Many recipes and cooking blog posts emphasize the importance of sauteing aromatic veggies to release their flavor and reduce the bite. This gave me the impression that when aromatic veggies are involved, the order of saute>raw is always preferred. I mean - why would you ever NOT want to release the aroma in a veg?

Yet for example I see many cooks that add the onions to a dish without sauteing first. Is there an advantage to not sauteing aromatic veggies, or is it always preferred to saute them? If so, how can you tell according to the dish?

3 Answers 3


If the recipes were truly interesting in 'releasing the flavors', they'd be sweating the onions, not sauteing them. Sauté is a higher-heat method that will cook the vegetables to create other chemical compounds, thus changing their flavor.

In the case of garlic and onions, this cooking makes them dramatically sweeter. But sometimes you don't want that -- you may want the sharp bite of the garlic, and to do that, you need to add it near the end of cooking, without it having been cooked.

Also of note is that if you are cooking in an acid (such as tomatoes), the acid will slow or possibly stop the vegetables from softening ... so if you want your onions to dissolve into the sauce, they need to be cooked first. If you them to add some chunkiness and the possible burst of onion when someone bites in, you want to add it later.

As others have noted -- in many cases, you'll add a given ingredient twice -- maybe some garlic to mellow out at the beginning of cooking, and then a crushed clove or two towards the end of the cooking.

  • Yes, good points. I just realised you could see this two dimensional: a cutting crushing axis, and a browning/cooking axis. The browning makes things sweater and softer, the crushing speeds the releases/changing of tastes. : "... acid will slow or possibly stop the vegetables from softening" Slowing down with say 200 percent, yes, but stopping I have never seen, except with pre-soaked beans in tomato. When making a boeuf bourguignon, with f wine, which is I think more acidic than tomatoes, onions and carrots completely dissolve eventually. You think there is a ph that stops softening?
    – Marc Luxen
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 16:23
  • @MarcLuxen: yes. See cooking.stackexchange.com/a/13327/67
    – Joe
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 19:35
  • Did I miss it? I dont see a clear, relevant answer? I ask this because I am familiar with cooking potatoes with sauerkraut.. takes longer but you get there in twice/three times the time. And mostly because I am researching vinegar and frech fries..boiling them in acidic water vs soaking them in pure vinegar and boiling afterwards...
    – Marc Luxen
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 19:46
  • @MarcLuxen : see the two links in the comments.
    – Joe
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 19:53
  • 1
    Ok thanks, I missed those.But , sorry, they dont really help, they are just nicely food links, like: "If you’ve ever tried to add raw onions or other vegetables to an already simmering tomato sauce, then you know that the vegetables won’t become tender. That’s because the cellulose in vegetables and fruits doesn’t dissolve in acidic conditions, even after hours of cooking" I tried. Many times, They DO become tender. It just takes a bit (and not much) longer. This is simply not true. I see no science, just nicely written stories that go against experience ( at least mine).
    – Marc Luxen
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 20:10

That is really a matter of choice. If you cook the veggies for a while, they will also release their aromatics.... but they taste different. Especially if using onions. and especially if you sautee long enough to brown.

Not browning bones and veggies gives a light boullion, browning them a brown bouillon.

To give you an example: Marcella Hazan gives in her Classic Italian Kitchen cookbook different tomato sauces: 1) just chop an onion in half 2) dice onion and vegs but dont sautee 3) dice and sautee

In fact, to sautee or not to sautee is a great way of making dishes taste a bit different, while using the same ingredients. Nice for variation and for more refined combination.

And, yes, with saute I also mean "sweating".


Thai soups (Tom Kha, Tom Yum etc) are an interesting counterexample - where shallots, peppers, onions ... are just thrown in the broth in many recipes. Moreover, there are lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and other more specialised aromatics that are almost never sauteed in these, even if the same ARE sauteed (as part of a curry paste) in other dishes.

Also, I have seen good dal recipes where onions, garlic, ginger are just thrown in with the rest and boiled for hours.

And garlic is not infrequently added late and raw to tomato sauces, in addition to sauteed garlic at the start...

EDIT: Frequently, aromatics added raw are crushed, likely so that some of the aromatic juices get expelled easier. Also, if they are themselves inedible, cut in such a way (eg fanning) that they stay in one piece but have maximum surface exposure (lemongrass and galangal, though I find milder/younger types of galangal deliciously edible when they've been stewing in the soup :). What not to do: Add vegetables the same color as whole hot peppers when you have sensitive guests, or black cardamon (more a whole spice than an aromatic) with raisins :)

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