This homemade copycat French’s onion strings recipe is way too easy not to try it yourself! Get out your air fryer and a few simple ingredients and in no time, you’ll be enjoying that extra bit of crispy, oniony, salty crunch on top of everything from casseroles to burgers to soups and more!
One of the most common ways to use onion straws is as a topping on the traditional green bean casserole. Keep an eye out for my upcoming recipe for it but in the meantime, you really can use it on any casseroles you like.
This french fried onions recipe is very easy to follow and the results are as important as croutons are to a Ceasar salad! Simply the best topping for burgers, hotdogs, sandwiches, soups, and salads.
They elevate not only the flavor but texture as well. They are the topping that you didn’t know you needed until you’ve tried it. Those lightly crisped onions are so versatile and complement so many different things.
During the winter months, I love a good casserole topped with onion strings, especially around the holidays. However, much like a lot of things this year, when I checked out the store, French’s Fried Onions were nowhere to be found.
I decided my Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without them, so I made homemade fried onions myself from scratch. They turned out amazing!
Making air fryer onion strings is easier than you think. Try them once and you’ll never miss the storebought stuff again!
- Sweet onion – I prefer sweet onions like Maui Onions or Vidalia onions. If you can’t find them try to grab brown onions. Red onions would work, but they are really strong and I’ve had some naysayers when making onion rings over the years so now I just avoid them completely.
- Milk – Whole milk or 2%
- Flour – All-purpose is great for this.
- Seasoning Salt – Lawry’s Seasoning Salt is what I use, but of course, you can use what you have. If you want cajun, bbq, super spicy seasoning, by all means, adjust to what you like! The salt is necessary, but the taste preference is up to you.
- Cooking Spray – Olive oil, Vegetable oil, or Canola oil. Needed to add crispiness and color! Without it, your onions will not get to your desired level of crunch. They can also stand the heat and won’t give off a strong odor.
- Egg Whites & water – The magical combination.
How to make copycat French’s onions in the air fryer
- Peel and slice the onion. Thick or thin it’s up to you, however thinner will allow them to cook quickly and guarantee a more crispy exterior.
- Soak the onions in a bowl of milk. Separating the onion pieces as you submerge them into the milk. Milk should cover the onions completely. If not, add more milk.
- In another bowl, mix egg whites and water and stir to combine.
- In a third bowl, add the flour and seasoning salt and stir to mix.
- Arrange the 3 bowls into a dipping station, in the order, you’ve just prepared them.
- Spray the bottom of the air fryer, and any inner shelf, with oil.
- Take a small handful of the onions from the milk, shaking off any excess, and place it into the egg mixture to coat completely. Then dip into the flour mix, again coating completely.
- Lay coated onions in the air fryer in a thin layer. Not too many at a time to allow for even cooking and crispiness. Add enough onions to cover the bottom of the air fryer making sure not to overlap.
- Lightly spray onions to coat the flour. This will help turn them golden brown and crispy. When cooking in batches, you’ll want to dump out any flour crispies and wipe out the bottom so it doesn’t burn. You’ll also want to respray the air fryer base/shelf with each new batch so they don’t stick.
- Set the heat on the air fryer followed by the timer. At 8 minutes open the air fryer and jostle or flip the onions to allow for even cooking on all sizes.
- Close the lid and continue cooking. Make sure they are all golden brown. If at the end of the cooking time, they need a little longer, continue cooking for 2-minute increments until done.
Tips to getting the best and closest to store-bought French’s fried onions
Make-ahead: Allow them to completely cool and place in an airtight container. They will last up to 5 days. To re-crisp them, place them in an air fryer for 3-5 minutes.
Cutting the onions: There was no difference whether I cut them in rings or strings for the final crunch. But there is a difference in how thin you cut them. Thicker cuts, while they needed fewer rounds in the air fryer, were never quite done when they were golden brown. The onion was a little raw. Perhaps I could have altered the temperature to remedy that, but they seemed too much like onion rings versus the swizzles, or shoestrings that I was trying to emulate. To get the French’s onion look/texture I knew they needed to be thinner.
Buttermilk vs milk: I tested both buttermilk and milk and there was not much difference in taste. The buttermilk is a little tangier and is a nice addition but since most of the milk gets discarded I went with milk. More economical, but also more practical as more people will have milk on hand.
Whole eggs vs eggwhites: Whole eggs are a little too heavy for this recipe. The flour didn’t crisp as much as it did with using just the eggwhite. The addition of water to the eggwhite allows for great coverage while remaining light and crunchy. Without the water, the flour didn’t coat as well.
Deep Frying Onion String Method
Use canola, vegetable, or peanut oil. Follow instructions on recipe card until step 8. Test a couple of onions by lowering them into the oil. If bubbles appear immediately, it is hot enough.
