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Jun '08

A Week of Onion Rings: Frito Corn Chip Encrusted Onion Rings

Doug DuCap's Original Recipes: Click Here to Enjoy More Original Recipes and Cooking Ideas

When you ask for an ‘order’ of onion rings at Bessingers or Melvins (and many other barbecue restaurants here in Charleston), you only get one onion ring.

But that’s okay, because these are not your run-of-the-mill onion rings: they’re thick, meaty cuts from colossal yellow onions, generously battered and deep-fried to a rich golden brown. More often than not, the onion ring is larger than the hearty sandwich it comes with!

Before I moved here, I’d only ever had the small, skinny type of ring where the onion was more implied than actual. I’ve really come to love these crispy, Brobdingnagian delights that give the onion a starring role, so when I found some truly enormous yellow onions recently, I got the urge to experiment with some onion ring-related “What if…?” ideas I’d been having lately.

The results? Some of the most beautiful and sinfully delicious onion rings I’ve ever tasted. Best of all, they’re a snap to make! But take note: these aren’t for the faint of heart or the clogged of artery. These onion rings are decidedly not diet or health conscious. They will, however, fill and enrich you in ways that have nothing whatsoever to do with their calories, for they are a joy to behold and a delight to eat. Their fragrance is like the lost, sacred incense of the gleaming roadside diner and the drive-in (not ‘thru’) burger joint. Breathe deeply and let memory speak . . .

Is Moderation, as Hesiod advised, best in all things, or does the Road of Excess, as William Blake proposed, lead to the Palace of Wisdom? That is for each of us to decide, but I do know this: the sweetest onions are the ones that are biggest around the middle. If we, too, must be big around the middle to be sweet than so be it!

A Few Tips for Making the Onion Rings

I used yellow onions and Vidalias in these recipes and they both produced fine results. Use the biggest onions you can find (there’s no such thing as too big!) and cut them 3/4 of an inch thick. Don’t worry about the onion being ‘raw’ or too strong: by the time the coating cooks, the onion will be mellow and tender (while still holding its shape.) Also, if you want to fit more in your skillet or fryer, you can break the onion slices into large chunks and make jumbo-sized Onion Chips (a favorite in Eastern PA); batter, dredge, and fry them the same as rings.

Some of the proportions will be approximate depending on the size of the onions you use, how much you choose to coat them, how spicy or sweet, etc. Let your own tastes be your guide and feel free to improvise and experiment.

Regarding the batter, I wanted to start with something basic that I could work variations on. Some of the ideas I had been thinking about could begin with a beer batter, but others would need something more subtle, like milk. The following Basic Batter Recipe works perfectly with either.

Basic Batter:

1 cup self-rising flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup of milk or beer

Mix the dry ingredients well. Add the wet ingredients and whisk gently until smooth. Makes 2 cups.

The Basic Batter Recipe creates a thinnish, crispy coating which is very nice on its own, but it’s really just a jumping off point for imagination. The first idea I wanted to try was a corn-chip encrusted onion ring, and while I didn’t get what I was after on the first attempt, the solution was a revelation that opened up a world of exciting (and tasty!) possibilities.

Frito Encrusted Onion Rings:

I ground up some Fritos corn chips in the food processor and heated about 3/4 inch of oil in a large, heavy, high-sided skillet (better than a home deep-fryer in this case because of the size of the rings). Then I dipped a ring in the batter, dredged it in the Frito crumbs and slid it into the oil. The resulting ring was good, but it didn’t have the flavor and texture I was after. I decided to give the old ’some in, some on’ theory a try. I stirred about 1/2 cup of Frito crumbs into the batter, let it sit for 5 minutes, and tried again.

The second time was the charm: a thick, intensely corn-flavored coating with a crunchy exterior and perfectly cooked onion inside. Heaven on a June day!


2 cups corn chip crumbs, divided
2 cups Basic Batter (made with beer or milk; either one works well)
Oil for frying
1 very large yellow or Vidalia onion, cut and separated into 3/4 inch rings


Mix 1/2 cup of the crumbs into the batter. Spread the remaining crumbs in a shallow bowl. Heat 1/2 to 3/4 inches oil in a heavy skillet to 375 degrees. Dip an onion ring into the batter, coating thickly, and dredge in the corn chip crumbs. Lay it gently into the oil and cook until golden, turning once. Remove and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining rings. You can do 2-3 at a time depending on the size of your skillet, but take care not to crowd the pan or let the temperature drop too much, or the rings will turn out greasy.

Variations & Serving Suggestions:

  • 1/2 tablespoon chipotle powder or chipotle sauce added to the batter definitely raises the ‘zing’ level quite nicely.
  • A Salsa con Queso dipping sauce would be delicious with these.
  • Or try this: put a layer of white or yellow rice on a plate, top with a jumbo-sized onion ring, fill the ring with chili or refried beans (or both) and top with shredded cheese and chopped pickled jalapenos.
    • For a smoother, less crunchy surface, you can skip the crumb-dredging step.

    Blog Fast Forward:Join us tomorrow to read Doug’s new recipe for Hawaiian Sesame Coconut Onion Rings as part of his Week of Onion Rings Series which celebrates the official start of Summer.

    You Can Read More of Doug’s Recipe Corner Here.

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