Our 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.
Creamed onions are a holiday staple written on a Thanksgiving menu as a tasty side dish. Personally, I can imagine a holiday meal without them. Because the original recipe from my youth was, in my opinion, one of the best thanksgiving sides dishes ever, a healthy, dairy-free, vegan version had to happen.
Guess what? It’s even better than the original.
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. I used You might also know them as baby onions, boiling onions, buttons, or creamers. Although they don’t come in a specific variety, they are usually white.
Pearl onions tend to be seasonal, showing up in the produce section around the winter holidays. I used fresh pearl onions straight from the veggie section in the grocery store. You can often find them frozen, which will save steps in preparation. If you can’t find pearl onions, it’s possible to use small shallots.
Vegetable stock – Use a good quality vegetable stock and be sure to check that it’s vegan. Wait to add salt until after you’ve added the sauce to the onions. The broth yields a sweet roasted onion flavor without ever dragging out a roasting pan.
Cashews – The sauce uses raw cashews. Don’t use roasted or salted cashews – the flavor won’t be as good (or even kind of terrible).
Plant milk – I used oat milk, but any non-dairy milk will work.
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, crumbled, or toast it first. 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 bechamel. You can also take a few swipes of a whole nutmeg across a grater.
- If you use fresh onions, you only need to 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.
- Be sure to rinse the boiled onions in cold water or place them in a large bowl of ice water Cooling stops the cooking process and makes the onions easier to peel.
- If you simmer the onions in the same pot, but sure to rinse it out to remove leftover onion skin. Otherwise, you can use a large saucepan to simmer the onions and add the sauce.
- After the skins of the onions are removed, simmer them in vegetable broth over medium heat for 15 minutes. Use this time to blend the cashews, plant milk, and lemon juice. When you add the cream sauce to the simmering onions, you can turn off the heat or keep it super low so that the ingredients are at the barest simmer.
- When you add the onions to your casserole dish, try to keep them in an even layer with plenty of sauce in the bottom. If you bake the onions straight from the warm pot, it will take about 10 minutes before the mixture bubbles. If you start the casserole cold, cover it with aluminum foil and plan to bake it for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil after 10 minutes. This will keep the breadcrumbs from getting too brown.
- Even if you have a high-speed blender, we recommend quick-soaking cashews in boiling water. This produces a creamier sauce. You can also grind dry cashews in a spice grinder and avoid soaking altogether. This process is helpful if you have a lower-powered blender.
- The cashew sauce will be thick and dense when you pour it from the blender. Once it is mixed with the remaining vegetable broth, it will be the consistency of thick gravy. It will get slightly thinner once it bakes.
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 Sides
Creamed Onions Recipe - pearl onions in vegan cream sauce)
Our creamed onions recipe is an elegant, tasty side dish of sweet pearl onions in a mouth-watering vegan white sauce topped with crispy breadcrumbs.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 6 1x
- Category: Side Dishes
- Method: stovetop
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegan
- 3 cups pearl onions
- 2 cups vegetable stock (broth)
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1 cup plant milk
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt (optional)
- 2 tablespoons minced chives (1 tbsp. for the sauce plus the rest for garnish)
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- ½ tsp. paprika (optional)
- Soak the cashews. Add the cashews to a small bowl and cover them with boiling water. Allow them to soak while you cook the onions.
- Prep 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 cook them at a slow boil for 3 minutes. Immediately remove them from the heat, drain them and rinse them under cold water or place them in an ice bath.
- Peel the onions. 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.
- Cook the onions. 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.
- Make the cream sauce. 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. Preheat the oven to 4250F (2200C).
- Finish the creamed onions. 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 to baking dish. 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.
- Bake the onions. 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.
- 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).
Keywords: creamed onions, vegan cream sauce, pearl onions in cream sauce
I got to try this looks and sounds AMAZING
It will not disappoint. It is really lovely. I hope you enjoy it!
My favorite thing recently has been cashew cream - just put it in a "green goddess" soup this evening, in fact! These sound absolutely delightful though, and will try! Thanks for sharing!
If you love cashew cream, then I think you'll love this recipe. It is one of our absolute favorites.
Absolutely delicious - fine idea!
Thank you. I am so glad you enjoyed them - it's one of our favorites.