French onion dip served with crunchy chips or vegetables is a must-have appetizer for parties and game days. Skip the store-bought stuff. It tastes better from scratch!
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Instead of using powdered onion soup mix, the flavor comes from freshly chopped onions. To enhance their earthy taste, we’re going to caramelize them. This process transforms the raw and sulfurous notes into intense sweet and savory bites. I’ll show you my step-by-step guide for cooking the onions.
The caramelized onions are mixed with cool and creamy sour cream and just enough mayonnaise to add a rich texture. Grab a chip and dig in. Make a batch to enjoy for game day or your next gathering. It’s great to make in advance. It tastes even better with more time for the flavors to meld together. If you love French onion soup, then this appetizer is for you!
I use yellow onions for this recipe. They give a balanced sweet, savory, and mild taste when cooked. If sweeter varieties like Vidalia or Maui are available, grab those. There is less sulfur in their cell walls and a richer caramel flavor.
Chop the onions
To ensure a strong onion flavor throughout the dip, chop them into fine pieces. You don’t want big chunks stuck in your teeth. This size also gives more surface area to soften the entire allium, so there is no crunch in the center.
I use a chef knife for the most control, but a food processor works to speed up the process. You’ll need about 2 large onions or 4 cups chopped.
Caramelize the onions
To begin the caramelization process, cook the chopped onions in butter and olive oil. I also add a small amount of brown sugar to kickstart browning, plus some molasses for flavor. Salting the onions helps draw the moisture to the surface, tenderizing them and quickening color change.
Start cooking at medium-high to drive off moisture, then drop the temperature low to finish cooking gently. You don’t want to burn them! The natural sugars rise to the surface, deepening the hue to dark brown and sweetening the taste. This process takes about 20 minutes, but it’s worth the wait. The flavor is unmatched!
Deglaze the pan
After about 15 minutes, the sugars from the onions and brown sugar will leave some caramel residue on the sides of the pan. Do not let that go to waste. Add water to help deglaze and incorporate the browned bits back into the onions. This technique also helps to prevent burning.
Add in garlic
Stir in some fresh minced garlic once the onions are nearly done caramelizing. The garlic compliments the earthy flavor of the onion and mellows its spice when sauteed. If you want to add a more pungent lingering taste, add about ½ teaspoon of garlic powder when mixing the dip ingredients.
For a creamy texture
Nothing is more satisfying than loading up a salty potato chip or crunchy cucumber slice with a creamy dip. I use sour cream for the base because it has a high amount of milk fat for a thick consistency. It also has a nice tanginess from the culturing process. This ingredient balances the sweetness of the onions.
Plain Greek yogurt is a comparable substitute with extra protein and health-beneficial probiotics. The higher the fat level, the more luxurious the texture. A small amount of mayonnaise adds a rich mouthfeel due to the eggs and oil, but don’t overdo it. It shouldn’t taste too heavy.
Flavoring the dip
To add a savory dimension, sprinkle in Worcestershire sauce to boost the umami flavor and complement the creamy dip. Its concentrated vinegar, molasses, anchovies, tamarind, chili pepper, and seasonings give a unique taste. Don’t worry. It won’t taste fishy.
Concentrated onion powder also helps to extend the taste from start to finish. Don’t forget some salt to enhance the flavor and black pepper for a hint of spice.
Bringing it all together
The caramelized onions will reduce from 2 cups of fresh vegetables to ¾ cups of cooked. Let them cool down, so they don’t melt the dairy products in the dip. Stir together the onions, sour cream, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, salt, and black pepper.
The mixture should be smooth with bits of onions pieces throughout. Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor if you want a super creamy texture. I like to garnish with fresh chives before serving.
Serve this with
The base consists of tangy sour cream and mayonnaise for a creamy consistency. For the best taste, my recipe uses freshly caramelized onions. For a quicker option, you can use a packet of onion soup mix containing concentrated dehydrated onion powder. This dip is not French in origin, but it can have nuances of French onion soup when made from scratch.
Wavy potato chips have grooves and ridges to catch the dip and are thick enough to hold the weight without breaking. The salty taste enhances the flavor of the dip. Tortilla chips also pair well.
The dip stores very well, about 5 days. The taste improves over time as the water-soluble flavors from the alliums, sugars, and salts have more time to infuse together. The onion gets more pronounced over time, and it tastes delicious chilled.
Onions can caramelize without sugar
Onions contain about 10% carbohydrates from natural sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose. They all break down and caramelize, starting around 230ºF (110ºC) with fructose—sucrose and glucose around 320ºF (160ºC). I add brown sugar to speed up the process, but it needs more time to heat up without it. Be careful. Sugars burn above 350ºF (177ºC) and you don’t want that taste in the dip.
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French Onion Dip
- 4 cups finely chopped yellow onions, or sweet onions
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 cups sour cream
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chives
- Melt the Butter – Set a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Melt the butter then add olive oil, brown sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, pepper. Stir to combine.
- Caramelize the Onions – Immediately add in the onions and stir to coat. Saute while frequently stirring until they begin to soften and lightly brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Continue cooking while frequently stirring until evenly browned, 10 minutes.
- Deglaze the Pan – Add 2 tablespoons of water, stir and scrape to deglaze the pan—Cook for 5 minutes. Add the remaining water and deglaze again, cook until brown, 5 minutes.
- Saute the Garlic – Add the garlic and frequently stir until fragrant and the onions turn deep brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Let it Cool – Add the caramelized onions to a medium bowl, then transfer to a refrigerator until cool, about 10 minutes.
- Mix the Dip – To the medium bowl, add the sour cream, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, ¼ teaspoon salt, onion powder, and black pepper. Stir together until smooth. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve – Transfer dip to a serving bowl. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve with chips or vegetables.
- Recipe Yield: About 3 cups
- Serving Size: ¼ cup
- Storing: Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Worchestershire Substitute: 1 teaspoon soy sauce and ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar.
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