Onions and Garlic- Which Cooks First

The backbone of any delicious food is sautéed onions and garlic. After all, it’s what brings out the flavor in your food, so it’s what should be done first and foremost. However, there is debate regarding how the two are cooked. Some would say onions go first, while others say that garlic goes first. 

The topic is widely debated among chefs and non-chefs alike, which is why it persists until today. The question remains—what exactly goes first? 

Don’t worry, as we’re here to clear some things up and to shed some light on the matter at hand. Read on below to learn more.

Which Should Be Cooked First?

Onions and garlic must be cooked first so that it adds flavor to the oil. This way, the taste is absorbed better by the food that’s being cooked, such as pork or beef.

As stated earlier, onions go first and garlic later. The last-second inclusion of garlic in the cooking process allows for a more robust garlic flavor. Depending on the needs of your dish or how you like it in general, you may choose to slice your garlic or not finely.

To set the record straight and clear misconceptions, however, the general rule is that onions cook first. Garlic tends to scorch quickly, especially if you have a habit of sautéing on the hotter side of the pan. 

The Onions-First Policy

The perfect look of onions when sautéing them is golden brown. To achieve the golden brown color in onions, the time they must be sautéd must be between 5 to 7 minutes. Sautéing onions, in general, concentrates their natural sugars, so you can be sure to taste sweeter onions if they are sautéd in this manner.

The Best Way to Cook Garlic

Sautéing is pretty much the best and most common method to cook the garlic. When you sauté the garlic, it brings out the savory and robust flavor of the garlic pieces. 

Depending on how you want it or your needs at hand, you can sauté garlic in oil or butter. However, if you are sautéing garlic on butter, remember to be careful because it will scorch much faster. To prevent this, use a pan or skillet with a heavy bottom to allow even heating in all parts.

How Long Should Garlic Be Cooked?

Garlic should be added with the onions towards the end. Aside from that, the ideal time to cook garlic is for about 30 seconds in medium heat just before finishing it. Thirty seconds is simply enough time to cook off the garlic’s rawness and let its aroma and taste seep into the dish.

Can You Cook Garlic Without Onions?

The short answer is yes—you can indeed cook garlic without onions. To bring out the flavor of the garlic without the aid of onions, you have to use oils of excellent quality. Aside from that, you can also use herbs and spices to infuse it with an aroma.


Onions cook first because it brings out the flavor in your dish. Add in the garlic at the last minute, and you’re sure to indulge in a dish that will be celebrated by your taste buds. Just remember to follow the tips mentioned above so that you won’t have any problems.

Should problems with your cook persist, however, Food Fire + Knives has culinary professionals that will provide you with delicious dishes whenever you need them. If ever you require private chefs in Asheville, don’t hesitate to give us a call! We offer you only the best meals, regardless of the big onions and garlic debate.