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Creamed Onions for Thanksgiving

I like creamed onions and try to delegate that to my daughter (she lives downstairs) but they don't turn out right so I think I must do them BUT when turkey comes out, I'm busy making the gravy.

I know it's a lot of work to prepare those little onions but I just don't like the frozen ones. Could I prepare the onions the day before and keep them in the fridge? Should I finish them just before the turkey comes out? I'm afraid it will separate or be overcooked by the time the turkey is carved and served.

Or, can I prepare it the day before and just reheat in microwave before serving?

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  1. Either is fine. If nuking to reheat, leave the bowl on the counter to come to room temp first, then use low power so you aren't cooking the sauce and making it thicken further.

    1. I haven't had a ton of success reheating creamed onions without the sauce breaking (I haven't really been all that careful about it though - I usually just nuke the hell out of the leftovers). If I were you I'd either make the complete dish up to the baking step and just do the baking the next day (allowing the dish to come to room temp before putting it in the oven), or peel and blanch the onions the day before and hold them overnight in a ziploc or something else airtight. Then you can do the sauce/baking any time during your day-of prep that seems convenient.

      1. you can certainly reheat in the microwave, just do it gently and from room temp and it will be fine. really.

        1. I prepare the onions two days before- steaming and popping the little suckers. The next day I make the sauce and then simmer the onions in the sauce for enough time for the onions to finish cooking. The day of Thanksgiving, I put the onions with sauce into a double boiler to bring back to temperature. It takes a fair amount of time but the sauce has never broken.

          I am the last person in my family willing to fuss with those onions but they all love this once a year treat.

          2 Replies
          1. re: smtucker

            When you heat up in double boiler, you do this after turkey comes out of oven? You have the water simmering low and slow?

            So, before, you steam the onions? I've read to put in boiling water (I forget how long, not long, it's in the recipe) and them put them into bowl of ice water and then pop them out of the skins.

            1. re: walker

              I actually steam the onions to pop them out of their shells. [I have a really big steamer.] I do not put them into cold water. Never considered that! I burn my hands for this one dish. Then make the sauce with onions and then in a double boiler to warm.

              The turkey is never in the oven, but I probably put the onions in the double boiler about an hour before we sit down to eat? [Our turkey is outside on a smoker.]

          2. How about posting a good recipe. I have never heard of creamed onions.

            7 Replies
            1. re: randyjl

              Here's one we've used; I'm open to trying a different one; I'll probably double this:

              2 pounds unpeeled white pearl onions
              1 1/4 teaspoons salt
              2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
              4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour (is this too much flour y'all??)
              2 cups heavy cream or half and half'
              1/4 teaspoon black pepper
              1/2 teaspoon paprika

              Place unpeeled onions in a large pot of boiling water for approx. one minute .. remove from boiling water and drain. Transfer onions to a bowl of ice water to prevent further cooking. Drain again and peel (they'll pop out of their skins).

              Add onions to pot with 1 teaspoon of salt and enough water to cover. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce heat and cook til onions are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.

              While onions are cooking, prepare the sauce: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat then whisk in flour, pepper and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Whisk continuously to prevent burning then slowly add cream or 1/2 and 1/2 while whisking and cook until mixture thickens and comes to a slight boil, about 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat, add cooked onions to the sauce. Add to serving dish and sprinkle with paprika. (Chopped fresh parsley on top would be good, too.)

              My daughter put a note on the recipe that it seemed too thick so she thinned it with some milk.

              1. re: walker

                I found a similar recipe on Saveur that I've been wanting to try - the main differences seem to be the addition of a bit of white wine and nutmeg, and the fact that the Saveur one is topped with a mixture of gorgonzola and parmesan cheeses. What could be bad about that?

                1. re: biondanonima

                  I think the gorgonzola would ruin the dish by covering the delicate flavor of th eonions.

                2. re: walker

                  I like them seasoned with a bit of Szechuan pepper, toasted and ground.

                  1. re: walker

                    Yes. That is too much flour. I use a 1:1 ratio of butter to flour. I never use heavy cream or half and half either; a good quality whole milk is sufficient. I also use a fair amount of dried mustard and a bit of nutmeg, no paprika.

                    As mentioned above, I don't boil the onions, I steam them. Then pop them when I can just bare the level of heat.

                    1. re: randyjl

                      Here is the link to a recipe I have used from Food & Wine and always had great results. (Aren’t most things better with bacon added? :-)


                    2. I've only made them for the past three years as a suggestion from on here. I really like them and do make them a day ahead and reheat without problems on the stove top. This is the recipie I've used with success. I add a pinch of nutmeg and skip the thyme.


                      1. I am just curious my son's ex G/F made creamed onions for a big" blended families" Thanksgiving dinner in 2010.She used Cipollini onions.Are those the correct ones to use?They were not the tiny pearl onions they were more like a silver dollar or slightly larger size.She prepared the dish here at my house and it was very labor intensive but oh so extravagantly luscious.She prepared it here and then baked it at my daughters home where the dinner was hosted and they were absolute perfection:)

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: Lillipop

                          As much as I love cipollini onions, the tiny pearl onions are traditional here in New England. Also, generally, creamed onions isn't a baked dish.

                          1. re: smtucker

                            Creamed onions was a traditional dish for my father's family, German-Dutch from Chicago. They always use boiling onions (at least twice as big as pearl onions) and the dish is baked.

                            It's so bland though, I always figured it would be better with a little sour cream or somthing to zing up the white sauce.

