The Best Way To Make Crispy Onions And Shallots, According To Nik Sharma

Onions are such a versatile vegetable. As a sandwich or salad topping, they're great just raw, but when we're cooking them as a side dish, we usually sauté them instead. Cooks blessed with a tremendous amount of patience might even take the time to caramelize onions, a process that may require an hour or more. Sometimes, however, we want something that falls in between raw and sauteed onions, texture-wise: onions that are cooked but still retain some of their crunch.

While many recipes call for using crispy fried onions from a can (that notorious Thanksgiving green bean casserole springs instantly to mind), it comes as no surprise to learn that Nik Sharma, author of the 2020 cookbook "The Flavor Equation," prefers to make crispy onions from scratch. Nor does he fry them, as he's found a technique that works even better for him. On a recent episode of the podcast "The Splendid Table," he shares an easy way to make crispy onions and shallots – the latter are actually just a type of onion, despite having a somewhat fancier reputation.

Sharma prefers oven-baked onions

Sharma admits to being a "lazy" cook (his words), preferring what he calls "low effort recipes that pay off really well." He does, however, have something slightly odd to say about onions, declaring: "I do not want to sit in front of them sobbing my way through, stirring them on the stove." In our experience, the sobbing part comes when we have to slice the onions, but the pain subsides considerably once the onions go into the pan. Maybe Sharma just has really sensitive eyes? Unfortunately, he doesn't share any pain-free slicing tips, but his crispy onion cooking technique is, as advertised, pretty effort-free.

Sharma slices the onions (be they shallots or any other kind) as thinly as possible, then tosses them with small amounts of olive oil, vinegar, and salt and spreads them out in a single layer on a baking pan. He then cooks them at 300 F. — while he doesn't give a time for this, he stirs the onions every 15 minutes or so. Once they look done, they're done, we suppose. The reason the oven method works better than pan-frying, Sharma explains, is that any liquid released by the onions evaporates in the oven's dry heat. Plus there's no need to add extra oil to keep them from sticking to the pan. If your oven has a convection setting, using it will speed up the crisping process, although Sharma cautions, "You just have to watch and make sure they don't burn."