Who knew creamed onions could be this delicious? One of my all-time favorite side dishes, this recipe is ultra rich and indulgent, leveling up any dinner party, Thanksgiving, or Christmas table. Pearl onions are tender with a lovely bite, tossed in a cream sauce with a touch of parmesan and sherry for a truly restaurant-quality dish. Includes instructions to easily peel pearl onions.
🍲 What Makes This Recipe So Good
- This dish is shockingly delicious! If you’ve never had or heard of creamed onions before, you were probably a little put-off when you read the title. You’ve already made it this far, though, so don’t stop now! I can honestly say this is one of my most favorite side dishes for the holidays.
- If you’re not new to the dish, you’ve probably got a favorite version of creamed onions perfected by your mom or your grandmother or your great uncle or your go-to restaurant tucked away in the filing cabinets of your memory. This is one of those dishes that can be made slightly differently every time, so my recipe may differ a little from the one you’re used to. Feel free to tweak it as needed to capture every crumb of nostalgia!
- It’s super savory with a subtle sweetness that’s only complimented by the rich, cheesy cream sauce, and the touch of sherry puts the whole dish over the top. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you these creamed onions are restaurant-quality, and I’m convinced it’s the hint of sherry that seals the deal.
- Creamed onions are a fairly traditional holiday dish, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m not 100% sure how that tradition got started, but I totally get it. It tastes great, it looks pretty, and it’s really easy to make enough to feed a big group! OK, those probably aren’t the real reasons these babies caught on (and stuck around) but they’re definitely highlights for me.
👩🏼🍳 Chef’s Tips
- When it comes to choosing pearl onions, look for ones that don’t have any soft or mushy spots. You want the onions to feel firm, and be sure to check the papery skins for any mold and any little sprouts or offshoots.
- Raw pearl onions will keep for a good while as long as you store them properly, so don’t hesitate to buy them a few weeks in advance if you catch a sale or just a particularly good selection. Keep them in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight and away from other veggies, and they should last for about a month.
- Cream sauces can be a little finicky, but you can generally get them to do what you want with a little adjusting. If yours ends up too thick, add a little more cream or sherry as needed to thin it out. For a too-thin sauce, stir in a little more parmesan and let the sauce cook a little longer to reduce the amount of liquid in the saucepan.
- Cream and cheese don’t like extreme temperature differences, and they tend to react to extremities pretty badly. To prevent the sauce from separating, curdling, or breaking, remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool a little before you add the dairy products. You also want the cream and parmesan to be at or close to room temperature when you start cooking, NOT chilled, to lessen that temperature gap.
✳️ Frequently Asked Questions
They’re generally available in the produce section at most large grocery stores! They’re usually sold by the bag rather than individually like larger onions. You can also check the freezer section for the pre-peeled ones if you can’t find fresh ones.
Ohhhh, yes. That’s non-negotiable. Trust me. If you want to skip this step, you can use frozen pearl onions that have already been peeled.
It’s easy! You just need to trim away the root ends and blanch the onions first. To blanch them, you’ll boil them just long enough to loosen the skins, then submerge them in ice water to stop the cooking process. Once you’ve done that, you should be able to slide the onion peels off pretty easily!
The red pearl onions are a little milder than the white ones, with a more subtle flavor. They can also be a little sweeter. You can use either color in your creamed onions, so don’t panic if you set out for white and can only find red, or vice versa. If you’re making these for the holidays, you could even get really festive and use a mix of both.
I wouldn’t! Cocktail onions actually are pearl onions, yes, but they’re pearl onions that have been brined and pickled with added seasonings that won’t necessarily pair well with the other flavors in the dish. Stick to the originals!
🥕 More Unbelievably Delicious Side Dishes
- Candied Carrots
- Cheesy Spinach Casserole
- Instant Pot Butternut Squash Soup
- Hasselback Sweet Potatoes
- Cauliflower Au Gratin
- Roasted Kale
- Make Ahead Green Bean Casserole
- Pumpkin Bisque
- Honey Garlic Green Beans
For the Creamed Onions
- 1 pound fresh pearl onions see Notes
- salt to taste
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour see Notes
- freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 1 ½ cups light cream at or close to room temperature
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry optional
- 2 tablespoons grated fresh parmesan at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Serving Suggestions (All Optional)
- additional chopped fresh parsley
- additional grated fresh parmesan
- Cutting board
- Sharp knife
- Large saucepan
- large bowl filled with ice water enough to fully submerge onions
- Large slotted spoon
- Large bowl
- Paper towels
- Silicone spatula
- serving dish
To Prepare the Pearl Onions
- Place 1 pound fresh pearl onions on cutting board. Using sharp knife, cut away root ends of all onions. Discard trimmed ends. Prepare ice water bath and set aside.
