Onion Rings

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Crunchy onion rings! Onion rings, soaked in buttermilk, coated with flour and cornmeal, and deep fried to a golden crisp.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

When I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles, my grandmother used to take me to the farmers market in Miracle Mile. After the market, we would walk over to Bob’s Big Boy and order a serving of fried onion rings.

We probably ordered hamburgers too, but all I remember to this day was how much I loved those onion rings. As far as I knew at age five or six, Bob’s was the only place on the planet to get them.

I still love onion rings, don’t you? This recipe is as close as I can get to my memory of my favorite onion rings—crunchy and delicious.

We adapted the recipe from one by Ina Garten. The main changes we made were to double dip the onion rings in buttermilk and flour to make them extra crunchy, and to fry them at a slightly higher temp. We also increased the proportion of cornmeal. (Crunch factor!)

Onion Rings Recipe

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  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Onion marinating time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 large yellow onions, peeled, sliced into 1/2-inch thick ringed slices, rings separated (See How to Slice an Onion)
  • 2 cups buttermilk, or 1 cup plain yogurt mixed with 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 3 cups of canola oil, or other high smoke-point oil such as rice bran oil or peanut oil

Special equipment:

Method

1 Coat the onion rings in seasoned buttermilk: In a large bowl, stir together the buttermilk (or yogurt and milk) with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.

Stir the onions into the buttermilk mixture and make sure every ring is completely coated in buttermilk. Let sit for 15 to 30 minutes.

2 Combine flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper in separate bowl: In a separate bowl (large enough to dredge the onion rings) whisk together the flour and cornmeal, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and set aside.

3 Heat oil in thick-bottomed pot: Add 2 to 3 cups of oil to a large (5 to 6-quart), thick-bottomed pot. (Make sure that the pot is absolutely dry on the inside before adding the oil or any residual water will splatter as the oil heats.) Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot by 3/4 to 1 inch.

Heat the oil to 375°F. Use a good candy thermometer or instant thermometer (such as a Thermapen) to measure the heat of the oil. You may need to tilt the pan in order to cover the thermometer's sensor completely and get an accurate reading.

Be very careful whenever handling hot oil. No running kids in the kitchen. No distractions. Do not answer the phone if it rings. Pay attention. Have the pan's lid close by.

Test the oil by dropping a small pinch of flour into the hot oil. If the flour sizzles the oil is ready. If it burns, remove the pot from the heat and let the oil cool down a little.

4 Dredge the buttermilk coated onion rings in the flour mixture (twice): Remove onion rings one at a time out of the buttermilk mixture and dredge them in the flour mixture to coat.

If the coating seems a bit thin (it might) or if you want extra crunchy onion rings, dip the onion rings again in the buttermilk mixture and dredge them again in the flour. This double coating will make the onion rings extra crunchy.

5 Fry in oil: Use tongs to place the rings one by one into the hot oil. Fry for a minute on each side, until golden brown.

When you add the onion rings to the pot, the oil temperature will naturally lower. Adjust the heat so that the temperature of the oil in the pan stays between 350°F and 390°F.

6 Keep warm in oven: Place the fried onion rings on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Keep the fried onion rings warm in a 200°F oven while you fry the rest of the rings.

Add more oil if needed between batches. Let the oil heat back up to 375°F before starting a new batch.

Serve immediately.

Note: It's best not to pour the leftover oil down the drain. Better to pour into an extra empty jar, and discard with your trash.

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Links:

How to Slice an Onion

Showing 4 of 12 Comments

  • Rowan

    When making my onion rings, my onion of choice when it is in season is ALWAYS the Vidalia onion. I find the sweet flavour of it makes for perfect tasting onion rings every time. I like yellow, too, but the Vidalia variety is my favourite.

    That said, I’ll have to try this recipe since I enjoy a little batter with my onion and not the other way around!

  • elle

    We make these onion rings as well and everyone always asks us to make them at dinner parties-it’s one of our house specialties. Remember, if you use good oil, you can strain and reuse again.

  • Elise

    Hi all – I’m still recovering from eating all the rings on that plate yesterday. Oy! Note to self – next time make these when brother Eddie, the human vacuum cleaner, is around, or dad hasn’t already eaten lunch.

    Hi Jeff – the original recipe calls for sprinkling on salt while the onion rings are still warm. I thought they were salty enough as is; there’s salt in the buttermilk mixture and salt in the coating.

    Hi Nancy – Grandma made me walk a lot! I still think of those onion rings every time I drive by that particular Bob’s on Wilshire. Didn’t they take down the humongous statue of Bob holding a burger in his hands? I can’t remember exactly right now, but I don’t think it’s there any more. I used to love that huge statue. But then I loved the Brown Derby hat too, and the Vandekamp’s blue windmill. These days if you want kitsch you have to head over to Universal City Walk.

  • Hiroaki

    Hmmm, will this work if I simply bake them in the oven?
    Deep fries are more messy and more fatty than baking in the oven. Am I right?

  • Elise

    Hi Hiroaki – I personally wouldn’t bother with baking these. They just wouldn’t be the same. If I were concerned about the fat I would just eat fewer onion rings. But please don’t let what I think dissuade you. I’m all for experimentation. Try baking them and see if you like them. Broiling them would probably come closer than baking.

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