The Blooming Onion, familiarly referred to as the Bloomin’ Onion at Outback Steakhouse, is a deep fried appetizer that is made by carefully slicing a large onion into “petals” that fall open like a flower. The onion is battered and deep fried. It is often served to a group of friends with a dipping sauce in the center.
The history of this dish dates back to 1988 when Tim Gannon, the co-founder of Outback Steakhouse, developed the idea after being inspired by a similar New Orleans dish. The first Bloomin’ Onion appeared on the menu of the flagship Outback in Tampa, Florida. Today, this tasty treat is reported to be the most ordered appetizer at the steakhouse. Other restaurants have adapted their own recipes.
Originally, the onions were cut by hand. They are now cut accurately by a specialty machine.
Let’s be clear, the blooming onion is not a health food when prepared in the traditional manner. The eggs, batter, oil, and dipping sauce can result in thousands of calories and lots of fat. They are also very high in sodium
The onion is obviously the most nutrient dense component of the dish. Onions are naturally low in calories and fat. 100 grams of onion is only 40 calories. Onions are a rich source of soluble dietary fiber. The allicin in onions are reported to have antibacterial, antiviral, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetic properties. Allicin also may help to reduce cholesterol.
Onions are a great source of antioxidants, chromium, and quercetin. They also contain vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, and the mineral manganese.
There is a method of preparing a blooming onion that is so much healthier than deep frying it and loading it with salt. That method is using your air fryer with just a spray or drizzle of oil and a sprinkling of salt. It takes only 15 minutes at approximately 370°F to cook.
About the Recipes
We’ll start with a fairly classic recipe that uses an egg and milk wash, all-purpose flour, and seasonings with a mayonnaise based dipping sauce. The next recipe is for an egg-free and gluten-free version for those with food sensitivities. There is dairy, but you could substitute vegan “dairy” products.
The cook time will vary depending on the size of the onion and your model of air fryer. I personally found that a medium to large sweet onion, such as a Vidalia, works best for both recipes. The smaller sweet onions are more tender than the typical large white onion that is commonly used.
Classic Blooming Onion Recipe with Dipping Sauce
- 1 large sweet onion
- 1 whole egg
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1-1/2 tsps paprika
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- Grapeseed or canola oil in a pump bottle (you can use a spoon)
- 2 TBS sour cream
- 2 TBS mayonnaise
- 1-1/2 tsps tomato ketchup
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsps jarred horseradish or pickle relish
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
Total time:30 min – Prep time:15 min – Cook time:15 min – Serves:2 people
1. Prepare your onion: Cut off 1/2 inch from the pointy top end of the onion. Peel the outer skin off and discard. Place the onion cut-side down on a clean cutting board. Using a sharp knife, starting 1/2 inch from the root end, make a downward cut all the way through to the board. Repeat to make four evenly spaced cuts around the onion. Slice in between each segment until you have 16 evenly spaced sections. Turn the onion over and use your fingers to gently separate the sections.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, paprika, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, and cayenne.
3. Submerge the onion into the liquid mixture, cut side up, and spoon liquid over the onion so that all of the segments are coated. Allow excess liquid to drip off. Transfer the onion to the flour mixture, cut side up. Coat the onion completely with the flour. Turn onion over and shake off any excess flour back into the bowl. Set the onion aside.
4. Preheat your air fryer to 370°F. Spray or drizzle the onion with just enough oil to lightly coat it. Place the onion, root side down in the fryer basket or on the fryer plate. Cook for 10 minutes and check to see if it has crisped up and is tender. Continue to cook for approximately 5 more minutes until the crispy texture is achieved.
5. Serve the blooming onion in a large bowl with the dipping sauce in individual ramekins with plenty of napkins.
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in the horseradish or relish, salt, pepper, and cayenne.
2. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Gluten-Free and Egg-Free Blooming Onion with Ranch Dipping Sauce
- 1/2 cup egg-free mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream (or vegan sour cream)
- 1/4 cup buttermilk (or almond milk with a 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar)
- 2 tsps fresh chives, minced
- 1 tsp dried dill
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 large sweet onion
- 1 cup whole milk (or almond milk)
- 3 TBS Greek yogurt (or vegan yogurt)
- 1 cup gluten-free flour mix
- 1 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp Creole or Cajun seasoning
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Olive or avocado oil in a pump bottle (you can use a spoon)
Total time: 30 min + 1 hour resting – Prep time: 15 min + 1 hour resting – Cook time: 15 min – Serves: 2 people
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, and buttermilk. Stir in the herbs, salt, and pepper.
2. Cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve. This will make enough to also use on a side salad and will keep in your refrigerator for a few days.
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and yogurt until smooth. Set aside.
2. Prepare your onion: Cut off 1/2 inch from the pointy top end of the onion. Peel the outer skin off and discard. Place the onion cut-side down on a clean cutting board. Using a sharp knife, starting 1/2 inch from the root end, make a downward cut all the way through to the board. Repeat to make four evenly spaced cuts around the onion. Slice in between each segment until you have 16 evenly spaced sections. Turn the onion over and use your fingers to gently separate the sections.
3. Submerge the onion, cut side facing up, in the bowl of milk. Spoon the milk over it to coat. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
4. Remove the basket from the air fryer to a counter or cutting board. Place the flour in another large bowl. Remove the onion from the milk and allow the liquid to drip off. Place the onion in the flour mixture and coat lightly, trying to avoid clumps. Shake off any excess flour. Remove the onion to the fryer basket, root side down, and set aside for a few minutes.
5. Discard the excess flour from the bowl. In the same bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, salt, and seasoning blend.
6. Preheat your air fryer to 370°F. Coat the onion completely with the breadcrumb mixture. Coat the breadcrumbs lightly with oil. Place the onion in the air fryer and cook for 10 minutes. Check to see if it has crisped up and is tender. Continue to cook for approximately 5 more minutes until the crispy texture is achieved.
7. Serve the blooming onion in a large bowl with the ranch dipping sauce in individual ramekins with plenty of napkins.