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11 Best Onions for Burgers + Cooking Styles

Not many foods go together as well as a juicy cheeseburger and a crunchy, fresh, and flavorful onion. But which onions are the best for burgers? The short answer is: it depends! This article covers the best onions for burgers and how to cook them.

An open-faced burger with red onion on it. Text overlaid on the image reads "best onions for burgers: 11 types of onion to try on your next burgers + cooking methods."

When choosing the best burger toppings, onions are usually at the top of everyone’s list. They’re crunchy and flavorful, and they add the perfect contrast to a juicy, meaty burger patty.

And while some may claim to know the single best onion for any burger, I think it all comes down to preference.

There are many considerations, from the specific flavor of the onion to the method you use to cook it. For instance, red onions are fantastic raw or fried, but they don’t necessarily make the best onion rings.

So, if you want to choose the best onion for your next burger, keep reading to find out everything you need to know.

>> Need a deliciously healthy burger recipe? Try these Air Fryer Turkey Burgers or these Turkey Smash Burgers.

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11 Best Onions for Burgers (Types)

Not all varieties of onions are created equal. Some pack a sharp, punchy onion flavor, while others are on the sweet and mild side. Some are crispy and firm, while others are more delicate and herb-like.

This section will cover 11 different varieties of onions you can try on your next burger.

Type of OnionFlavor/TextureHow to Use
Yellow OnionsPungent, CrunchySautéed or Caramelized
White OnionsStrong Onion Flavor, Crunchy, CrispOnion Rings or Condiments
Sweet OnionsMild, Sweet, CrunchyCaramelized or Roasted
Red OnionsMild Onion Flavor, CrunchyRaw or Pickled
ShallotsMild, Slightly SweetRaw, Fried, or Compound Butter
Pearl OnionsMild, SweetRoasted or Aioli
CipolliniSlightly Sweet, Mild Onion FlavorRoasted or Aioli
ScallionsMild Flavor, Tender Green Tops, Crunchy White BottomsRaw, Sautéed, or Mixed into Burger Meat
Spring OnionsMild Onion Flavor, DelicateGrilled, Pickled, or Raw
LeeksSlightly Sweet, Mild Onion FlavorBraised, Grilled, or Roasted
ChivesHerby, Mild, Delicate, TenderCondiments or Mixed into Burger Meat

1. Yellow (Brown) Onions

A pile of yellow onions on a grocery store shelf.

Yellow onions, also known as brown onions or all-purpose onions, are one of the most common types of onions.

Used often in cooking, yellow onions are pungent when raw, but become sweeter and more mellow once cooked.

As the name suggests, all-purpose yellow onions are a great place to start when trying to decide which onion is best to top your burger with. They work well as the base for a variety of different cooking methods, especially sautéing, frying, or caramelizing.

However, I do not recommend using yellow onions raw as their flavor can be overwhelming.

How to Use on a Burger: Grilled, sautéed, fried, caramelized, roasted, or onion rings

2. White Onions

Several white onions at the grocery store.

The boldest onions of the bunch, white onions are very pungent with a strong onion flavor. They’re also nice and crunchy in texture, which makes them some of the best onions for burgers.

Because of their sharp taste when raw, it’s best to use white onions cooked. White onions are ideal for frying. They are also excellent for turning into onion rings because they hold their texture well.

Alternatively, add diced white onion to guacamole or salsa to mellow out their intense flavor. These condiments are also delicious on a burger.

How to Use on a Burger: Fried, sautéed, onion rings, or in condiments such as salsa or guacamole

3. Sweet Onions

A bunch of sweet onions at the grocery store.

As the name suggests, sweet onions are on the sweeter side of the onion flavor spectrum. Common varieties include Walla Walla, Maui, and Vidalia, but they’re often just sold as “sweet” onions at the grocery store.

These onions are perfect for cooking methods that bring out their natural sweetness such as caramelizing and roasting. They’re also a good choice if you want to make onion jam.

Basically, use sweet onions when you want your burger to have a sweet element to it.

How to Use On a Burger: Caramelized, roasted, fried, grilled, onion jam, or onion rings

4. Red Onions

A pile of red onions at the grocery store.

Commonly used raw in salads and sandwiches, red onions have a mild flavor profile. They are identifiable by their reddish-purple skin, which stands out amongst other types of onions at the grocery store.

Since they are so mild in flavor, red onions are one of the best onions for burgers.

In fact, raw red onions are my preferred onion for these Turkey Smash Burgers. Red onions are also fantastic pickled or grilled.

How to Use on a Burger: Raw, pickled, grilled, or onion chutney

5. Shallots

A bunch of shallots.
Image by Suanpa from Pixabay

Shallots are smaller, more elongated onions that grow in clusters. They have bulbs similar to a head of garlic.

These small, purple-colored onions tend to have a mild, slightly sweet flavor.

They are often used in vinaigrettes and are good for eating raw. Shallots are also fabulous when roasted, fried, pickled, or even used in compound butter.

How to Use on a Burger: Raw, fried, caramelized, pickled, or in compound butter

6. Pearl Onions

A bunch of pearl onions.
Image by Brett Hondow from Pixabay

One of the tiniest onions on this list, pearl onions look just like regular-sized onions. However, they only grow to be about 1 ½ inches in diameter.

Pearl onions are much milder and sweeter than their larger counterparts.

Not your typical burger topping, pearl onions are best when roasted whole. After roasting, you can dice them up to make a delicious roasted pearl onion aioli for your burger. How fancy!

