Roasted Onions Recipe

Peeling onions is one of my least favorite cooking tasks. The stubborn papery skin that refuses to come away smoothly, the pesky little flakes that get stuck under your fingernails and on the cutting board, not to mention the occasional outer layer that’s part flesh part skin (what to do with those?), all conspire to vex me.

Yet I adore onions and the pungent or sweet things they do, so I put my head down and try to take each specimen as an opportunity to refine my onion peeling skills, hoping I may one day come to enjoy the process.

And for a welcome respite when I want perfectly tender, caramelized onions without the peeling hassle, there’s roasted onions, as presented in the book What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn Davies, food photographer and author of the same-name food blog.

The idea is quite simple and I have no idea why it never occurred to me before, but I am certainly grateful to Katie for introducing me to it: you just halve onions — with! the! skin! on! — place them on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt, and place in a hot oven.

And just a little while later, what you pull out is a batch of beautifully softened onion halves, the concentric layers tinged a dark gold at the rims.

These you can serve with or without the skin, as you prefer. But when I tried the recipe with the cute plum-sized onions I was putting off using because they were so small the peeling daunted me, I confess I just plopped the baking sheet on the table and we helped ourselves right off of it, plucking the little morsels of sweet onion flesh out of their skin nests.

Katie sprinkles thyme sprigs over the onions before baking, but I opted against it, fearing that they might burn during the roasting. If you’d like to add the thyme back in, I suggest sprinkling it on for the final 10 minutes of baking.

Roasted Onions

Have you tried this? Share your pics on Instagram!

Please tag your pictures with #cnzrecipes. I'll share my favorites!

Roasted Onions Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Serves 4.

Roasted Onions Recipe


  • 500 grams (1.1 pounds) small organic onions, such as pearl or pickling onions (see note), unpeeled
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (see note)


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
  2. Wash the onions and remove just the outer layer of skin if it is blemished or pulling away. Slice the onions crosswise (= along the Equator if the onion were the Earth) and cut off a thin slice at both ends -- the root end and the stem end -- so each half will have a stable base to sit on.
  3. Arrange the onion halves on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and insert in the oven. Bake for 30 to 50 minutes, depending on the size of the onions, until caramelized on top and cooked through (you can test for tenderness with the tip of a knife).
  4. Sprinkle with pepper and serve immediately, with or without the skin. The onion flesh will lift easily, satisfyingly, out of the skin.


  • If you only have large onions, you can cut them in slices, about 2-3 cm (1 inch) in thickness.
  • These days my pepper mill contains the pretty hot and very flavorful Wynad peppercorns from Kerala, a sample of which I received from Salt Traders.
  • Adapted from What Katie Ate, by Katie Quinn Davies.
  • What a great idea! I love onions, too. But what always gets me is the crying.. I seem to be really sensitive to onions and usually cry when chopping. Gonna have to try this quick cut and roast method!

  • Yum! Simple recipes are the best.

  • Jenny

    That outer layer of part skin that you don’t know what to do with, I save it in a bag in my freezer (along with celery leaves, carrot ends, herb stems, etc) and throw it into my next batch of chicken broth or stock. It adds flavor, and gets an extra use out of something that I would have just thrown away otherwise.

    Or I suppose you could save them until you had a whole lot, leave out the chicken and just make veggie broth from them.

  • Clare

    Onions are easy to peel if they’re plunged in very hot water for 20 seconds or so first… just like tomatoes…

  • How brilliant! The tears that roll down my face when chopping onions… and there is rarely a day that goes by where I’m not chopping onions… Thank you darling for a wonderful tip! x

  • Souliere

    I don’t worry about peeling any more. I slice off (and compost) bad bits. Then cut in past a couple of good layers and peel off the skin with a few good layers. Then pop that into the bag in the freezer for vegetable broth. So yes I am removing some good onion, but since it will be broth, no waste! Read your blog via RSS feed, Love it! Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks for the tip! (And I wish I had a way to compost…)

      • kate C.

        Not sure why you can’t compost, but if it’s because you don’t have space outside, you could try worm composting inside! I’ve never done it, but I’ve always wanted to try. (We just do regular composting outside) Then you could use the worm casings on houseplants or something. Anyway, just an idea. tasty looking recipe!

        • Thanks, Kate! I looked into worm composting a little while ago, and decided I had neither the space nor the stomach for it. :)

          • KatyinNZ

            If it’s any help, it may be worth looking into Bokashi composting. It’s a rapid-composting system that’s supposed to be odour-free and suitable for indoors. I haven’t tried it, but it sounds awesome.

          • Thanks Katyin! I looked into bokashi as well, and part of my problem is that I don’t have a garden or any outdoor space to use either the daily juice, or the compost itself once ripe. I’ve looked into communal composting projects, but so far haven’t had any luck finding one in my neighborhood.

  • This is such a fabulous idea, I hate peeling onions too! I actually just posted a recipe for mushroom and onion pizza on my blog and I think if I cooked the onions like this before popping them on the pizza it would have tasted even more divine!

    xx Kait

  • I love onions..and i also love simple things :) thums up!

  • That does sound simple, and good – I’ll have to get some red onions (not much variety in stores here in a big city) and try it.

  • I love onions too and these look amazing!!

  • Elizabeth Pruyn

    Thanks for reminding me how tasty a simple onion can be. i love roasting them with a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar when roasting them…. menu started for this weekend!

  • julieta

    Nice and easy recipe :) What main dish would you recommend to pair with these roasted onions?

    • I think they would go with pretty much anything, but especially roasted meats such as a roast chicken. You can also use them in dishes, such as pizza, as Kaitlin suggested above.

  • Wow – thanks for the advice. I’m going to grow onions this year and when I’ve done it before the titchy ones always end up in the bin because I can’t face peeling them. This is so much more sensible.

  • Dang. This is a game-changer. It may change the way I make onions forever!

  • Azzina

    I think this is one great task and most of the fried onion are used in vegetarian pizza recipes.

  • Jim Carmin

    I made these a few nights back, using medium-sized onions, cut in one-inch slices; and as Charlotte said: a game-changer. Spectacular, thanks!

    • So glad you had good success with this, Jim, thanks for reporting back!

  • These look absolutely delicious! Thanks for sharing!

  • TJ

    If I had to choose only two things to eat for the rest of my life, they will be – onions and tofu. Sometimes, simplicity is the best. Since the onions in China are super sized, I will try these with shallots and maybe drizzle with a bit of balsamic honey reduction.

    TJ from Beijing-

  • Oh, good grief, this is brilliant! Reminds me of the moment I finally (finally!) realized I could slice apples by cutting “cheeks” from around the core, rather than slicing through the core, and carving out all those pesky seedy bits.

    Thank you, thank you, for passing on this bit of genius…

    • Wonderful to see you here, Molly — love love love your blog!

  • Strangely my mother used to cook onions just like that. It never occurred to me that it was unusual until about a year back when we had friends round and I put a plate of them on the table. :-)

Get the newsletter

Receive FREE email updates with all the latest recipes, plus exclusive inspiration and Paris tips. You can also choose to be notified when a new post is published.

View the latest edition of the newsletter.