Homemade easy French onion dip

Keeping MSG out of your Super Bowl party (recipe: homemade French onion dip)

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About Katie

Katie Kimball is a mother of three from Michigan who spends a ton of time in the kitchen making real food with whole ingredients, and then blogs about her successes and failures at Kitchen Stewardship.

Homemade French Onion Chip Dip

You know that super simple, two-ingredient party dip that you make with a tub of sour cream and a box of French Onion soup mix? What would you say if I told you there are over a dozen ingredients in that dip?

I hope your reply would be, “What are they?” with some mixture of surprise and curiosity.

I think it’s important to know what’s in our food, and that’s why I’m not making that dip anytime soon.

Most sour creams have over EIGHT ingredients, when they should only contain three: cream, salt, enzymes. The extras are usually various forms of corn tossed in there as stabilizers, sweeteners, preservatives or flavor enhancers.

Onion soup mix has a similarly long list: onions, salt, cornstarch, sugar, caramel (color), corn syrup solids, yeast extract, natural flavor.

That’s two different names for sugar, plus likely four made of corn, and one that behaves like MSG, a known excitotoxin (yeast extract). MSG is linked in the short term to headaches, nausea and more, and in the long term to psychological decline such as Alzheimer’s and certain digestive ailments. (More on the names behind MSG.)

MSG enhances the flavors of anything it dances with because it activates the fifth basic sense of taste, umami. Umami in its natural state, found in seaweed, is no more harmful than something sweet, salty, bitter or sour. However, activating umami with chemicals acting as free glutamic acid can wreak havoc on many body systems by overstimulating our glutamate receptors.

MSG is an unfortunate enemy in the battle for real food, because it’s really, really difficult to replicate the old familiar flavor of dishes relying on this chemical. You’re playing one card short in the deck.

In the case of that box of Onion Soup mix, I fought to find a suitable substitute for over two years. I finally discovered the secret weapon: onions.

No, my strategy wasn’t to cut onions and make my eaters cry while they ate and force them to claim they loved the food.

What’s the key to bringing out amazing, slightly sweet, beyond-the-four-taste-sensations flavor in an onion?
Caramelize it.

Cooking sliced or diced onions in some fat or oil for 20-30 minutes, or as long as it takes to get brown and sticky, is a skill worth learning if you want to cook from scratch. (And you should! Did you see all those weird ingredients up there?)

It also makes you feel like a super chef, because just saying “caramelize the onions” sounds way too hard for your average home cook.

I’m excited to share a recipe with only NINE ingredients for a homemade French Onion Chip Dip from my new eBook, Better Than a Box. Just in time for Super Bowl parties, you can make a healthy, homemade dip without any mystery ingredients.

Homemade easy French onion dip

Recipe: Homemade French Onion Dip

Ingredients:

1 C. diced onion
4 TBS. butter
1 C. sour cream
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried parsley
¼ tsp. turmeric
¼ tsp. celery seed (or celery salt)
optional: dash to ¼ tsp. cayenne

Method:

Melt the butter in a heavy pan, then sauté the onions over medium to medium-high for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Turn the heat to medium-low for about 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally and cook until browned and smelling amazing. The onions will have reduced to about 1/3 cup.

Allow to cool, but not in the refrigerator (the butter will harden too much).

Mix with the sour cream and all the spices. Yes, scrape the butter out of the pan. Yummy. Allow at least an hour for the flavors to blend, and serve at room temperature if possible with chips or vegetables.
Store in the refrigerator.

I recommend Daisy or Aldi brand sour cream, because I know they contain only three ingredients: cream, salt, enzymes. If you want something even less processed, you can make homemade yogurt and strain it to be extra thick like Greek yogurt, or a bit longer to become yogurt cheese. Use either in place of the sour cream.

betterthanaboxkindleThis recipe is one of twenty that I reverse engineered in Better Than a Box: How to Transform Processed Food Recipes into Whole Foods Favorites. I don’t only share the recipe, but I walk you through the whole process of how I got from sour cream + soup mix to the real food ingredients above. Although there are 60 recipes total, it’s much more than just a cookbook; it’s a teaching tutorial on cooking from scratch, storing food for later, and keeping your sanity in the kitchen while being efficient so you can get out of the kitchen.

Through February 5, 2012, Simple Mom readers can take 25% off the price of the PDF download, which is bundled with the Kindle and Nook files, as well as free printable recipe cards, a freezer supply list, how to cook dry beans printable and other handy dandy charts and tips. Use the code SIMPLE_NO_BOX25 right HERE. Better Than a Box is also available for Kindle on Amazon.

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Comments

  1. looks great! definitely want to try this out. :) now to make my own potato chips…

  2. Hmmmmmm. This looks familiar!

  3. This would be amazing with homemade potato chips.
    Homemade potato chips are really easy. Just slice potatoes really thin and fry in an inch or two of whatever oil you like to use. Drain and salt and your done! Only three ingredients and you know exactly what you did and didn’t use.
    Thanks for sharing the dip recipe. I love caramelized onions, and they are about the only kind of onions my kids like.

