In the mood for something crunchy, salty, and totally addictive? These crispy frizzled onions are unbelievably good! Made from scratch with just a handful of ingredients, they’re perfect on top of burgers, salads, and more. Or, serve them with aioli for an easy, crowd-pleasing appetizer!

A tan speckled plate with crispy frizzled onions on a beige counter next to a tan plate of shoestring onions, wood bowl of salt, and brown bowl of chipotle aioli.

While shoving a generous handful of fried onions into my mouth this afternoon, I suddenly had a recovered memory of doing the exact thing as a 7 year old, except it was a plastic container of French’s fried onions. (Never mind that you probably couldn’t have paid me $100 to eat a non-fried onion at that age.)

Anyways, if you’ve been here for a while, you may know that I put crispy fried shallots on just about everything. But, there’s a time and a place for a shoestring onion, and that time is today.

They’re crunchy, have a lovely spice, and they go on just about everything from sandwiches to salads to just eating them fresh out of the pan while you burn your fingers. (Not that I’ve ever done that before or anything.)

These onions really do go on everything

When I was in culinary school, I learned that fried onions are basically the easiest way to elevate a dish ASAP. And it works. If I see a dish with fried onions on the menu, there is about a 99% chance I will order it.

My favorite way to serve these onions is on top of Dr. Pepper pulled pork, reverse sear filet mignon, tri-tip sandwiches, or BBQ bacon blue cheese burgers. But of course, they’re a fun appetizer for dinner parties or game nights too! And the best part? We’re shallow frying the onions – absolutely no deep frying required.

5 simple ingredients

White and brown speckled bowls of flour, sliced Vidalias, buttermilk, oil, salt, and spices on a tan counter next to a tan linen.
  • Onions – my favorite is sweet onions (Vidalia, Walla Walla, etc.) because they’re less strong than other types. But you can also use red, white, or yellow onions.
  • Buttermilk – marinating the onions in whole milk buttermilk will take out some of the bite, make the onions more tender, and create a light crunchy crust.
  • Flour – instead of making a wet batter, we’ll dredge the marinated onions in flour which will make the onions nice and crispy!
  • Spices – garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper will add extra flavor to the flour. Of course, feel free to switch out the spices with something like Cajun seasoning for different flavors.
  • Oil – you’ll want oil with a high smoke-point like canola, vegetable, or sunflower oil.

How to make buttermilk

If you don’t want to buy buttermilk, here’s a little hack. Combine 2 cups of whole milk and remove 2 Tablespoons of the milk. Add 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar, whisk, & let it sit until it’s curdled, about 10 minutes. Voilà!

Let’s make this recipe

Slice the onions

Two images of how to slice onions; in photo 1, a hand slices onions with a mandolin over a wood cutting board on a tan counter. In photo 2, a pile of sliced onions on the wood board.
  1. Start by slicing the onions. Peel the onions and cut them in half, leaving the root intact.
  2. Then, use a mandoline to cut the onions into 1/8” thick slices. I recommend using a mandoline for even frying but you can also slice them by hand.

Marinate & dredge

Three images of preparing shoestring Vidalias. In photo 1, sliced Vidalias soak in buttermilk on a tan counter next to white and brown speckled bowls of oil, spices, flour, and salt. In photo 2, the flour is mixed with spices in a white bowl. In photo 3, the Vidalias are being dredged in the flour mixture.
  1. Once the onions are all sliced, place them in a bowl and pour the buttermilk over the top. Marinate for 15 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper.
  3. Then, use tongs to grab a few of the onion slices, letting the extra buttermilk drip off. Dredge in the flour mixture, and tap off any extra flour.

Fry the onions

Three images making frizzled onions. In photo 1, onions fry in a black pan on a tan counter. In photo 2, the onions drain on paper towels. In photo 3, a closeup of the fried onions.
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet until it reaches 350-375°F (177-191°C).
  2. Place the dredged onions in the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
  3. Use tongs to remove the onions from the oil. Place them on a paper towel and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt.

Medium brown

Take the onions out when they’re a medium golden-brown. They will continue to fry and crisp up when you take them out of the oil. I also found when I was testing this recipe that frying the onions one small ‘handful’ at a time helps them cook evenly!

Freezer friendly

You can freeze the leftover onions! I like making a big batch and freezing them for later so I always have crispy onions on hand for sandwiches. Just spread the onions on a sheet pan and freeze until solid, about 1 hour. Transfer the frozen onion strings into an airtight container and freeze for up to 2 months.

Refrigerating leftovers

You can also store them in the fridge by placing the onions in an airtight container and refrigerating for 3-4 days. Just a head’s up that they will get a bit soggy in the fridge, but no worries! You can easily crisp them right up in the air fryer or oven.

