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Charred Onions on the Grill

Tender, sweet charred onions on the grill make a delicious condiment or side dish and are a snap to make using a grill basket. Little effort, big return.

Onions are a pretty traditional topping for burgers, but also delicious in burritos, quesadillas, scrambled eggs, salsas, quinoa or rice dishes. Or as a side for chicken or meat. 

Grilled Charred Onions

You do need a grill basket for these onions because thinly sliced onions would slip through a grill otherwise. I use my non stick basket several times a week to make grill basket veggies. So quick and easy. But don’t despair if you don’t have one. You have options. Read on.

Bottom line – if you’re an onion lover you will love this grilled onion recipe.

The recipe is simple. Just slice the onions, place them in the grill basket, toss with a bit of oil, salt and pepper, then grill slowly on medium low to medium heat. That’s pretty much it. I like to add a pinch of sugar to speed up the caramelization process, but that’s optional. Grill the onions to achieve as much char and tenderness as you like.  

To onion fans: check out our post on Onions: The Bare Essentials. It’s a quick summary on:

  • which onions to use for which purposes
  • how to store onions
  • how to cut them
  • and a cool new onion in town. 

What to serve with charred onions

Charred or grilled onions are a versatile topping, filler or side dish. You will likely have lots of ideas of your own. I love them simply tossed with rice, quinoa or potatoes. 

Here are a few other suggestions for using the onions as a topping, side or condiment for

Good to Know – FAQ

If I don’t have a grill basket, what can I use instead? Option 1: Poke holes in the bottom of a tin foil tray (purchased or shaped from tin foil). Make sure you spray it with oil. Option 2: Use simple cooling rack placed upside down on the grill. Great grill basket hack! Option 3: Thickly slice the onions into 1/2 inch rounds, slide a skewer through each slice to hold them together, then grill each side.

What should I look for when buying a grill basket? Choose a sturdy heavier one that will stand up to high heat. Thinner ones will buckle with high heat. I prefer a non stick finish for easier clean up, but many stainless steel grill baskets will go in the dishwasher. 

How many onions do I need per serving? One large onion will create 1/2-3/4 cup grilled onions. Two large onions should be enough for about 4 people as a side dish or 6 as a condiment.

Tailor To Your Taste

Here are a few variations you can try that will amp up or modify the taste.

  • Toss the charred onions with a tablespoon of BBQ sauce or Balsamic vinegar at the end of grilling.
  • Add additional seasonings such as smoked paprika or chili powder.
  • Toss the grilled onions with chopped fresh or dried herbs such as thyme, oregano or rosemary after grilling.
  • Add a teaspoon of oil or butter at the end.

Other grill basket veggies recipes you might like

Make Ahead 

  • This grilled onion recipe can definitely be made ahead. Either serve them at room temperature or warm the onions for 30-60 seconds in the microwave.
  • I often grill meat or chicken beside them on the gas grill as it’s easy to adjust the grill at different settings if needed.

How to make charred onions on the grill 

sliced onions in grill basket
Slice onions thinly and place in grill basket, sprayed with oil. Toss with salt, pepper and oil. I also add a pinch of sugar to help with caramelization. 
charred onions in grill basket
Grill on low-medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase heat for extra char if you like.
bowl of charred onions beside plate of grilled chicken
Toss with herbs or other suggested option and serve room warm or at room temperature as a topping, filling or condiment. Or as a side for chicken or meat.

charred onions in grill basket p

Grilled Charred Onions in a grill basket f
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5 from 6 votes

Charred Onions on the Grill

Tender, sweet charred onions on the grill make a delicious condiment or side dish and are a snap to make using a grill basket. Little effort, big return. A pretty traditional topping for burgers, but also delicious in burritos, quesadillas, scrambled eggs, salsas, quinoa or rice dishes.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Condiment, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4
Author: Cheryl

Equipment

  • Grill basket (note 1)

Ingredients

  • 2 large onions, Note 2 I use sweet onions and/or red onions
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • pinch sugar (optional) helps caramelize onions

Instructions

  • Heat gas grill to medium high, about 400F/204C. Spray grill basket with oil. (No grill basket? note 1)
  • PREPARE ONIONS: Thinly slice onions about 1/4 inch thick (Note 3). Transfer sliced onions to grill basket sprayed with oil. Drizzle onions with oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and pinch of sugar. Toss to coat onions. Note 4 for optional seasonings.
  • GRILL ONIONS: Lower heat to medium-low on one side of grill. Place grill basket with onions on part with lower heat. Close lid. Stir every 10 minutes for about 30 minutes or until onions are soft with as much char as you like. Increase heat to get more char if you like. Taste and adjust seasonings. (You can grill something else on the other side of the BBQ at the same time.). Serve warm or at room temperature as a side or condiment.

Notes

  1. If you don't have a grill basket, here some options to use instead.
    1. Option 1: Poke holes in the bottom of a tin foil tray (purchased or shaped from tin foil). Make sure you spray it with oil.
    2. Option 2: Use simple cooling rack placed upside down on the grill. Great grill basket hack!
    3. Option 3: Thickly slice the onions, slide a skewer through each slice to hold them together, then grill each side.
  2. Which onions to use: I like red onions or sweet onions like Vidalia or Walla Walla, but also check out our Onions: The Bare Essential article for other options.
  3. How to slice an onion: Cut onion in half from tip to root. Place flat ends on cutting board, peel off skin. Slice each half globe thinly from tip to root. 
  4. Flavor options to try:
    1. Add additional seasonings such as smoked paprika or chili powder.
    2. After grilling:
      • Toss the charred onions with a tablespoon of BBQ sauce or Balsamic vinegar at the end of grilling.
      • Toss the grilled onions with chopped fresh or dried herbs such as thyme, oregano or rosemary after grilling.
      • Add a teaspoon of oil or butter at the end.
  5. Make ahead: Either serve the grilled onions at room temperature or warm them for 30-60 seconds in the microwave. I often grill meat or chicken beside them on the gas grill as it's easy to adjust the grill at different settings if needed.
 
Nutrition values are estimates. 

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Charred Onions on the Grill
Amount Per Serving
Calories 54 Calories from Fat 36
% Daily Value*
Fat 4g6%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 148mg6%
Potassium 80mg2%
Carbohydrates 5g2%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin C 4mg5%
Calcium 13mg1%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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