This vegan French onion dip recipe is rich and creamy with an irresistible combination of sweet and tangy flavor and a plethora of healthy caramelized onions.
It’s time to part with that aging packet of chemically enhanced onion dip mix. You know, the one that has a half-life.
Let’s make an onion dip that is made from real food and tastes great. Oh, and let’s take on how to caramelize onions without oil. Once and for all.
It doesn’t take a lot to make this delicious dip:
Onions (it’s French onion dip)
Raw cashews (don’t use the kind that has been dipped in oil and roasted – yuck!)
White beans. I used Haricot beans, but you can also use Cannelloni or even white kidney beans).
Lemon juice. Fresh is best, but use what you have access to. If you buy the stuff from the squeezy, make sure it’s 100% juice).
Apple cider vinegar. If you don’t have that, I recommend rice vinegar or doubling up on lemon juice).
Onion powder. Yep, more onion flavor. The onion powder is more concentrated than the caramelized onions. The flavor really picks up steam once the dip rests.
Paprika. I did a detailed analysis of paprika in my post about chili powder. You can use a sweet one here or if you prefer a bit of depth, try smoked paprika.
Ground black pepper. A few twists or more. Add ½ of a teaspoon and then after the dip sits and you give it the last stir, taste it and adjust the pepper.
Chives. This is your main garnish besides the rest of the caramelized onions. Technically, we’re not adding more onions when we garnish our luscious bowl of dip with chives.
Chives are actually an herb. They are not the same as scallions or green onions – even though the flavor might be considered 'oniony.'
Chives add a beautiful color and flavor appropriate for this dip. Chives, along with parsley, tarragon, and chervil, are considered essential French fines herbs.
How to caramelize onions without oil
The first step in making onion dip is caramelizing the onions. Caramelizing is the process of cooking onions, 'low and slow.' The longer you cook them, the more natural onion sugars are released. That’s what makes them so luscious and addicting.
Tips for caramelizing onions without oil
1. Start with a heated pan.
Hot pans repel the onions, so they won’t melt into the pan and immediately stick.
2. Keep them moving.
The more you move the onions, the less likely they are to stick. This also ensures even cooking.
3. Add liquid – a little at a time.
Something interesting happens when you add a small amount of liquid, even water, to cooking onions. The bits of stuck onions and sugars are released, and all the onions get browner. I don’t really know the chemistry involved, but it makes for mighty fine caramelized onions.
4. Move, water, stir, wait, and repeat.
Continue the process of moving the onions about, adding water, stirring to clear off the bottom of the pan, allowing all the liquid to absorb, then doing it again.
5. A little at a time – often if needed.
Be careful about the amount of liquid you add. I used 3 medium onions for this dip, and I never used more than ¼ of a cup of water at-a-time.
Don’t get in a hurry and waterlog the onions by adding too much water. The process won’t work as well because your onions will steam, not caramelize.
6. Mind the heat
As soon as the onions land in the pan and you give them that first stir, you’ll want to lower the heat.
All stovetop settings are different. The type, size, and weight of the pan you use can also contribute to the temperature.
Keep the temperature high enough that the onions continue to brown, but not so high that they are at risk of burning.
Let’s make creamy onion dip!
The most important consideration when making this dip is the cashews. Cashews are soft, but they won’t create a creamy blend with the beans unless you prep them first. There are two ways to tackle this:
1. Soak the cashews. Add at least twice as much boiling water as cashews. Soak for 2 hours. Or, add warm water and soak for 4 hours or overnight.
Here's your alternative. Grind the cashews into a fine powder. Use a spice grinder or high-speed processor for this purpose. This is my preference above soaking. Grinding saves time, and I find that you get a creamier consistency.
3. Once you have the cashews ready, toss them into a food processor or blender along with the beans. Puree until smooth. Then add lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, onion powder, paprika, and ground black pepper.
4. Puree everything until smooth, then transfer the dip to a bowl. Mix in at least half the caramelized onions, reserving some for the garnish.
5. Once you mix in the onions, get ready for the most challenging part of this recipe – you need to rest the dip for at least an hour. It’s torture!
Resting allows the flavor to build. Don’t skip this step. Once you’ve let the dip rest, rush in, give it a quick stir. Now one final taste and adjust with more lemon juice or spices. Garnish it with the remaining onions and chopped chives.
Congratulations! You have a bowl of homemade dip, complete with caramelized onions that you made without any oil. It’s time to celebrate – and fortunately, you have the party food ready. Peace.Print
vegan French onion dip
Vegan French onion dip is creamy and rich with sweet and tangy flavors and plenty of oil-free caramelized onions.
- Prep Time: 85 minutes (including chilling time)
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
- Yield: 3 cups 1x
- Category: On the Side
- Cuisine: plant-based
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 cup of raw cashews
- 3 medium onions, peeled and chopped (3 cups)
- 1 - 15 oz. (400 gm.) can of white beans such as haricot, cannellini, or white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 4 tsp. lemon juice (more if needed)
- 4 tsp. apple cider vinegar (more if needed)
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- ½ tsp. paprika (smoked or sweet)
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. chives, chopped
*If you are soaking the cashews, start there. Otherwise, get on with caramelizing the onions first.
- To caramelize the onions, preheat the skillet to medium-high heat. Add the onions and stir them for a few minutes. Lower the heat slightly and when they being to stick, add ¼ of a cup of water. Use a wooden spoon to pick up the onions stuck to the bottom of the pan. Repeat the process until the onions are dark and soft.
- Remove the onions from the heat and set them aside.
- If you have soaked the cashews, then drain them and add them to a food processor. If not, put the cashews in a spice grinder or high-powered processor. Grind them into a fine powder.
- Place the cashews and beans in the processor and blend until they are smooth.
- Add the lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, onion powder, paprika, and ground black pepper.
- Transfer the dip to a bowl. Mix in about half the onions. Reserve the other half to use as a garnish. Before garnishing, cover and chill the onion dip in the refrigerator for an hour.
- Once the dip has chilled. Give it a stir. Add more lemon juice if you want to thin it a bit. Garnish with the rest of the caramelized onions and chopped chives.
- Serve with veggies, crackers, toasted pita bread, or any of your favorite dippers.
- If you soak the cashews, plan for an additional prep time of 3 ½ hours and start prepping and caramelizing the onions first. If you prefer and want to save time, grind the cashews. No soaking necessary.
- Yellow or white onions work best for this recipe. It’s possible to use red onion, but the result will be sweeter.
- Be sure you begin with a preheated pan before adding the onions to caramelize them. Keep them moving, add water (no more than ¼ of a cup at a time). Allow the water to fully dissipate before adding more water.
- Don’t skip the chilling step of this recipe. That’s what gives this dip the maximum flavor.
Keywords: vegan French onion Dip