a yellow/brown papery skin, and are highly durable. Yellow onions last up to six weeks if stored in your pantry and around two months if refrigerated.
They have the highest sulphur content out of all the existing varieties of onions. As a result, raw yellow onions are more pungent in taste and aroma. However, when cooked, they become slightly sweet and mild in flavor.
How to Prepare: The best ways to prepare yellow onions for burgers are to caramelize, sauté, and roast them. Yellow onions are usually considered as too pungent and intense to be used raw.
White onions are very similar to yellow onions in terms of size and shape. They have white papery skin and are much milder in flavor when compared to the yellow onion. White onions also have a crunchier texture than the yellow onion.
The best ways to prepare white onions for burgers are to fry, sauté, caramelize, and grill them. White onions can also be used raw.
Red onions, also commonly referred to as ‘purple onions’, are considerably milder in taste than yellow and white onions. This makes them ideal for recipes that require raw onion, such as salads and of course, burgers!
How to Prepare: The best ways to prepare red onions for burgers are to pickle, sauté, and grill them. Red onions are one of the most ideal types of onion to be eaten raw on burgers.
Scallions and Spring Onions
Scallions, also known as green onions, are simply red, white, or yellow onions that have been harvested early. As a result of this, they are much milder in flavor. Scallions have long, green, leafy stalks with a small bulb at the bottom.
Spring onions are just scallions that have been allowed to mature a bit longer. Spring onions have a bigger bulb than scallions and are also a bit sweeter. Typically, ripe onions are picked during the summer season. Spring onions are picked during the spring season when the onions are not fully ripe.
How to Prepare: The best ways to prepare scallions and spring onions for burgers are to braise, roast, grill, or pickle them.
Sweet onions, also known as ‘Vidalia onions’ or ‘Walla Walla,’ are quite similar to yellow onions, but they are generally a bit larger. As the name suggests, sweet onions are naturally sweet due to their low sulfur and higher water content.
How to Prepare: The best ways to prepare sweet onions for burgers are to caramelize, grill, sauté, and fry them. Sweet onions hold the number one spot as the best type of onion that can be paired raw with burgers.
Shallots have many similarities with the red onion but are much milder. Some people describe them as having a very mild garlic-type taste as well.
How to Prepare: The best ways to prepare shallots for burgers are to pickle, fry or add them in a delicious salsa. Shallots can also be used raw due to their mild properties.
Leeks look very similar to scallions but are much larger in size. Unlike scallions, the green, leafy stalks of leeks are largely inedible. It is for this reason that leeks are never eaten raw.
However, when cooked, they have a mild and sweet onion flavor with a slightly crunchy texture.
How to Prepare: The best ways to prepare leeks for burgers are to roast, sauté, fry, grill or braise them.
How to Cook the best onions for burgers
|Type of Onion||Flavor Profile||Preparation|
|Yellow Onion||strongest onion taste, intense||caramelize, sauté, or roast|
|White Onion||more mild than yellow onions||fry, sauté, caramelize, or grill|
|Red Onion||strong taste, sweeter when cooked||pickle, sauté, or grill (can also use raw)|
|Scallions||mild onion flavor||braise, roast, grill, or pickle|
|Spring Onions||mild onion flavor, sweeter than scallions||braise, roast, grill, or pickle|
|Sweet Onions (aka Vidalia)||sweet onion flavor||caramelize, grill, sauté, or fry|
|Shallots||mild, have a slight garlic taste||pickle, fry or add them to salsa|
|Leaks||very mild, also sweet||roast, sauté, fry, grill or braise|
6 Toppings for Burgers That Are Made with Onions
If you have the right toppings for your burger, you don’t need to rely on the default condiments: ketchup and mayo. Here are 3 onion-based toppings that give you all the flavor you need for an amazing burger experience!
Pickled onions are a great way to add a sweet and sour dimension to your burger. Using red onions for the brine will give this topping a pop of pink color that can do wonders for your burger presentation!
These Chipotle fajita veggies are a perfect addition to the top of any burger. They’re so good, however, you’ll be eating them plain!
Bacon onion jam will greatly up your burger or cheeseburger game. There are also a ton of additional uses for this condiment, from incorporating it into an appetizer to using it as a base for salad dressing.
This pepper jelly recipe is quick and easy and uses diced scallions. No canning is necessary! Make it hot or make it mild. Sweet and savory.
