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Sweet Onion Shreds

This post is less of a recipe than it is a culinary tip. Basically, it is a useful technique allows you to produce fine shreds of onion that have been processed to a lovely sweetness and thus can be used in a variety of ways where one would normally use raw onion (such as in a salad), but would prefer to avoid the sharp onion bite. I have been doing this for years now (decades even), and I don’t really have a specific name for it, so… ‘Sweet Onion Shreds’ it is…

You really need large onions for this technique. I most often use Spanish Onions but our market had some nice, fairly large, sweet white onions and I used those here…

The idea is to slice the onion into very thin half-rings using a very sharp knife or, if you prefer, a mandoline. If presentation is an issue, you may wish to remove the central core first but, here I am just slicing the onion as is and only using one half.

Once you have sliced the desired amount, separate the thin rings and toss with a very tiny pinch of salt in a bowl. Next, cover the onion with cold water and then begin squeezing the pieces until the water turns milky as you see above. Repeat this operation three, or even four times until the water remains clear and then drain. Finally squeeze the pieces as hard as you can to remove any remaining water.

That’s it … if you taste the pieces now, you will find that they have a lovely sweetness and none of the harsh, raw bite of fresh onion.

Culinary Uses

As I mentioned above, these are particularly useful in salads. Another great use is as a plate garnish, much the same way as Japanese presentations often include a pile of finely shredded daikon. For this purpose, however, I would definitely recommend that you remove the smaller central core rings and only slice from the middle of the onion so that you only end up with long, uniform shreds.

The most common use I have for this technique is to make a condiment, particularly for sandwiches and, in this case, I sometimes like to add just a few drops of vinegar, or a sprinkle of sugar (or both) before using. The last time I did this was to add it to some Rolls containing Hot Italian sausages I cooked as part of the Sunday Gravy project. Normally, I uses Sauerkraut for this (which is the way I used to get sausage rolls at a Farmer’s Market years ago) but I had none in the house and the sweet onion shreds worked very nicely. Next, I plan to use the batch I made here for a Pulled-Pork Sandwich…



18 Comments Post a comment
  1. That is bloody brilliant! What a great tip. I’ll try this for my next salad.

    October 31, 2012
  2. I’ve brined them in vinegar but never just water, I’ll have to give this a try. Thanks.

    October 31, 2012
    • You don’t need to let them sit in the water at all, just salt for a minute or so, the do the rinsing right away…

      October 31, 2012
  3. This really is a technique that works…all the BBQ restaurants in Texas do this for anyone that wants onions on their BBQ beef sandwich.

    October 31, 2012
  4. thanks for the wonderful tip.. onions here in my country really have that bite in them so i could really make use of this tip for my salads and sandwiches..

    October 31, 2012
  5. Always thought Italian restaurants were just better at choosing onions for salad than me but maybe this is what they do… Good tip.

    October 31, 2012
  6. Great idea.
    🙂 Mandy

    October 31, 2012
  7. What a great idea. These will really come in handy!

    October 31, 2012
  8. Great tip on a great technique, John! Thanks!

    October 31, 2012
  9. Thanks for the pointer! That’s a great idea.

    October 31, 2012
  10. We do that a lot in South America, we love our onions, raw, cooked…however! Great tip!

    October 31, 2012
  11. This is great! I’ve been looking for a simple way to take the sharpness out of raw onion. Can’t wait to try it.

    October 31, 2012
  12. Great technique, thanks for sharing!

    November 1, 2012
  13. Easy and delicious as a relish!! Look forward to making this!!

    November 1, 2012
  14. What a wonderful technique! I really love onions, but do shy away sometimes just fearing they’ll be too overpowering in a salad or as an accompaniment. Great tip!

    November 2, 2012
  15. great tip. i had tried the cold water, but didn’t know about the rinsing. thanks. it works.

    November 10, 2012

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