- Fill large saucepan with water and place saucepan on stovetop over high heat. When water begins to boil, add trimmed onions. Boil onions 2 to 3 minutes.
- Immediately (and carefully) drain and discard water. Note: blanching onions (described here) helps with peeling, but does not fully cook onions. After peeling, onions can be refrigerated up to 5 days and cooked when needed.
- Transfer boiled onions to ice water bath. Use hand or spoon to swirl onions in ice water until onions are cool enough to handle.
- One by one, remove onions from ice bath and pinch stem end (opposite trimmed root end) with enough pressure to loosen onion skin. Skin should slide off onion like a sheath fairly easily.
- Repeat until all onions have been peeled. Discard onion skins and return peeled onions to saucepan.
For the Creamed Onions
- Discard water from previous ice bath and prepare fresh ice bath. Set aside. Line large bowl with paper towels. Set aside,
- Fill saucepan with enough water to cover onions completely and season water with plenty of salt. Place saucepan on stovetop over high heat and bring salted water to boil.
- When water begins to boil, immediately reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes or until onions are tender.
- Once onions are tender, drain water and transfer cooked onions to fresh ice bath. Use hand or spoon to swirl onions in ice water until onions are cool enough to handle.
- Use slotted spoon to remove pearl onions from ice bath, allowing any excess water to drip back into bowl, then transfer onions to bowl lined with paper towels. Set aside.
- Heat saucepan again, this time over medium heat. When saucepan is hot, add 3 tablespoons butter and melt completely. Be careful not to burn butter.
- Add 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour to melted butter. Whisk until flour is fully incorporated into butter, creating roux. Cook roux approximately 5 minutes, whisking frequently to prevent burning. Season roux with salt and freshly cracked black pepper as desired.
- Remove saucepan from heat and let cool slightly, then pour in 1 ½ cups light cream. Whisk to incorporate, then return saucepan to heat and cook 5 minutes more, until mixture is bubbly and thick. Stir as needed to prevent burning.
- Add 2 tablespoons dry sherry (optional), 2 tablespoons grated fresh parmesan, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Stir until ingredients are combined and thick cream sauce forms. Note: If sauce is too thin, add more parmesan and cook until thickened. If sauce is too thick, add more cream or sherry until desired consistency is achieved.
- Return cooked onions to saucepan and gently fold onions into sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 5 minutes or until onions are heated through.
- Transfer prepared creamed onions to serving dish. Garnish with additional chopped fresh parsley and additional grated fresh parmesan if desired and serve immediately.
- Pearl Onions: If you’re using frozen peeled pearl onions, you can skip the section about preparing the onions. Just defrost them completely and drain them well before preparing the dish.
- Make it Gluten Free: Use a gluten-free all-purpose flour.
- Make it Lower Carb/Keto: Skip the flour completely. Replace it with 3 tablespoons grated parmesan (in addition to the 2 tablespoons already in the recipe), and add the butter, parmesan, and cream to the saucepan at the same time.
- Leftovers: Let cool completely then transfer leftovers to airtight container. Refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze up to 2 months.
Make Ahead Options
- The pearl onions can be peeled up to 5 days ahead of preparing the full dish. Refrigerate peeled onions in an airtight container until ready to finish recipe.
- The full creamed onion dish can be prepared up to 2 days ahead of serving. Prepare recipe as written and transfer to oven-safe dish. Cover dish tightly with lid, foil, or plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Before serving, remove dish from fridge and let come to room temperature. Cover dish with foil (remove lid or plastic wrap first) and reheat in 300°F oven just until heated through.
Number of total servings shown is approximate. Actual number of servings will depend on your preferred portion sizes.
Nutritional values shown are general guidelines and reflect information for 1 serving using the ingredients listed, not including any optional ingredients. Actual macros may vary slightly depending on specific brands and types of ingredients used.
To determine the weight of one serving, prepare the recipe as instructed. Weigh the finished recipe, then divide the weight of the finished recipe (not including the weight of the container the food is in) by the desired number of servings. Result will be the weight of one serving.