Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ask the Internet: Recipes Without Onions?

Edited @ 1pm EST: Sweet readers! Blogger comments aren't publishing right now, across the board, all over the U.S. Hopefully, it'll be fixed this afternoon, and all your replies (of which there have been many) will show up. Until then ... uh ... keep writing? And I'll wait to publish until Blogger has things up and running? Yeah. That sounds good.

ETA: They're working again! Fire away!

This week’s (very good) question comes from reader Allie.

Q: My roommate is extremely sensitive to onions. I can't chop or cook them when she's home; or at least, not without asking her to shut herself up in her bedroom for a couple of hours. For that reason, I keep a special eye out for onion-free recipes, but they're a minority by far within my repertoire.

So here's my question for your readers: can you recommend any onion-free recipes - particularly single-dish meals, or dishes that are fairly simple to prepare? (Bonus points for vegetarian recipes.)

A: This is a great question, since I'm sure we all know/love somebody with a sensitivity to/hatred for onions. My own sister is anti-Allium, though she makes exceptions for the minced onions on a Big Mac. She’s weird, that one.

While chilis and stir fries are largely out the window, you might want to add more egg and pasta dishes in your repertoire. Beyond that, some of my favorite onion-free single-dish recipes include:
Readers, what say you? What are your favorite onionless meals? What do you substitute for onions? Do you have any tricks for getting around an onion sensitivity? Do tell.

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

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30 comments:

amanda said...

I don't like onions in their natural state either, nor does most of my family. I will slice one for my mom's burgers but that's about it. Any other time a recipe calls for onions I either skip them entirely or add onion powder instead. Even in, say, fajitas, I would put onion powder in the meat marinade and skip them in the skillet.

Sara said...

Is your roommate as sensitive to shallots or leeks? I'm personally super sensitive to onion "fumes" - they make me cry, and I can even tell if someone is chopping in the next room, although I love them enough that I put up with it! - but shallots are somewhat better, and leeks give me no trouble at all. Both options are obviously more expensive, but they can give you at least some of the same flavor and can be substituted in a lot of recipes.

Anonymous said...

If you like south asian food, you might try http://www.manjulaskitchen.com/

She avoids onion and garlic for religious reasons, and any recipes I've tried from her site have been very tasty.

I'm interested to see what other people suggest - sometimes I just get tired of the taste of sauteed onions.

cliff said...

I, too, have an onion sensitivity- they make me feel pretty rotten. I just leave out the onion in recipes. I sometimes use chives (a little) or can once in a while get by with a dash of onion powder. Another trick is to cut the onion big so you can remove it, if you can tolerate the flavor. However, I do make Mexican food--enchiladas,quesadillas, casseroles-and I use a salsa made from a small can of tomato sauce, some chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder. For chili I add season salt. I mix it to my taste, and I'm not one for five-alarm stuff. My husband just adds tabasco!
A guess would be: 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder, 3/4 tsp garlic powder, 3/4 tsp cumin or more, till it smells like salsa. I get by fine with bottled spaghetti sauce when we make pizza, and use ginger, mustard, paprika, and gravy mix on pot roasts. I know that a lot (if not all) commercial mixes, ready-to-use foods, and restaurant items have onion in them. Since your roommate is so sensitive, what works for me may not work for her. I also do a Teriyaki stir-fry if you're interested. -Kay

Carrie said...

i used to hate onions so i'd just make whatever recipe i wanted and leave out the onions completely.

I Heart Kale said...

I think this probably only works with Indian dishes (where it's a common practice used by Jains who don't eat onions), but sprinkling a little asafoetida in hot oil at the beginning of a recipe produces the same savory flavor as onions without actually using onions. We've used it here, for example. You could look for Jain recipes online for your roommate and find plenty of onion-free vegetarian options!

Annie Jones said...

