Abstract This paper presents a new approach for unit commitment problem using Stochastic Priority List method. In this method, rapidly some initial unit commitment schedules are generated by Priority List method and priority based stochastic window system. Excess units are added with system dependent probability distribution to avoid overlooking a desired solution during repeated search. Constraints are not considered in this stage. Then schedules are modified gradually using the problem specific heuristics to fulfill constraints. To reduce calculations, heuristics are applied only to the solutions, which can be expected to improve. Besides, sign vector is introduced to reduce economic load dispatch (ELD) overhead recalculations. This process is repeated for optimal solution. The proposed method is tested using the reported problem data set. Simulation results for the systems up to 100-unit are compared to previous reported results. Numerical results show an improvement in solution cost and time compared to the results obtained from Genetic Algorithm and others.