Canned Fried Onions Can't Get No Respect

They add texture and flavor to your daily mush.

green bean casserole topped with fried onions
Photo: Brian Hagiwara / Getty Images

Until recently, the dish I most associated with canned fried onions was green bean casserole. I have nothing against a classic GBC, but it's not something I whip up on a weekly basis, and so a can of fried onions isn't a usual pantry staple. But then, I started cooking through Lara Lee's wonderful new tribute to Indonesian food, Coconut & Sambal. One of the ingredients that goes into many Lee's Indonesian recipes is fried shallots, available pre-made in bags both online and at grocery stores that carry Indonesian or Thai ingredients. They're excellent, but they aren't readily available in my neighborhood. When I ran out, I grabbed a can of French's fried onions to use as a substitute.

I soon found that fried onions (or shallots, if you have them nearby) go well on basically everything. I sprinkled them on bowls of beans and rice, lentil soup, and swapped them in for croutons in my go-to lunch Caesar salad. Since I often find myself eating bowls of various kinds of mush for lunch, a quick sprinkling of crunchy, salty fried onions is an easy way to add a little bit of textural contrast. Using them on top of any kind of baked pasta is a no-brainer, but I also scattered some over stovetop mac and cheese. Anywhere that breadcrumbs or croutons might be nice, fried onions are welcome.

Sure, you could make your own crispy fried onions. But the hassle of getting onions to that perfect, impossibly crunchy texture is not insignificant. Canned fried onions are a product that doesn't get enough love, but they are easiest, cheaper, and honestly better than trying to do it myself.

Plus, when they're in a can or a bag I can just shake them out for any occasion. Things are hard enough right now. Sometimes all I can do is muster up the strength to push a button on my rice cooker. Eating a scattering of fried onions over the rice is a tiny bit of luxury. Why wouldn't you give into the lure of a little extra crunch, fat, and flavor? Honestly, you can just eat a handful of them as a snack. The difference between chips and croutons and canned fried onions is just a societal construct. Free your mind. Eat whatever crunchy thing makes you happy.

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