  4. This sounds fabulous! I don’t make dip often at all but next time I have a “need” for dip I’ll be trying this recipe!

  5. Oh, I’ve always wondered how to make onion dip without the mix! Thanks. (and I love caramelized onions;) )

  6. This sounds great! We have been trying to make a number of changes in the diet of our family…and this looks like a fun one. Cooking in the kitchen has been a fun way for me to bond with our oldest daughter. I’m curious…has anyone ever tried making their own sour cream?

    • Jon,
      Homemade sour cream actually isn’t all that tricky, but it doesn’t have a very long shelf life. I’ve taken thick cream, added some prepared buttermilk (1 Tbs. per cup, usually), left it at room temp 24 hours, and then it’s buttermilk. As I whip it to make cultured butter, if I stop early, it’s basically sour cream. I bet there’s a sour cream starter at Cultures for Health: http://culturesforhealth.com/

      Fun idea! :) Katie

  7. Great post! I’ve also heard that when they do experiments on lab rats about obesity, researchers feed rats straight MSG in order to beef them up. If you Google “MSG Lab Rats” it pulls up some really scary stuff.

  8. Kraft has a line called Kraft Simple now and they make sour cream. It does not have all of the other ingredients either.

  9. This is brilliant!! I love the simplicity of it and I so appreciate the work you’ve done in creating familiar food from real food. We’re big fans of real food and haven’t eaten onion dip in years but we just might again. =)

  10. yummmmmy! I can’r wait to try this recipe!

  11. Very cool, Katie. I always appreciate homemade goodies for the simplicity in their ingredients.

  12. Thank you for this recipe and the reminder about MSG! I’ll be adapting this to be dairy-free by using mayonnaise instead of sour cream. Yum.

  13. Oh.my.goodness. This will be so yum! Thank you Katie for sharing this.. I will be making this later today with strained homemade yogurt.. Also, funny thing, but in Indian cooking, we do a lot of onion caramelization,, never realised that that was they key to yummy tasting French onion dip as well.. Thank you!

  14. Thanks for sharing this great recipe. It’s amazing how many chemicals are in foods these days. Drives me crazy. I’m a big chip dip fan, so this will be a great alternative to the store-bought stuff. And, speaking of Aldi’s — I love that place. Most of the time their produce is better (and cheaper) than our local grocery store chain.

  15. This sounds great! Would love to try it, if I omit the celery seed/salt, do you think it will taste off? We are not big fans of celery…

    • Lisa,
      You know, I don’t like celery either, especially raw, but I never noticed a celery flavor with celery SEED – I’m guessing it’s a totally different flavor than the stalk. That said, I doubt it makes a do-or-die difference in the recipe. Enjoy! :) Katie

  16. This looks so tempting… I’ve sworn off eating these dips for years because of how terrible the artificial ingredients are for you, but this year the Super Bowl is on my birthday, and we’re hosting a bunch of foodie friends at the family beach house – and I think this will be just the ticket to add to the afternoon snack table. Thanks, Katie!

  17. Yum!! Will make this soon :) I love caramelized onions too, especially on hamburgers! And Kroger has an “all natural” sour cream that doesn’t have any funny ingredients, I don’t think. Sorry if someone already said that! :)

  18. Super Bowl Party at my house this year and I can’t wait to try this dip. Want to see if they notice the difference…Thanks for the recipe.

  19. Oh yum! My husband absolutely loves Onion Dip (okay, I do, too but I’m supposedly on a diet). I won’t buy things with MSG, though, so he’s gone without for years. He’s going to be so tickled when I whip some of this up for Super Bowl Sunday. Thank you!!!

  20. Can’t wait to try this, it looks amazing!

  21. Its funny you go into great detail on MSG or at least to avoid it. Yet onions have a huge amount of naturally occuring MSG. Today we can just easily create it in a lab to add as a additive. Theres a reason why virtually every product has tomato powder and onion powder. Its all natural and a HUGE source of MSG. Glutamates are found in so many things it would be easier to create a list that does not have it then do. Theres a reason for it. It encourages you to eat that product. Its natures way of ensuring that you eat it.

    So in your attempt to avoid MSG you actually introduce a high level of it! To funny.

    • I have no idea if you really believe that or work for some company invested in MSG, but it\’s not actually true. Here’s a bit of information about the glutamate levels in various natural foods if anybody wants to read up about it. http://www.msgmyth.com/discus/messages/7/698.html?1285692635

      If you\’re going to leave snarky, grammatically challenged posts on people’s blogs then at least you should have some good facts to back them up.

  22. I just made this recipe and it’s amazing. I left out the turmeric because I didn’t have any and I also didn’t have a substitute. I’m not sure it’s missing anything without it. My son’s comment was that it tastes almost like our favorite dip we usually buy at the store. This is definitely our favorite now.

  23. Thank you for posting this scratch recipe. It’s not easy to find homemade dips that don’t contain powder mixes, etc. I quadrupled this recipe for a recent party and everyone was so intrigued. I never had a chance to label the dip so people naturally kept asking me “what is this…it’s delicious”. They couldn’t quite put there finger on it but when I’d explain it was french onion they’d exclaim “yes! but wait, what mix?” – ; ) I think the yellow color was throwing people off, lol. The flavor wasn’t overwhelming but I think perhaps too much turmeric was added…or maybe it was all that melted butter. I was glad I added it all but forgot that refrigeration would obviously solidify the dip overnight. I had to add some more sour cream before serving to loosen it up. I will be making this again very soon. Thank you!

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