So I like making pasta sauce with lots of sautéed onions, but to properly sauté, at least as far as I understand it, I can only put a limited amount of onions into my one medium sized pan.

I am fed up with using half-steamed onions in my quest for making large amounts of sauce to freeze, and I don't have patience for ten-thousand rounds of sautéing. Surely, there has got to be a better way?

3 Answers 3


I have not personally tried this with onions, but whenever I need to cook large batches of something (for example, bacon) and I don't have enough space on top of the stove, I try to find a way to work it in the oven.

Although it's not going to be a true sautée, I think you could probably achieve what you want with a few sheet pans of onions (mixed with oil) in the oven.

This recipe would probably be a good guideline for time and temperature.

If that doesn't sound like something you'd like to try, do you have a grill? What if you laid out a large amount of foil across the grates of your grill (put a lip on the edge, basically make an impromptu baking sheet out of foil) and do them on the grill over low to medium heat until they're the texture you want?

  • We do a french onion soup that uses the oven method. The onions come out absolutely beautifully with minimal work. This is the recipe we use for the soup: cooksillustrated.com/recipes/detail.asp?docid=11811
    – yossarian
    Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 20:45
  • The oven idea sounds similar to baking larger batches of bacon in the oven, which definitely works well. I'd give it a shot if you have more oven space than pan space. A convection setting might be most effective if you plan to put in multiple trays.
    – Allison
    Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 20:53

The onions will steam if there is not a sufficient amount of space around them for the water they release to evaporate, so short of a larger pan, doing multiple, smaller batches is the best way to ensure that.


I attempted 'oven sauteing onions' until I finally got it to a science!

What you need: olive oil (if you're out, use vegetable oil), onions, garlic (optional), and a flat baking pan

First, understand there's some kind of chemical reaction when we oil a cookie sheet, coat the onions and put them in the oven. In as quickly as 18 minutes, they are worthless, flavorless onions. All the water is leached out of them, they are just a wilted little pile of about 1/3 the amount you put in! No joke, I almost thought someone stole half my onions. But, I was still in the trial stage.

As soon as this recipe gets out, some chemist online will come along and explain this oil oddity.

And the flip side is if you don't coat all sides, they dry up too bad in the oven.

1) Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees

2) Chop or slice all the onions you want to sautee.

3) Prepare your baking sheet by only putting the barest amount of olive oil in your palms and oil the pan especially to the sides. The onions placed on the sides and ends of the pan sometimes get browned and a few burn (but it's so very little, it's no loss).

4) When you're done slicing or chopping, leave them in the bowl. Put just about 1 - 1/2 tbs olive oil in the bowl. Coat your palms with olive oil. Then just toss and mix thoroughly until all onions are coated on all sides. (the amount varies by the amount of onions you're sauteing). The key is to use as little oil as possible and you'll have exceptional results.

5) I found that depending on the amount of onions, they are done in 15-20 minutes on my stove. Yours may be different so check frequently the first time. Chopped onions only take 15 minutes while slices can go another couple minutes.

You CAN pile them on the baking sheet since all of them have the oil they need. I piled slices and chopped both. There's no problem with it.

If you don't coat all sides, they dry up and shrivel.

I worked at this in stages until I got the oven temp and the issue of the oil figured out. Now, I can have fabulous sautee'd onions or onions & garlic any time I want to grab it!

Wow! And only for the cost of some onions. It's gonna make my cooking easier day to day. This really works great. I've got 5 frozen bags of them.

  • 1
    When the water comes out and the onions wilt, they're most certainly not flavorless. Pretty much all they've lost is water - the flavor is still in them. And... I can't tell the difference between the process you say doesn't work (coat the onions, cook for 18 minutes) and the process you say does (coat the onions, cook for 15-20 minutes). If you want to say you've got it down to a science, I think you need to be a bit more specific.
    – Cascabel
    Commented May 19, 2013 at 16:56

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