Onions are one of those vegetables that are a bit like marmite, people either love them or hate them. Personally, I love onions but not raw onions! Some parents really struggle with children who are averse to onions and want to find ways to hide them in meals.

A guest post from Helen from Easy Meals for Busy Mums blog.

What do we find onions in?

From beef burgers to spaghetti bolognese, from stir-fries to curry, onion is the essential ingredient for so many recipes around the world.

Most of the recipes on Just Average Jen have onion in them in one way or another.

If like me you are not so keen on raw onions you might want to avoid recipes like Caribbean rice, alternatively cut up the onion smaller or use one of the alternatives below.

blue knife slicing a white onion on a wooden board

What is onion?

The onion bulb is packed full of water, and surprisingly sugar. It’s the sugar that’s concealed in the flavour by the savoury flavours that make the onion a good basis for lots of recipes.

Yet not everyone is a fan.  Peel back the layers on this multi-purpose vegetable and the intense onion smell hits you, once you start chopping the chemicals and enzymes that have been kept separate mix, producing new chemicals and that all too familiar teary feeling. Boy, can they make you cry!

onions infographic

Did you know that using a sharp knife can stop them from making you cry though? Next time use a really sharp knife and you will see a massive difference.

At Easy Meals for Busy Mums my readers often comment that when they see onions in a recipe they tend to leave them out. If you have little ones or fussy eaters why not try and hide the onions in the dish instead? Allowing you to enjoy all the flavour and none of the fuss!

How do you hide the onions?

There are so many smart ways to hide vegetables in meals but onions can be tricky, hopefully, these tips help!

It all starts with the initial browning of the onions. How long you cook them determines the flavours you get. These images show onions being fried for 5 minutes and the second one for 12 minutes.

white onions being fried
frying onions getting brown

It’s pretty obvious that cooking onions for just five minutes aren’t long enough. They certainly look very different, I mean, one plate looks pale and when you taste them the raw onion taste is still very strong. Whereas the longer cooked version tastes far better, savoury but also sweet and caramelised. 

Cooking the onion for longer allows time for a reaction between the sugars, the same sort of reaction that makes caramel. So that’s a really sweet, nice flavour. The longer cooking also gives time for the proteins to react in the onion so that you get these great savoury flavours. All the raw onion bite has gone.

Cooking your onions for longer and letting the flavours caramelise may be enough for you to continue with your recipe. Having lost the raw bite even the fussiest eaters can enjoy your tasty dishes.

No visible onions!

For some children, any hint of a visible onion and mealtimes can turn into a battle. So how can you truly hide the onion and still enjoy the flavours? 

Recipes with a sauce such as a bolognese, curries, are the easiest to hide onions. They all start with sautéing the onions. It’s important to allow time for the flavours to develop.  You can’t rush this step, even when hiding the onions. Allowing the extra time will improve the taste of all your dishes. 

Once the onions are sautéed, add the other ingredients of the sauce base, as the recipe instructions.  

Once the sauce is combined, blend together using a stick blender in the pan.  Be careful if the sauce is hot, before switching on make sure the blender is in the sauce, so you don’t splash hot sauce.

Alternatively, transfer the sauce to a food processor and blend, before returning to the pan.  

Once smooth, and there are no visible onions continue with your recipe!

Burgers and meatballs, it’s not possible to blend in the onion with other ingredients in these dishes. One popular way to hide the onion is to grate it into the meat mixture rather than finely chop it. The grating of the onion releases more juices so you could also reduce the amount of onion in the recipe and still enjoy the flavour. 

Onion Alternatives 

Shallots – part of the onion family.  Smaller, milder ideal for grating.

Leeks – chopped leeks have a mild oniony flavour and make a great alternative.

Chives – a handful of chopped chives works well in dishes like quiche.

Onion powder – you’ll find this in the spice section in supermarkets. Add a teaspoon per onion and no one will know! Ideal in burgers or meatballs where you can’t blend the onions.

Please don’t leave out the onions. Cooked properly, onions can add a lovely savoury sweetness to your dishes. 

Do you have any other methods for hiding onions? Have you tried any other alternatives?

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