Onions are a versatile vegetable that can complement the flavor of steak in many ways. The type of onion you choose to serve with your steak depends on the cut of steak, preparation method, and desired flavor profile. There are a few guidelines to follow when selecting the best onion for your steak.
Sweet onions like Vidalia, Maui, and Walla Walla are mild in flavor and tend to pair well with richer, fattier cuts of steak like ribeye and strip steak. The sweetness of the onion balances out the robust flavor of these steaks. Sweet onions can be sliced raw and used to top a steak, grilled along with the steak, or caramelized as a topping.
Grilled Sweet Onions
Grilling slices of sweet onion brings out their natural sugars and intensifies their sweetness. The char from the grill also adds a subtle smokiness. Grilled sweet onions are a great partner to thick, juicy ribeye steaks. Try grilling Vidalia onion slices over direct heat for 2-3 minutes per side until nicely charred.
Caramelized Sweet Onions
Slow cooking sliced sweet onions on low heat coaxes out their sugars and evaporates their moisture, resulting in rich, jammy caramelized onions. Spooning these concentrated onions over a seared steak adds a hit of sweetness that complements the savory meat. Caramelize sliced Walla Wallas in butter for 40-50 minutes until deeply golden brown.
Yellow onions strike a balance between pungency and sweetness. Their versatility makes them suitable for pairing with leaner cuts like sirloin or filet mignon, as well as fattier cuts. Raw thin slices can provide a tangy crunch, while cooked onions offer more rounded flavors.
Sauteed Yellow Onions
Briefly cooking sliced yellow onions in oil or butter softens their bite and brings out their natural sweetness. Sauteed onions are a classic topper for filet mignon. Cook slivered yellow onions over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes until softened and lightly browned at the edges.
Crispy battered onion rings have an irresistible texture contrast to tender, juicy steaks. Their mild sweetness and slight bite cut through the richness of the meat. The crunchy onion coating also provides a fun textural contrast. Beer-battered onion rings are especially popular paired with sirloin steak.
Red onions are on the stronger, more pungent end of the onion family. They can hold their own against intensely flavored cuts like skirt steak and flank steak. Raw red onion slices provide a strong, spicy bite. Cooking mellows out their sharpness.
Grilled Red Onions
Grilling gives red onions a mellower, sweeter character. Chopped grilled red onions lend a smoky depth and sweetness to charred skirt or flank steaks. Cut thick slices or wedges of red onion, brush with oil, and grill over direct heat for 4-5 minutes until charred.
Pickled Red Onions
Quick-pickled red onion slices offer a tart, tangy crunch that balances the robustness of fattier ribeyes or strip steaks. Thinly slice red onions, soak in vinegar mixture for 30 minutes, drain, and serve on top of steaks. The pickling liquid tenderizes the natural bite of raw red onions.
Shallots have a refined, elegant onion flavor. Their mellow sweetness makes them well-suited for leaner, tender steaks like filet mignon or tenderloin. They can be used minced raw or cooked into a balsamic glaze.
Finely minced shallots add a light onion flavor without overpowering the steak. Sprinkle raw minced shallots over seared filet mignon steaks right before serving for a touch of onion bite.
Reducing sliced shallots in balsamic vinegar concentrates their flavor into a syrupy glaze. Drizzle balsamic shallots over a tenderloin steak for a sophisticated flavor pairing. Slow simmer shallot slices in balsamic vinegar until thickened to a glaze-like consistency.
Onion Guide for Steaks
|Best Paired With
|Sweet (Vidalia, Walla Walla)
|Ribeye, strip steak
|Raw slices, grilled, caramelized
|Filet mignon, sirloin, ribeye
|Sauteed, onion rings
|Skirt steak, flank steak
|Filet mignon, tenderloin
|Minced, balsamic glaze
The best onions to serve with steak depend on the cut of steak and cooking method. Sweet onions pair well with rich, fatty steaks like ribeye and are great grilled or caramelized. Yellow onions are versatile for lean and fatty cuts, offering brightness raw or sweetness when cooked. Red onions hold up to robust steaks like skirt or flank and mellow out nicely when grilled or pickled. Shallots add a refined, elegant onion flavor perfect for tender cuts like filet mignon.
Keep these guidelines in mind when selecting onions for your steak dinner. Pay attention to the strengths of each onion variety to determine which will complement the flavor of your steak the best. With the right onion pairing, you can bring out the best in your steak.