This vegan creamed onions recipe is an elegant and tasty side dish of sweet pearl onions in a mouth-watering vegan white sauce topped with crispy breadcrumbs.
Traditional Thanksgiving pearled onions go vegan with an easy recipe the entire family will love.
Enjoy this yummy dish with vegan Thanksgiving recipes or other holiday favorites like seitan roast with savory stuffing, mushroom lentil loaf, maple sweet potato casserole, or pomegranate Brussels sprouts.
Table of Contents
Creamed onions are a holiday staple written on our Thanksgiving menu. Personally, I can't imagine a holiday meal without them. Because the original recipe from my youth was, in my opinion, one of the best Thanksgiving side dishes ever, a healthy, dairy-free, vegan version had to happen.
This new recipe is exclusively plant-based, and because we rely on cashews, there is no need for heavy cream, butter, or oil. You can easily keep this recipe gluten-free using gluten-free stock and breadcrumbs. Winner!
Pearl onions - Pearl onions are little white onions that are about 1 inch or less in diameter. You might also know them as baby onions, boiling onions, buttons, or creamers. Look for them fresh or frozen. Small shallots make the best substitution.
Cashews – The sauce uses raw cashews. Don’t use roasted or salted cashews – the flavor won’t be as good (or even terrible).
Lemon juice – Lemon juice balances the sweetness of the cashews for an added layer of flavor.
Breadcrumbs – Use dry whole wheat bread or gluten-free bread, toasted and crumbled. You can use panko, although it’s difficult to find whole wheat or gluten-free.
Nutmeg – Ground nutmeg, just a pinch, adds a slight sweetness. It’s complementary to a rich white sauce, like cauliflower bechamel. You can also take a few swipes of a whole nutmeg across a grater.
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions.
Step 1: Boil the onions for 3 minutes to remove the skins. Rinse in cold water.
Step 2: Simmer in vegetable broth, then add cashew cream sauce.
Step 3: Add onions and sauce to a casserole dish.
Step 4: Sprinkle over breadcrumbs, chives, and a little paprika. Bake for 10-15 minutes.
- For fresh onions, trim off the root end. That's the bottom, brownish part. Leave a few stem ends. If your peeled onions are a little pointy, they'll be even more charming.
- Frozen pearl onions will come ready to eat. If you use these, lucky you! Simmer them in the vegetable broth to thaw them (step 4). You may need an extra 5 minutes of thawing time due to the moisture in the frozen onions. Continue following the recipe instructions.
Denise's make-ahead tip: If you've made the casserole a day ahead. Add the breadcrumbs right before baking. Cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 15 minutes until it starts to bubble. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes to taste the bread crumbs.
Served this elegant casserole straight from the dish with other holiday sides like roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can prepare creamed onions a day ahead. Once you place the creamed onions in the casserole dish, cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Wait to add bread crumbs, the remaining chives, and paprika until right before baking.
You can make this recipe with frozen pearl onions and peas or a combination of pearl onions, peas, and carrots. Use 3 cups of frozen vegetables along with the sauce. Frozen vegetables will thaw when simmered with the vegetable broth.
Cashew white sauce is sweet and mellow. If you want additional spices, consider a pinch of dried thyme or cayenne pepper. You can also add a tablespoon of dry sherry to the vegetable broth when you simmer the onions.
More Festive Vegan Side Dishes
Vegan Creamed Onions Recipe
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- 3 cups pearl onions - see notes for frozen onions
- 2 cups vegetable stock - vegetable broth
- 1 cup cashews - raw
- 1 cup plant milk
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons chives - minced, 1 tablespoon for the sauce plus the rest for garnish
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon paprika - optional
- Add the cashews to a small bowl and cover them with boiling water. Allow them to soak while you cook the onions.
- Heat a large pot of water while you cut off the root ends of each onion. Don’t peel them. When the water is boiling, add the onions and simmer for 3 minutes. Immediately remove them from the heat. Drain them and rinse them under cold water or place them in an ice bath.
- Once the onions are cool enough to handle, take each onion, trim the tips off using kitchen shears and squeeze to pop off the skins.
- Using your same saucepan, add 2 cups of vegetable broth and the peeled onions. Bring the broth to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Cover the pot and cook the onions for 15-20 minutes until most of the broth is absorbed. It’s ok to leave a bit of broth in the bottom of the pan (up to ½ inch is fine). This will help the sauce to thin out a bit.
- While the onions are simmering, drain and rinse the cashews and add them to a blender. Add 1 cup plant milk and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Blend until smooth. It should be the consistency of thick gravy.
- Preheat the oven to 425 F. (200 C.)
- When the onions are done simmering, turn off the heat. Add the cream sauce to the pan. Mix in 1 tablespoon of chopped chives, plus ½ teaspoon black pepper, and ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg (or a few grates of a whole nutmeg). Taste and adjust the seasoning and add salt if necessary.
- Transfer the onions to a small baking dish (mine was 10 ½ x 7 inches). Top off ⅓ cup breadcrumbs, the rest of the chives, and a sprinkle of paprika if using.
- Place the onions, uncovered, in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until it starts to bubble and the breadcrumbs are toasted.
- You can make this dish ahead of time. Cover the casserole dish with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator. Add the breadcrumbs right before baking. Bake, covered, for 15-20 minutes until the sauce bubbles. Uncover and bake for another 5 minutes to toast the breadcrumbs.
- This recipe can be made with frozen pearl onions or a mix of pearl onions and other vegetables. Add the frozen onions to the vegetable broth (step 4).
Nutritional information is an estimation only.