Reheating the onions

  • Air fryer If you have an air fryer, that’s my favorite way to reheat the onions! Just place the leftover onions in a single layer in the air fryer. Cook them at 360°F (182°C) for 3-4 minutes, tossing them halfway through. Depending on the air fryer, they may need another 1-2 minutes.
  • Oven – To reheat the onions in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Place the onions on a sheet pan and bake for 10-15 minutes until crispy, stirring every few minutes to prevent burning. They may not be super crunchy in the oven but will crisp up as they cool a bit.
  • Frozen – If you’re reheating them from frozen, you can use either the air fryer or oven method. Just add 1-2 extra minutes to the cook time!
A white and brown speckled plate with frizzled onions and a fork on a beige counter next to a brown plate, white bowl of aioli, and wood bowl of salt.

Oil temp

I’ve tested this recipe many times and oil temp is key! Frying the onions in oil that isn’t hot enough will make them soggy and taste like oil. But, frying the onions in oil that’s too hot will burn the breading without cooking the raw onions inside. Keep the oil between 350-375°F for light and crispy onions!

I always recommend using a candy thermometer to monitor the temp. But, if you don’t have one, you can test if it’s ready by sprinkling a pinch of flour over the hot oil. If it sizzles and turns golden-brown, it’s ready to go! If it sizzles but immediately burns, it’s too hot. Or, if it doesn’t sizzle much, it’s too cold.

Recipe notes

  • If you want rings instead of strings, it’s super easy to do. Just slice the onions on the mandoline whole instead of halved.
  • Make sure all of the onions are evenly coated in the buttermilk. Give them a stir every few minutes so that all of the onions get marinated and tender.
  • It may seem like you’re frying a ton of onions, but don’t worry! They will lose about 50% of their volume after frying.
  • Keep a close eye while you’re frying the onions. Once they turn golden-brown, they will burn quickly!
Crispy frizzled onions and a fork on white and brown speckled plate. The plate is on a beige counter next to brown bowls of salt, aioli, and onion strings.

If you make this recipe, I would love it if you left a star rating and review! I read every single comment and love hearing what you think about my recipes. Thank you for supporting Sunday Table!


Crispy frizzled onions on parchment paper.
5 from 1 vote

Crispy Frizzled Onions from Scratch

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Marinating Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
In the mood for something crunchy, salty, and totally addictive? These crispy frizzled onions are unbelievably good! Made from scratch with just a handful of ingredients, they're perfect on top of burgers, salads, and more. Or, serve them with aioli for an easy, crowd-pleasing appetizer!

Ingredients

  • 1.75 pounds sweet onions (about 2 large onions)
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Canola or vegetable oil, for frying

Equipment

  • Mandoline
  • 12'' skillet or heavy-bottom pot
  • Candy thermometer
  • Tongs

Instructions 

  • Peel the onions and slice them in half, leaving the root intact. Use a mandoline to cut the onions into 1/8'' slices. Place the onion slices into a shallow bowl.
  • Pour the buttermilk over the top of the onions. Use tongs to make sure the onions are covered by the buttermilk as much as possible. Marinate the onions for at least 15 minutes, but preferably 1 hour. Stir the onions every once in a while to make sure they all get marinated.
  • While the onions marinate, whisk the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl.
  • Pour the oil into a 12'' skillet or heavy-bottom pot. Heat the oil over medium until it reaches 350-375°F. Then, place a few paper towels on a large plate and set aside.
  • Once the oil is hot, use tongs to grab a handful of onions from the buttermilk, letting the excess drip off. Dredge the onions in the flour mixture, tapping off any extra flour.
  • Carefully transfer the onions into the hot oil. Fry for 2-3 minutes until the onions are golden-brown. While the onions cook, use tongs to occasionally stir the onions and break them apart.
  • Once the onions are golden-brown, transfer them to the paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle them with Kosher salt, to taste. Repeat with the remaining onions. Enjoy them immediately as an appetizer or use them on sandwiches, salads, and more!

Notes

No mandoline? You can slice the onions by hand! Just try to make them all the same thickness as much as possible so they fry evenly.
If you want rings instead of strings, just slice the onion on the mandoline whole instead of halved.
If you don’t have buttermilk, you can combine 2 cups of whole milk with 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar. Whisk it and let it sit for about 10 minutes until it’s slightly curdled.
If you don’t have a candy thermometer, test the hot oil by sprinkling a pinch of flour over the top. If it sizzles and turns golden-brown, it’s ready to go! If it doesn’t sizzle much, the oil is too cold. If the flour sizzles and burns, the oil is too hot. 
Keep a close eye while you’re frying the onions. Once they turn golden-brown, they will burn quickly!
This recipe will serve 8 as an appetizer. If you’re using them as a topping for sandwiches, burgers, etc., you could get away with serving 12-16.
Cuisine: American
Course: Appetizer, Toppings
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 163kcal, Carbohydrates: 28.5g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 3.9g, Saturated Fat: 0.4g, Sodium: 230mg, Potassium: 199mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 5g, Calcium: 38mg, Iron: 1mg
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xo Sara Lynn

Song of the day – Turn to White by She & Him