A hot dog with a snappy casing held in a warm bun and topped with mustard is good enough.
But when cravings strike, you want to go all out. You want each bite to be spicy, sweet, sour, creamy, and crunchy.
There are endless choices of toppings that pack flavor and texture into your hot dog. From sweet pickle relish to sour sauerkraut, creamy cheese to crispy onions—the world of hot dog toppings can be your oyster.
The humble onion is one of the most flavorful toppings you can choose. Fried crisply to a rich brown color, this basic veggie can transform your hot dog into something of a culinary masterpiece.
The crispiest onions aren’t just deep-fried— they’re soaked in buttermilk, dredged in flour, and left to sit for a while. There’s a method to the madness, so here goes.
Get the Ingredients Right
The Best Onions for Frying
There are six types of onions used in cooking:
- Red onion
- White onion
- Yellow onion
- Sweet onion
- Green onion/scallions
You can use any type of onion you like, but some make crispier and more flavorful toppings than others.
White onions make the crispiest toppings. Why? Because they have high water content and tend to crisp uniformly. Plus, they have thin layers that are essential for getting a good crisp.
Sweet, yellow onions can also work. They have the perfect amount of natural sugars that fry up to create a nice golden color.
They also have a less potent flavor than the white variety. So, if strong flavors put you off, you should choose a Maui, Vidalia, or any other yellow onion.
Yellow onions come in second because they don’t have thin layers. You’ll have to bring your slicing skills to the table to make thin slivers that get crispy in hot oil.
What happens if you choose the wrong onion? You’ll end up with caramelized onions that taste good but don’t have the crunch you’re looking for.
The Best Oil for Frying
The best oil for making crispy fried onions is neutral flavored. It won’t impart additional flavors–you get to enjoy the rich, natural taste of onions.
You also want an oil with a high smoke point. Deep frying with an oil that’s not stable at high temperatures leaves your onions with a burnt flavor.
A simple rule to follow is that the lighter the oil color, the higher its smoke point. Here are some of the oils you can use:
- Vegetable oil
- Canola oil
- Peanut oil
- Sunflower oil
Remember to use a kitchen paper towel to drain off excess oil after frying. The last thing you need on your hot dog bun, after putting in so much work, is grease.
Make Your Own Buttermilk
Marinating the onions in buttermilk before frying is necessary for two reasons:
- It makes the onions crisp on the outside and soft in the middle.
- It helps the flour to stick to the onions and fry to a golden crisp.
You might not have buttermilk at hand. Thankfully, making your own is quite simple.
Mix ½ cup of regular milk with one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Let it sit for a few minutes, and it’s ready to use.
Which Flour Works?
All-purpose flour works best—it has a neutral flavor and gives a uniform golden-brown layer. Although onions can get crispy without a coating, the flour helps to keep them crisp for days.
Avoid self-raising flour as it tends to puff up and make a thick coating. It might be good for onion rings, but not so much for crispy fried onions.
Crispy fried onions are flavorful enough on their own. However, if you’re looking for an extra treat, you can season your flour.
Good ol’ salt and pepper is a safe bet. But when you’re going all out for the ultimate hot dog, you can use a spicy store-bought blend of spices.
Get the Technique Right
Slice the Onions Thin Enough
The trick to getting a good crisp is slicing your onions super thin. That should be easy to do with white onion, but not so much with other varieties.
Thick slices not only take longer to crisp but also don’t stay crisp for long. If they retain any water, they soften up soon after you remove them from the hot oil.
Soak for the Right Amount of Time
Onions should soak in buttermilk for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes. If you soak them for too long, they’ll get soggy. If you don’t soak them long enough, they won’t hold the flour well.
Drain as much buttermilk as possible off the onion slices before coating them with flour. You want just enough wetness to create a thin coating.
Let the Onions Sit
Allowing the onions to sit for a while after dredging them in flour makes a subtle difference. It gives the flour time to settle and prevents it from falling off the slices when they hit the oil.
Deep Frying for Extra Crispiness
Two elements are crucial for successful deep frying:
- Oil temperature
No matter how fast you want to get the job done, never put your onions in cold oil. All this does is make them absorb a lot of oil.
Always toss your slices in oil that’s at the optimal temperature—between 350 and 375 degrees F.
There’s a good reason for maintaining the correct oil temperature. It helps brown the onions quickly by immediately dehydrating the surface and forming a crust that prevents oil absorption. Meanwhile, heat penetrates and softens the interior of each slice.
Avoid putting too many slices in the oil at once. It lowers the temperature of the oil and slows down crust formation.
Time matters because you’re working with super thin slices in hot oil. Looking away for a minute can leave you with burnt toppings. Each batch needs about three minutes to turn golden brown.
The Fool-Proof Fried Onion Recipe
Store-bought crispy fried onions might work when you’re in a pinch, but these homemade ones are more delicious. Don’t worry if you’re pressed for time—they only take 20 minutes to prep and cook.
This recipe yields 15 oz of crunchy toppings.
- 2.5 cups buttermilk
- 4 cups thinly sliced onions
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
- 4 cups vegetable oil
- Soak the onions in buttermilk for 10 minutes.
- Mix the flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish.
- In a large pan, heat vegetable oil to 375 degrees.
- Toss the soaked onions in flour until well coated.
- Fry onions in small batches until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain excess oil.
- Serve immediately or store for a few days.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Keep Fried Onions Crispy?
Storing fried onions the right way ensures they stay crispy. You have to let them cool completely after frying before transferring them to a storage container. If you don’t, they’ll sweat and soften up while in storage.
You can store crispy onions in an airtight container in a cool pantry for two to three days.
The best way to store them is in the freezer. Sealed in a zip pouch or airtight container, these toppings can stay fresh for long. Whenever you need to use them, scoop out the required amount and return the rest to the freezer immediately.
If you find that the onions have become a little soft while in storage, you can use an oven to crisp them up again. Set the oven at 375 degrees and bake for five minutes.
Can You Make Vegan Fried Onions?
Yes. To make vegan fried onions substitute the buttermilk with a homemade vegan one. Use soy milk, or any other plant-based variety, and lemon juice or vinegar.
Can You Make Gluten-Free Fried Onions?
Yes. To make gluten-free crispy onions, substitute the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour of your choice.
Crispy Onions for Every Hot Dog
If you’ve already got a recipe that works, find out what your preference says about your dating life.