Your Onion Sauce Needs at Least Five Onions

The smell of caramelized onions is one of the most divine scents you can inhale, and it’s one of those foods that tastes true to the promise of flavor. Caramelized onions are thickened, very fragrant, sweet, savory and a little spicy at the same time. It is this flavor bomb that makes them ideal for mixing with sour cream for sauce.

Most sauces use one type of onion, maybe two, but there is a whole genre of multi-onion sauces and the best ones are those containing at least five (5) different types of onions. Each bulb brings something different to the table. White onions set the classic onion base, red onions add an aggressive edge, and I bet you can guess what a sweet onion will do. Shallots impart an intensely sweet garlic flavor, while leeks impart a slight chives flavor. The green part of the green onion makes a great garnish, but you can toss the white part into the pan along with the rest of the onion. (Another type of onion that makes a great side dish? Crispy fried onions found on casseroles.)

The type and amount of onion you choose for the sauce is really up to you. You can do four or six, or whatever number suits you (but I like five); just browse the onion row and take whatever catches your eye. Add them all to a large saucepan and cook over the lowest possible heat until they turn into a dark caramelized mass (at least an hour). They will be so flavorful that you can mix them with a glass or so of sour cream and call it a sauce, but I have the full recipe if you like that sort of thing. My best onion sauce? Reduce the amount of dairy products! Too much sour cream or melted cheese will dull all the flavor that you have obtained through gentle and thorough cooking. Celebrate them. Honor them. Eat them (with chips).

Five-Onion Claire Sauce


  • 1 white onion
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 green onion, dark green part separated from white and light green parts
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil (such as vegetable oil)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Cut all three onions into 1/4 inch thick pieces and slice the shallots into thin rings. Separate the dark green part from the rest of the green onion and set aside, then thinly slice the white and light green parts. Add all but the dark green onions to a large skillet with oil and season with salt. Stir, then place over medium-low heat. Once the onion begins to sweat and soften, reduce the heat to low and cook until it caramelizes and turns into a boiled, dark brown mass, at least an hour. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely. (I usually cook the onions the night before I want to dip them so they can cool completely in the fridge.)

Mix the onion with the rest of the ingredients, taste (a pinch) and season with salt and pepper if needed. You can even add a pinch of MSG if you like, but this is one sauce that frankly doesn’t need it, as the onion mixture is filled with tons of deep umami. Garnish with a thinly sliced ​​green onion (or crispy fried onion or fried garlic ) and eat with your favorite potato chips.


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