Onion Rings

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

  • Cook time: 20 minutes


  • 2 large yellow onions, peeled, sliced into 1/2-inch to 3/4-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
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornmeal OR 1 cup prepared cornbread flour plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 or 3 cups of grapeseed oil, or other high smoke-point oil such as canola oil or peanut oil

Equipment needed: a 5-quart heavy-bottomed dutch oven, tongs, candy thermometer, paper towels, cookie sheets


1 Combine the buttermilk (or yogurt and milk) with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a large bowl. Add the onions to the buttermilk mixture and coat thoroughly. Let sit at least 15 minutes.

2 In a separate bowl combine the flour and cornmeal, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.

3 Add the oil to a largish Dutch oven pan - about 5-quart or 6 quart size. Make sure that the pan is absolutely dry inside before you add the oil. Any water droplets in the pan will cause the oil to splatter violently as it heats up. The oil should create a layer anywhere from 3/4-inch to an inch thick. Use more oil if necessary. Heat the oil to 350°F. Use a candy thermometer 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. I have found some instant-read thermometers to be useless for this purpose as their sensors are 2 1/2 inches up from the bottom. A good old fashioned metal-encased thermometer works best.

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.

You can test if the oil is ready by moistening a little bit of the flour and dropping it in the pan. If it sizzles and fries, it's ready. If it burns, take the pan off the heat and let the oil cool down a bit.

onion-rings-1.jpg onion-rings-2.jpg

4 Working in batches, lift some onion rings out of the buttermilk and coat them in the flour mixture. Use tongs to place them one by one in the hot oil. Fry for a minute on each side, until golden brown. Do not crowd them. Place finished onion rings on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Keep the complete onion rings warm in a 200°F oven while you fry the rest. Between batches, if you end up needing more oil, add some. Let the temp get back up to 350°F before starting the next batch.

Serve hot.

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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  1. Ellie

    As always, looks fantastic! I’m going to have to keep these in mind for my bbq this weekend, it looks like a great side dish to have!

  2. missb

    Why, oh WHY did I have to read this at nearly two in the morning? Why??

    I want to make these at the earliest reasonable hour.

  3. 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!

  4. Garrett

    Mmmm, fried goodness. *drool*

  5. brian

    I can’t wait to make some of these, yum. We were just giving a bunch of great onions from Puglia, southern Italy and started to think of what we could do with them.

  6. 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.

  7. Nancy Friedman

    Wow, did this bring back memories! I grew up in L.A.’s Miracle Mile neighborhood and have many fond memories of Bob’s Big Boy and the Farmers Market. (Farmers Market isn’t strictly in Miracle Mile–it’s on 3rd and Fairfax–you’ll be happy to know it’s still there despite encroaching gentrification from The Grove. As I recall, Bob’s was on Wilshire near Highland, quite a distance from the FM.) I’ve never tried making onion rings, but maybe I will for old times’ sake…

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

  11. Betsy

    I’m going to try baking them, first spraying with olive oil or buttery flavored spray. We can’t afford one more calorie but we do love to eat!

  12. David L.

    I loved Bob’s Big Boy onion rings (and the big plastic fellow with the goofy heair hefting the plate high above his head outside….)

    They were the best…but unlike you, I still think I could still eat a couple of platefuls of them. And not feel one bit of regret xx

  13. novelismo

    At the Iron Men Inn, in Iowa City, Iowa, where I worked as a chef in 1980, we made the best onion rings I have ever eaten using a twice-fried process similar to that used for properly made fresh-cut French Fries. The rings – always perfect rings – were dredged through a special batter that had the consistency of pancake batter (but no lumps). It was made each morning and then rested all day. There was some leavening in the batter, but no cornmeal. The rings were fried first to a light golden brown, then drained, then transferred to a large pan. They were finished to a darker brown as each order was required. Any broken rings not eaten by the cooks were discarded. After I got done making the rings, I made a gallon of Bearnaise sauce ….

  14. Saumya

    Hey Hi,

    I live in India. Are corn meal and corn flour the same?

    Corn meal is grainy. It isn’t as finely ground as corn flour. ~Elise

  15. Kkitchenwitch

    Wanted to serve something other than french fries with home made hamburgers, looked for an onion rings recipe and this one appealed to me because of the reference to the memory of the Bob’s Big Boy rings. (In the first job I ever had, I was assigned to make the Bob’s Big Boy rings according to their recipe instructions with pre-mixed ingredients. Maybe I’m biased, but I agree that Bob’s were the best ever! And with Ina’s recipe, I was able to duplicate the same taste and crunch, with fewer calories I’m sure.) The recipe was easy to follow, though I reduced quantities to accommodate enough for just 2 servings, and added 1 teaspoon of Tabasco Sauce for fun. Prep and cooking times were minimal. Nothing but rave reviews from my husband, and I certainly consider it a saver!

  16. Heather

    Hello All,
    Well it’s quite a few years since this recipe was originally posted. I have read the recipe and made my own GLUTEN FREE-DAIRY FREE solution. My daughter is both, so I had to find something yummy that we could both do together. I had no time in between reading this recipe and saving it, and the BBQ that made me famous for it!!!

    I got some heavy duty foil, oiled it with corn oil (she’s allergic to olive oil), and then kept that aside.

    I got a small bowl and filled it with soy milk.
    In another bowl I filled it with rice flour, black pepper, some green herbs (of choice).

    Then I sliced red onions (sweeter) to just under 1/4 inch.

    I dredged the onion rings, concentrically sliced slabs, into the soy milk, then carefully laid them onto the flour mixture.

    With a spoon I covered the tops of them with the flour.

    Then I scooped them out, and laid them on the oiled foil.

    I wrapped the foil like a waterproof package, top folded first tightly, then rolled up the ends keeping the air out as I went.

    I put the packages on the BBQ from the get go, so they had at least 20 minutes on there.

    When it was time to check for doneness of them and the other veggies I had packed,


    They looked deep fried! Crusty, caramelized onions!!

    This was the first time I had tried such a stunt, and it worked wonderfully!

    I posted this, to show others that batter foods do well on the BBQ. You just have to experiment.
    The family was jazzed at it’s success!!



  17. Maria

    I made this but cut the onions 1/8 and 1/4 inches thick. Very light and delish! Will definitely be making these again. I sprinkled salt on the papertowels before putting the fried rings to drain and also sprinkled them with a bit of salt. Really helped bring out the flavor.

  18. Sabrina C.

    I made these delicious Onion Rings, eating them right now, so good!, I made some modifications, had no milk or plain yogurt, so I used the flour/ cornmeal mixture (added extra 1/4 c cornmeal), and dipped my onions in egg. Still came out perfect, light and crispy. I added the tsp salt to my flour mixture, and it was the perfect amount to season the rings, sprinkling salt on them after frying would simply be to much sodium, and I’m sure they’d taste to salty. Great recipe starting point for me, next time I’ll follow the recipe exact.