Who doesn’t love the humble yet tasty onion? Raw or cooked, it sure shows up in a lot of everyday dishes in most worldwide cuisines. But there’s much more to the ordinary onion than meets the eye–so let’s peel away a few layers!
The onions is native to Asia and the Middle East and has been cultivated, in its many varieties, for over five thousand years. Onions have been revered throughout time not only for their culinary use, but also for their therapeutic properties. As early as the 6th century, onions were used as a medicine in India.
Onions are a major source of polyphenols and also of flavonoids (a very important subdivision of polyphenols). Polyphenols are a group of plant-based chemicals. Flavenoids are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits. In general, red onions are higher in total flavonoids than white onions, with yellow onions falling in between.
- The total polyphenol content of onions is much higher than many people expect. It’s higher than tomatoes, carrots, and red bell pepper!
- The flavonoids in onion tend to be more concentrated in the outer layers of the flesh. To maximize your health benefits, peel off as little of the fleshy, edible portion as possible when removing the onion’s outermost paper layer. Even a small amount of “over-peeling” can result in unwanted loss of flavonoids. For example, a red onion can lose about 20% of its flavenoids through over-peeling.
Whew! All of that can simply be summed up as, “Onions taste really good, and are really good for you!”
So how can you get more onions in your diet beyond the usual slice on your burger? Try making a super-easy batch of caramelized onions in your slow cooker. One 2-lb. batch of slow-cooked onions will provide you with Caramelized Onions, a terrific topper for many different proteins, and will become the basis for Caramelized Onion and Yogurt Dip.
Use caramelized onions as you would a chutney or sauce on top of turkey, beef, or bean burgers, steak, chicken breasts, pork tenderloin, lettuce-wrapped sandwiches—the mellow, rich flavor complements most proteins! You’ll get the best flavor by warming the onions slightly before adding to your meal.
- 2 lbs of onions (any variety will do) 2# onions will yield approximately 2 ¼ to 2 ½ cups of caramelized onion.
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbs olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1-2 tbs Balsamic vinegar, to taste
- Lightly oil bottom and sides of crock pot.
- Slice off tops and root end of onion. Peel off papery skin. Cut onion in half from top to root; then slice ¼” wedges from top to root of each half. Toss in crock pot as you go.
- When all onions are sliced, sprinkle with salt and oil. Toss and stir.
- Set crock pot to “Low” and cook for 8-10 hours. Try to stir after the first hour or two of cooking; onions can then cook undisturbed for the remaining time.
- After 8-10 hours, check the onions—they should be a deep brown. If there is a lot of liquid in the pot, set the lid askew so that steam can escape and cook for another 2-3 hours. If there is not a lot of liquid left, put the lid back on normally and cook for another 1-2 hours.NOTE: Not all slow cookers cook at the same temperature; yours may cook slower or faster than others. Check the onions every couple of hours when making them for the first time, to ensure they don’t burn.
- When onions are done, turn off the cooker and remove the lid to let them cool down a bit. Then season with the salt, pepper, and Balsamic vinegar. You can then go ahead and use your caramelized onions. If you plan on making the Onion & Yogurt Dip later, save 1 cup of the onions in a tightly lidded container.
Note: Caramelized onions freeze well, so if you won’t be able to use them within 2-3 days, put the extra in a freezer-safe container, label, and freeze for future use.
Caramelized Onion & Yogurt Dip:
Serve this dip with bell pepper strips, cucumber slices, and celery sticks. It makes a great night time snack when you really have the urge to get your nosh on but want to stay m.e.l.t.-compliant—it’s just yogurt, vegetables, some good fats, and seasonings!
- 1 cup Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions; chopped by hand or in a mini food processor
- 8 ounces low-fat plain Greek Yogurt, strained**
- 1 Tbs low-sodium Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp celery salt or 1 Tbs fresh celery leaves, minced
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme; leaves stripped from twigs.
- salt and pepper, as needed
- **To strain the yogurt, line a small strainer with 1 unbleached coffee filter. Rest the strainer in a slightly larger bowl. Spoon yogurt into filter; cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator for 3-4 hours to drain excess liquid.
- Place the chopped caramelized onions in a small mixing bowl. Add the drained yogurt to the onions; it should not adhere to the filter when chilled. Dump the drained liquid.
- Mix in the remaining seasonings and adjust for taste. Refrigerate several hours or overnight to meld the flavors.