Slowly lower onions into the hot oil to cook until golden brown. They will cook quickly. Use a slotted spoon to lift them out and place on a plate with layered paper towels. This will help blot and soak up the oil.
Salt and serve.
Baked “fried” Onion Rings
Bake at 425 for 10 minutes. Spray a rack or the bottom of the cookie sheet with oil spray. Dip all the way to placing it into the air fryer. Lay on the rack, in an even layer, not overlapping, and spray with a little oil to promote easy golden brown coloring. Bake for 10 mins.
Can I make these ahead of time? Yes! They keep for 5 days. Reheat them in the air fryer or a hot oven to re-crisp if necessary. Store them in an airtight container. I do place mine in the fridge, but they would also be fine on the counter.
Why is the Air fryer fried onion coating is falling off and powdery? You need to use a little more oil spray to help them adhere better.
Is one way better than the other in cooking these? I honestly like the air fried method the best. The deep-fried ones taste amazing, but I HATE the deep-fried oil smell my house gets. But you do you and cook the way you want. All three methods are very good and I promise, you will wish you had made more of them. So will the rest of your household. They are very popular!
Recipes that you can use homemade crispy onions on:
- Chicken Divan
- Chicken Artichoke Casserole
- Bratwurst Corn Chowder
- Air Fried Green Bean Casserole— a healthier version
- Brussel Sprout & Potato Gratin
- French Onion Scalloped Potatoes
- Pork Chops and Cheese topped with Fried Onions
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- 1 large Sweet Onion
- 1 Cup Milk
- 1 Cup Flour
- 1 Teaspoon Lawry's Seasoning Salt
- Olive Oil Spray
- 2 Egg Whites
- 1/2 Teaspoon Water
AIR FRYER METHOD
- Peel the onion and slice into 1/8-1/16" slices. You can cut rings or cut the onion in half and have onion strings. (You can certainly cut them thicker, but by cutting them so thin, they cook quickly and are guaranteed crispy.)
- Place the cut onions into the milk, using your fingers to separate the slices/rings as you place them into the milk. You want to fully submerge the onions. If the milk doesn't cover the onions, add a little bit more milk.
- Let the onions sit in the milk for 30 minutes.
- Into a different bowl add the flour and Lawry's salt and stir to mix.
- Into a bowl add the egg whites and the water and stir to mix very well.
- Set up a dipping station with three bowls/plates/ The first one is the bowl with the onions and milk in it. The second is the egg white mix, the last the flour.
- Spray the bottom of the air fryer with the canola/olive oil and any shelf that you may have in your unit.
- Take a small handful of onions from the milk, shake off the milk then place into the egg whites mix. Coat completely then dip into the flour mix. Making sure all onions are completely coated.
- Lay the onions in the air fryer in a thin layer. Placing too many onions on the tray will not allow them to cook evenly, and they will be soggy. It is better to cook in several batches. Repeat to cover the entire bottom.
- Once you lay the onions down, you will lightly spray the onions with the oil spray. Enough to coat the flour and help it turn golden brown and crispy.
- If there is a shelf, wire rack to use, you can place onions on the shelf that has also been sprayed with the oil spray.
- Place the basket back into the air fryer and set the heat to 390°
- Set the timer for 8 minutes, at 8 minutes open the air fryer and jostle, or flip the onions so they can have all sides cook/brown.
- Close the air fryer and cook for 6 minutes more-- I check them at 6 minutes and make sure they are all completely golden brown. If not, I do them in 2 minutes increments until done.
- Serve atop any casseroles, salads or on a burger.
- You can make these ahead of time and allow them to completely cool, then place in an airtight container. They will last up to 5 days. If you wish to re-crisp them, place them in the air fryer for 3-5 minutes at 360°
Deep Frying Method
- Heat a deep skillet filled with 1" of canola or peanut oil to medium-high.
- Follow the instructions up until step 8 above. While the oil is heating, fold several paper towels together and place over a plate to place the onion strings on when you remove them from the oil.
- Test 1-2 onions by lowering them into the oil, if the bubbles immediately appear, then the oil is hot enough.
- In small batches, you will slowly lower the onions into the hot oil. Allow them to cook for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown. The onions are very thin so they will cook very quickly. When they are golden brown, use a slotted spoon to lift them out.
- Place on paper towel-lined plate to blot away any excess oil.
- Salt and serve or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. You may recrisp them in the oven on 325° for 10-15 minutes until heated.
The calories of this recipe depends on the size of your onion and what you are using it for. From a large onion, I got 2 cups of onion strings and divided it into 8 portions for what I was making. Your calories will vary based on what you use them on.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 105Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 223mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 4g
This recipe was calculated using the exact brands and measurements I used to make this recipe. If you are following a strict diet please note changing anything will cause the nutritional info to change. Please calculate your own nutritional information if you want it exact to what you make and use my calculations as a guide only.