Recipes/ Sides/ Vegetables

Cheesy Onions

Cheesy onions ready to serve
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When I had Thanksgiving dinner with my husband’s family for the first time (so long ago) I was introduced to “cheesy onions”.  A warm bowl was passed around filled with these sweet and tart pearl onions, suspended in a creamy golden yellow sauce. One bite, and I was in onion heaven. 

You should know that onions occupy a close spot to my heart. I love onions.  I love them raw with cheese, sautéed with olive oil on steaks, in stews, stir-fry, soups, gratins, casseroles, braises, stocks, salads, glazed, picked, and in cocktails.  So when I had a spoonful, it was love at first bite.  Sweet.  Tart.  Savory.  Bite sized and oh-so-cheesy.  Also (as I found later) super easy to make! 

Pearl onions make the best cheesy onions

What really shines in this recipe are the onions (obviously), but specifically the type of onion used.  Pearl onions are a sweeter, denser, and less pungent (oniony?) young onion, about the size of a large marble.  You can find them usually in small bags by the garlic or shallots in supermarkets.  They are a little tedious to peel (a cheat is to boil them for a minute) but so worth it.  These delicious gems were very popular in the first half of the last century being served as “creamed onions”. But sadly, they aren’t as popular anymore here in the U.S. as they once were.

Those creamed onion recipes are the base for this dish, however, this particular recipe has a cheat or “life hack” if you will.  We use Aunt Nellie’s brand Holland Style Onions instead of raw onions. By using these brined onions, you save a considerable amount of time skipping the heating, boiling, peeling, and boiling again steps of using raw pearl onions.  Also, these particular onions have a delightful sweet-n-tangy flavor that works wonderfully with the cream and cheese sauce. The best part is that they have almost zero preparation (you do have to rinse them off).  Seriously, you can whip these up in a flash since we’re skipping all of that boiling and peeling.

But the pièce de résistance of these cheesy onions is the brine itself that the onions come in.  Reserved and mixed with milk, it is added to your roux and melted cheese creating a depth of flavor that is out of this world.   

P.S. These pair perfectly with our Thanksgiving Stuffing Balls!

Tips on nailing these Cheesy Onions:

  • Save that Brine!
  • Thoroughly rinse the onions – This keeps the residual undiluted brine from reacting with the sauce and making it clump
  • Use a good quality cheese – Bagged is okay or you can shred your own (feel free to try different types too).

Note: you will have a good bit of brine/milk mixture left over.  You don’t use it all, so don’t dump it all into the roux or your sauce will be very runny. 

Ingredients:

  • 3 jars of Aunt Nellie’s Whole Onions, 15oz size (these are easily found in the Midwest but I’ve had a harder time finding them in the South. I have resorted to ordering them online. They have a very long shelf life, so I look at it like I’m ready for the next four big Holiday Meals)
  • Milk – whole milk is best
  • 8 Tbsp Butter
  • 8 Tbsp Flour
  • 3 cups of shredded Cheddar Cheese

Directions:

Ingredients laid out for Cheesy onions

Start by using a colander to drain the onions while reserving the brine in a 4 cup measuring pitcher (see image below). Rinse the onions very well and set aside. Add enough milk to the brine to equal four cups of liquid in total.

Draining the Onions
Save that brine!

Next make a roux with the butter and flour ( directions below). Mix constantly for about 2 minutes .

making a roux
Whisking the roux

Then add in 2 cups of the milk and onion brine liquid and reserve the rest for thinning the sauce later if needed. Stir constantly on medium-high heat until it starts to thicken. Slowly add in the shredded cheddar cheese until melted and smooth. Continue to stir constantly and reduce to low heat.

Adding the cheese into the cheesy onions
Be sure to add and melt the cheese slowly
cheese mixed in and melted
Mmmmmm….cheese sauce

Mix in the previously rinsed onions (make sure not to skip rinsing otherwise you will have a bitter taste and curdle the cheese sauce). Stir for about 2 minutes more and they are ready to serve.

adding in the onions
Almost done!

If you aren’t planning to serve the Cheesy Onions immediately remove the pan from heat and cover. 5-10 minutes prior to serving, you can slowly reheat on low.

Roux:

  • 8 Tbsp Flour
  • 8 Tbsp Butter

Melt the butter in a sauce pan and whisk in the flour until smooth. This helps to thicken the sauce.

Cheesy Onions

Cheesy Onions are another great Holiday dish that blends a smooth cheese sauce and savory bite sized onions that tickle your tastebuds.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cheese, Holidays
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 317kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 15oz jars Aunt Nellie's Whole Onions
  • Milk up to 2 Cups
  • 8 Tbsp Butter
  • 8 Tbsp Flour
  • 3 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Instructions

  • Start by using a colander to drain the onions while reserving the brine in a 4 cup measuring pitcher (see image below). Rinse the onions very well and set aside. Add enough milk to the brine to equal four cups of liquid in total.
  • Next make a roux with the butter and flour ( directions below). Mix constantly for about 2 minutes .
  • Then add in 2 cups of the milk and onion brine liquid and reserve the rest for thinning the sauce later if needed. Stir constantly on medium-high heat until it starts to thicken. Slowly add in the shredded cheddar cheese until melted and smooth. Continue to stir constantly and reduce to low heat.
  • Mix in the previously rinsed onions (make sure not to skip rinsing otherwise you will have a bitter taste and curdle the cheese sauce). Stir for about 2 minutes more and they are ready to serve.
  • If you aren't planning to serve the Cheesy Onions immediately remove the pan from heat and cover. 5-10 minutes prior to serving, you can slowly reheat on low.
  • Roux:
    8 Tbsp Flour
    8 Tbsp Butter
  • Melt the butter in a sauce pan and stir in the flour until smooth. This helps to thicken the sauce.

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