Adding onion rings to your burger is a great way to get a slight crunch, while enjoying the onions’ sweetness and tenderness on the inside.
Perhaps you thought you knew all there was to know about burger toppings. Enter celebrity chef Shannen Tune and his insanely flavorful onion sauce recipe. This topping is an instant classic and will be in high demand at your next barbecue or cookout.
4 Mouthwatering Burger Recipes with Onion
Kick your bland turkey burger up a notch with a flavorful teriyaki glaze and grilled sweet pineapple. Add grilled red onions for an extra kick.
Experience the delightfully sweet and smoky taste of caramelized onions and smoked paprika on your ground beef patty. The added garlic guarantees a moist and tender burger that will leave a lasting first impression.
This complex burger recipe offers the signature flavor of French Onion Soup infused in a juicy beef patty. It features a toasted hamburger bun topped with gruyere cheese and caramelized onions. Needless to say, with every bite you’ll come to realize that it’s definitely not your average burger.
This sinfully delicious ‘smash style’ burger, topped with a mountain of charred white or yellow onions, is simply in a league of its own. The Oklahoma burger, also known as the depression burger, is so flavorful that no condiments are needed. It is also one of the most authentic burger experiences out there (converting people into burger lovers by the dozens).
- 2 onion Vidalia
- 2 tbs unsalted butter
- Start by peeling your onions and then cut them into thin slices. The slices should be about 1/8-inch thick for the best texture.
- Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the butter and allow it to melt completely.
- Add the sliced onions to the frying pan, spreading them out evenly over the surface of the pan.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the onions cook, stirring them occasionally. This slow, gentle cooking process will help the onions release their natural sugars.
- Continue to cook the onions for about 30-40 minutes, stirring them every few minutes. The goal is to get them to a rich, golden brown color. Be patient, as rushing this process can lead to burned onions.
- Once the onions have caramelized to your liking, season them with a pinch of salt and stir once more to combine.
- Remove the onions from the heat and let them cool slightly before adding them to your burger.
Best Onions for Burgers FAQs
What type of onion is best for burgers?
There are several types of onions that pair well with burgers, each bringing its unique flavor profile. If you’re after a milder, slightly sweet taste, red onions are a popular choice. They can be served raw, grilled, or caramelized. Yellow or white onions also work great if you plan on cooking them down to bring out their natural sweetness. If you want a strong and pungent flavor that stands up to the rich taste of the meat, raw white onions can be an excellent choice. Ultimately, the best onion for your burger comes down to personal preference and the specific flavor profile you’re aiming for.
Is sweet onion or yellow onion better for a burger?
Both sweet and yellow onions can be fantastic on a burger, depending on your personal taste and how you’re preparing them. Sweet onions, like Vidalia or Walla Walla, have a milder flavor and a natural sweetness that shines when they’re caramelized or grilled, making them a great addition if you prefer a sweeter, softer onion taste. Yellow onions have a more potent flavor that becomes sweet and savory when cooked, which can complement the rich taste of the burger nicely. If you’re using the onions raw, sweet onions might be a better choice as they are less pungent. Ultimately, it’s about finding the right balance for your palate!
What are hamburger onions?
“Hamburger onions” typically refers to the way the onions are prepared for a hamburger. These onions can be raw or cooked depending on personal preference. Raw onions provide a pungent, sharp flavor and a crunchy texture, often red or white onions are used in this way. Cooked onions, on the other hand, are usually sautéed or caramelized to bring out a sweet, savory flavor. Yellow or sweet onions are often chosen for this preparation. The term “hamburger onions” doesn’t denote a specific type of onion, but rather describes their usage in the context of a hamburger.
Do you put raw or caramelized onions on a burger?
The choice between raw or caramelized onions on a burger depends on your personal taste preference. Raw onions provide a sharp, crisp bite that can contrast nicely with the rich, juicy flavors of the burger. They are typically thinly sliced or diced.
Caramelized onions, on the other hand, offer a sweet, savory depth of flavor. The process of caramelizing onions draws out their natural sugars and enhances their sweetness, creating a delightful contrast with the savory components of a burger.
Both are excellent choices and can add different layers of flavor to your burger, so it comes down to what flavor profile you’re in the mood for. You could even try a combination of both for a more complex flavor experience.
Have questions or suggestions about the best onion for burgers? Leave them in the comments below.