How to Use on a Burger: Roasted or in a condiment such as an aioli

7. Cipollini Onions

Small, donut-shaped onions, cipollini are a type of yellow onion. They’re extra sweet and delicious when roasted whole because they caramelize so well.

Like pearl onions, cipollini onions are not your typical burger-topping onion. They may be better suited for an aioli.

How to Use on a Burger: Roasted or in a condiment such as an aioli

8. Scallions (Green Onions)

Many bunches of green onions on a grocery store shelf.

Scallions, also known as green onions, are delicate and leafier in texture. They’re dark green and hollow throughout the top half, becoming white and more onion-like towards the bottom.

Green onions are typically used in Asian dishes like stir-fries and scallion pancakes, where they add a mild onion flavor.

While scallions are tasty on top of a burger, they’re even better mixed into the burger meat with a little teriyaki sauce and garlic. Yum!

How to Use on a Burger: Raw, sautéed, or mixed into the ground meat with other seasonings

9. Spring Onions

Six spring onions laid out on a butcher block countertop.

Similar to green onions in appearance, spring onions are just common storage onions (yellow, white, and red) that have been harvested early. Harvesting the onions early means they end up with a milder flavor compared to their mature counterpart.

Spring onions have a bit of a bite when eaten raw, but become sweet and tender once cooked.

These seasonal onions are delicious when lightly charred on the grill. They also work well raw or pickled.

How to Use on a Burger: Grilled, pickled, or raw

10. Leeks

Several leeks on a grocery store shelf.

Available seasonally from late fall through early spring, leeks have been bred to survive the winter months. They look like large scallions, but their green leaves are woody and inedible.

Leeks are very mild in flavor with a notable sweetness.

Since they’re so fibrous, leeks are not eaten raw. They’re best when braised, but can also be grilled, sautéed, or roasted.

How to Use on a Burger: Grilled, sautéed, roasted, fried, or braised

11. Chives

The most herb-like allium on this list, chives have a long and delicate green stem that is very tender and mild in flavor. Chives are often mixed into dishes where you want a mild onion flavor such as mashed potatoes or omelets.

As far as burger toppings go, chives are not usually a go-to choice. However, they are excellent mixed into the burger meat or into a creamy burger spread.

How to Use on a Burger: Raw, or mixed into the burger meat, condiments, or compound butter

How to Cook Onions for Burgers

Now that we know all of the best types of onions for burgers, it’s time to talk about cooking methods.

  • Raw- Not technically a cooking method, raw onions are one of the most common burger toppings. Whether you slice them, dice them, or grate them, there’s no doubt that raw onions on a burger are delicious.
  • Grilled- Grilling onions gives them a fantastic charred flavor and helps take away some of their bite.
  • Sautéed- Sautéing onions mellows their flavor. Adding some to your burger can be game-changing.
  • Fried- When I say fried onions, I don’t mean fried onion rings. I mean onions that are sliced up and fried all on their own. These crispy pieces of onion are absolutely delicious on a burger.
  • Caramelized- Caramelized onions are probably my favorite burger topping. They’re deeply rich and sweet in flavor, making any burger you put them on feel extra fancy. To caramelize onions, all you need is a little time and patience, and you’ll be rewarded greatly.
  • Roasted- Onions with a high sugar content lend themselves well to roasting. Roasted onions are jam-like in texture and are similar in flavor to caramelized onions.
  • Other Options Include- Pickled onions, onion rings, onion jam, onion chutney, chive or scallion aioli, chive or scallion compound butter, diced in salsa or guacamole, or mixing raw or sautéed onions into the ground beef.

>> Want to master the art of cooking hamburgers to perfection? Learn everything you need to know about cooking burgers with this Ultimate Hamburger Temperature Guide.

An open-faced turkey burger on a white plate with sliced raw red onion, lettuce, and a tomato slice on top.

How to Cut Onions for Burgers

How you cut onions for burgers is a matter of preference.

Onion rings are classic, but can be challenging to keep on the burger while you’re eating it. On the other hand, diced onions are easier to eat and easier to spread on top. A grated onion will provide lots of flavor, but may be too watery for a burger.

Tips for Cutting Onions Without Tearing Up

Nothing is worse than the tear-producing burning sensation our eyes feel when cutting onions. While it isn’t always possible to stop completely, here are a few tips that may help.

  • Use a Sharp Knife- A good, sharp knife causes less damage to the onion cells. Fewer damaged cells mean fewer onion gases are released.
  • Wear Goggles- As goofy as it may feel, a good pair of goggles can help limit your eye’s exposure to the onion fumes. And if you wear contact lenses, you’re in luck. Contact lenses can help ease watery eyes when chopping onions.
  • Increase Air Flow- Place a small fan next to the cutting board to blow the onion gases away from your face. Alternatively, open a window and let the breeze help relieve your onion-induced pain.
  • Freeze the Onion- Peel the onion, then stick it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes before cutting it. A cold onion released fewer gases into the air.


As you can see, there are several different types of onions and cooking methods to consider when choosing the best onions for burgers.

Will you make a black pepper burger with a creamy chive aioli? Or maybe you’re feeling a teriyaki burger topped with grilled scallions. Or perhaps you’re like me and prefer a few slices of raw, red onion on your burger.

Whatever you decide, you’re now armed with all of the knowledge you need to choose the best onion for any burger you make. So, get a little adventurous and think outside of the burger bun!

Let’s Connect!

Be sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions. You can also connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or via email at [email protected].

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