                            1. re: 512window

                              My friend who usually brings them adds a little dijon mustard to her sauce - I've also been contemplating a recipe that calls for white wine. I agree that a completely plain white sauce is a little bland.

                            2. re: smtucker

                              She prepared it here put in into a casserole dish and "baked"/"heated" the casserole dish in the oven at my daughter's house.She used cipolinni onions.....butter...flour thyme...other herbs...cream and made one of the most luxurious dishes I had ever tasted.

                              1. re: smtucker

                                This is the type I am familiar with. My mother always used a jar of onions and I don't really care for them. I wonder of the fresh would taste better to me? I do like the sauce.

                                1. re: melpy

                                  The jarred onions usually have vinegar or acid added, which to me makes them completely unsuitable for this dish. Try it with fresh onions and see if you like it more.

                              2. re: Lillipop

                                Do you have her recipe? I know cipollini's are expensive .. $4 lb .. but so are the fresh pearl onions .. wonder how they compare in price? I have another recipe for cipollini's that are sauteed and then they get some balsamic vinegar .. delicious.

                                1. re: walker

                                  I just found the cipollini recipe .. it's from Smitten Kitchen (love this site), adapted from Mario Batali. It's 2 lbs cipollini or small onions, 4 T olive oil, 3 T unsalted butter, 2 T sugar, 1 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup tomato sauce (I did not want tomato taste in this so I used chicken broth, instead), 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (I prefer parsley, so that's what I used).

                                  She recs using a splatter screen because it spits and all while you're sauteing the onions.
                                  She calls this recipe: Balsamic-glazed sweet and sour cipollini.

                                  1. re: walker

                                    I love that recipe! Made it numerous times.

                                  2. re: walker

                                    I do not have the recipe for the creamed onions she prepared.I know she googled it and printed out the recipe because she was cooking from the printed instructions.I know there were cipollini onions...cream.....butter....flour (roux) salt pepper and thyme.I am not sure what fresh herbs went into the dish.

                                    1. re: walker

                                      If you're concerned about expense, you can definitely make creamed onions out of any type of onion - you just have to cut them into smaller (bite sized) pieces and cook them thoroughly before saucing, since they don't really cook much once they're in the sauce.

                                  3. Along with my "infamous" sweet potatoes (like spicy candy), I usually take creamed onions to T-Day dinner. The idea of adding gorganzola/bleu cheese sounds interesting. Thinking I'll just have to experiment head of time.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. I've never heard of creamed onions! In what region(s) are they common?

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: plasticanimal

                                        New England, Salem, Concord, and Maynard, MA to be specific.

                                        1. re: smtucker

                                          We also had them in CT. Which I know is part of NE but just to say it reaches pretty far.

                                        2. re: plasticanimal

                                          That's a great question. They weren't a part of my tradition in central New Jersey, but I've just been asked for them by folks I'll be hosting who come from a New England tradition. Reading this thread very closely. Not sure what they expect. Not sure how to provide it.

                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            I think I'm going to try this recipe; you can make it ahead and bake the day of .. will skip the pimiento strips.


                                            1. re: JoanN

                                              Joan, it is really just a bechamel with steamed pearl onions. Very easy dish, but popping those pearl onions out of their skins is very time consuming. Just simmer the onions with sauce on the stove. No baking needed.

                                            2. re: plasticanimal

                                              I'm in Calif. My parents were from the deep south. I never heard of creamed onions until 3 years ago when someone on this forum mentioned the dish and I began making it. I kinda wish I had known of it earlier.

                                              1. re: Sam D.

                                                So. What recipe do you use? Is it different from the one you first used three years ago?

                                            3. Regarding the type of onion used in creamed onions; I grew up with this delicious Thanksgiving side dish, and trust me, my mother never heard of a cipollini or even a pearl onion back then. She used a "boiling onion" in her creamed onion recipe. Read this; http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Dictiona.... I recall how laborious the onion prep was for this, so I shied away from making them for years, and only began making them again a few years ago. Now they are a staple of our holiday menu, and I wouldn't dream of taking them off the list of offerings. Since I only make them once a year, why not? I've tried fresh pearl onions, frozen pearls, cipollinis, and boiling onions - when I can find them. Honestly, Mom was right - the "boilers" work best for me, and since they are larger in size, a (little) less effort. I can only say, make these; they are delicious and your family will thank you. To lighten the sauce, I always save some of the liquid I've boiled the onions in and whisk it in to the white sauce. I don't add wine or cheese, just a sprinkle of nutmeg on top.

                                              1. Here are the curried onions we've enjoyed for years. Comes from my sister's MIL. You can make in advance, then cook after the turkey vacates the oven.

                                                Curried Onions
                                                1 lb. pearl onions
                                                3 T. butter
                                                2 T. flour
                                                ½ c. beef stock
                                                ½ c. milk
                                                ½ teaspoon curry powder
                                                ½ teaspoon salt
                                                ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
                                                ¼ teaspoon paprika
                                                ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
                                                ¼ c. grated sharp cheddar cheese

                                                Parboil onions in boiling water 3 to 5 minutes. Drain, cut off root and stem of each onion. Slip off skins. Place onions in a 1 qt. casserole dish.

                                                In a small sauce pan, heat butter until foamy. Stir in flour. Cook several minutes over low heat. Gradually add stock and milk, stirring constantly until thickened. Add spices and cheese and stir until cheese has melted. Heat oven to 300 degrees.

                                                Pour sauce over onions. Cover and bake for 45 minutes until onions are tender.