Most recipes in my files use onions as a flavoring, but are not onion-centric. So, if I am out of onions or a guest in my home doesn't like them, I just leave them out. The dishes may taste a little less interesting, but they are still good.

Anonymous said...

Have you considered using dried onion flakes or onion powder? Would those affect the roommate in the same way? How about shallots or garlic?

Beyond that, I like frittatas (like a crustless quiche, I like potatoes, ham, and cheese in mine), pizza, and lasagna. Really, just about anything can be made while omitting the onion if you season well and use fresh herbs.

Diane said...

Many traditional South Indian dishes (Tamil, Kerala, Karnaktaka, etc - Brahmin origin) are without onions or garlic, as these are considered passion or heat-inducing and are forbidden on religious grounds. Also Jain dishes from Western India. There's a huge repertoire of dishes that can be cooked. Most are vegetarian, and many are or can be made vegan.

I cook South Indian several days a week, and enjoy the food very much. I use many cookbooks, but some nice ones are "Healthy South Indian Cooking" (Vairavan) or "Dakshin" (Padmanabhan). The first is probably easier to deal with for the average USA kitchen. The second is excellent, but makes few compromises for an American kitchen and is also very, very spicy. I love the second, but the first is a better place to begin maybe. Also highly recommended as a compendium of recipes is "660 Curries" (Iyer) which has many recipes with meat, onions, garlic, but also many without. And lastly, as a cookbook geared soley towards a saatvic/ayurvedic diet with no onions/garlic is "Sukham Ayu" (Giri/Jain).

Indian food may not be for everyone, and does require some pantry-building, but is healthy, cheap and tasty!

Diane said...

Oh - and the standard Indian substitute for onions/garlic in many recipes is asafoetida. It is the resin of a plant that is hellaciously smelly (I keep mine in a bottle, and that inside a glass jar so it doesn't make the whole pantry stick!), but when added to hot oil the smell blooms into a wonderful garlic taste that adds a nice dimension to many dishes. It is also gas-reducing, so you often see it in bean recipes.

I don't know that I've ever seen it added to western recipes, and it DOES have to be added to hot oil not used plain, but it's useful for South Asian cooking.

domesticme said...

I do not like onions either and I tend to continue making recipes that call for onion, I just leave it out and I haven't noticed a difference even when my mom makes the same recipe with onion.

gfpumpkins said...

I can't eat raw or undercooked onions, lest I want my insides cleaned out thoroughly. And most of the time I just don't feel like dealing with cooking onions, so I leave it out. I make stir fry and chili all the time without using onions and no one has ever complained. In fact, my usual chili recipe never contained onions.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm not a fan of onions, so I just leave them out of most dishes and it's fine. Occasionally if I want a hint of onion flavor without having to handle an actual onion (or worse, bite into one), I sprinkle in a bit of onion flakes. But more often I just leave it out entirely and it's fine.
~Rachel

Ducks said...

Onions, although they have always meant "home cooking" to me and I've always loved them, did NOT agree with me during morning sickness. I simply omitted them from most of the recipes that take them. No, the recipes weren't the same, but it cut down on my misery. (Asafoetida is a great fix! But it would have killed me.)

Sandi King said...

I hate onions (in all forms, yes, this includes leeks and shallots)! I occasionally use onion powder if necessary for a recipe, but frequently mince celery in place of onion. I find it gives the same texture and a nice little zing and most people cannot tell the difference. Full disclosure: I love extra spicy food and so with everything else going on in most of my meals, the onion is not missed. This may not be true of blander dishes.

Good luck, and as an onion hater myself, thank you for being so considerate to one of us! :)

Jaime said...

What? Stir-fries not an option! Hooey! Sure, sauteed onions are delish and add a great flavor to a stir-fry, but they're hardly vital. Hot oil, garlic, vegetables, meat if you like, some soy sauce or teriyaki sauce or bbq sauce or spices or anything you like. Serve over rice or noodles or - my favorite - as is. This time of year there are tons of stir-fry-friendly veggies ripe and in-season - zucchini, peppers, string beans, eggplant, kale. Delicious stuff.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure about other recipes, but I've substituted diced fennel bulb in spaghetti sauce for the onions.

Mirya said...

My husband is allergic to onions, so I either leave them out entirely, or substitute shallots/green onions in... they don't seem to bother him. This might do it, as the roommate won't be able to smell them, also!

Julie said...

I love onions, can't imagine not using them in recipes! I have a terrible time with the fumes, so I actually bought some Onion Goggles to wear while chopping them (look them up on Amazon, hideous but effective!)

One of my new favorite recipes is Mango Chicken Quinoa - http://sites.google.com/site/canigettherecipe2/week-20-2?tmpl=%2Fsystem%2Fapp%2Ftemplates%2Fprint%2F. Delicious and onion free!

Nani_Ka said...

My husband can't handle any & all alliums (you know its love when you give up garlic for a guy...). One of the tricks I came up with was to substitute celery for onions in any recipe where leaving them out completely wouldn't work so well...

Natalie said...

Hi there, I'm a long time reader, first time comment-contributer.

Kris, as an ex-McDonald's employee I can tell you that the onions your sister enjoys on her Big Mac aren't really onions at all. We referred to them as recons in the biz because they were reconstituted, powdered onions rehydrated with water. They have a much milder flavour, and, like most things at McD's, they bear very little resemblance to their actual counterpart.

As other posters have suggested, onion powder, leeks, chives or green onions may be reasonable substitutes. While this may not exactly be healthy, yesterday I bought something called crispy onions, which are onions deep fried in vegetable oil. The label claims that they're delicious on everything from salads to burgers and it might be a good way for those who like onions to customize their meal. At least they were cheap and trans fat free...

Chief Family Officer said...

I usually just omit onions entirely - leaving them out does *not* mean you can't have chili, etc. I do sometimes use onion powder instead.

wosnes said...

I have an onion-hating daughter and I omit them from most recipes.

Anonymous said...

I can't eat onions either, bought a great cookbook called _Lord Krishna's Cuisine_ which is all Indian, vegetarian recipes with NO onion (or garlic). Yay!

http://www.amazon.com/Lord-Krishnas-Cuisine-Vegetarian-Cooking/dp/0525245642

Anonymous said...

This is a site that mentions onion/garlic allergy cooking.

http://mypetitchou.blogspot.com/

They use truffle oil to approximate garlic.

MaryKate said...

I'm not fond of onions, but I've found that if I use bagged diced frozen onion from the frozen foods section instead of fresh, the onion doesn't bother me at all.

Stacy said...

I hate onions. I usually just omit them and the dish turns out fine. If you feel that it would lead to a problem with flavor or texture, just up other spices in the dish and add a bit more of some other vegetable in the dish. But I never bother with that.

I find leeks and ramps (and maybe shallots and chives) offend me less than onions, so if I have them on hand, that is what I'll substitute.

Georgie said...

I went on a low-chemical diet for a while, that excluded onions but allowed leeks and chives - if those are an option in this case they make an excellent subsitute.

I also found if it was a recipe that called for sauteeing onion in oil with spices at the start, finely diced celery made a good substitute.

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Rowena said...

I like to use celery in place of onion for pasta sauce. Simmer celery and tomato puree for 40 minutes with perhaps fresh oregano, then add whatever else to cook for about 20 minutes. Celery works for stir fry too. I make stock without onion using a few asian flavours such as kaffir lime leaves, star anise and cinnamin along with carrot, celery, parsley, black peppercorns, and salt. Bay leaf isn't necessary if using kaffir lime leaves in my opinion. I can tolerate garlic, therefore it has become my main onion substitute. Other things to try include, cumin & coriander, chilli and ginger. Remember onion is a sweet flavour essentially, so maybe add mirin or wine to dishes. I don't miss onions.