Growing up I had a lot of guilty pleasures, but French Onion Dip, made with a packet of Lipton‘s Onion Soup Mix, sour cream, and mayonnaise, was one of my favorites, and it was the kind of thing I could eat with a spoon. As an adult it’s a bit harder to justify making such a sodium-laden cholesterol bomb, so it’s been at least two decades since I’ve had it.
The other day I was flipping through Pinterest and a photo of this classic, fired savory harpoons at my taste memories, eliciting a craving that wouldn’t go away. In the same spirit as my Vegan Spinach Dip I decided to try my hand at taking the “junk” out of this junk-food.
The plant-based French Onion Dip I came up with surpassed all expectations and I’d say it easily beats the artery clogging original on taste. Seriously, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a fan of Lipton’s Onion Dip that didn’t like this plant-based made-from-scratch version better.
For this onion dips “sour cream” base, I’ve used raw cashews. They’re perfect for this dip because they have a neutral flavor, are loaded with umami, and have a subtle sweetness that compliments the caramelized onions beautifully. Nutritional yeast gives the cashews a fermented dairy flavor, and apple cider vinegar lends a pleasant tang.
A bit of soy sauce gives the dip another amino acid boost, which works in synergy with the onions, cashews and nutritional yeast to jack the lip-smacking umami factor to 11. I used usukuchi soy sauce for its light color, but if you don’t mind your dip turning brown, regular soy sauce will work just fine.
All these ingredients get tossed in a high speed blender along with half the caramelized onions and they’re blended until they form a velvety smooth dip. The remaining caramelized onions get mixed in at the end by hand to provide little bursts of flavor as you chew.
While it may take a bit more work than mixing 3 packages of food, there’s nothing complicated about making this vegan onion dip from scratch and it can be put together in under thirty minutes. Here are the culinary tricks I used to help speed things along:
The first trick is to chop the onions into a fine dice (1/8-inch pieces). This not only makes it easier to incorporate the caramelized onions at the end, the added surface area speeds up the caramelization process.
To get things moving even faster, I like to start the onions off by steaming them with a lid on. This cooks the onions through so you can skip the sauteeing and get straight to caramelizing. You can read more tips about caramelizing onions here.
The last trick is to boil the cashews for a few minutes to soften them, instead of soaking them overnight. This gets the job done in minutes rather than hours, and the results are just as good, if not better.
Finally, this onion dip keeps for a few days in the fridge, so it’s a great make-ahead option for parties and potlucks, and it’s a dish that everyone can enjoy.
- Put the olive oil and onions in a frying pan and cover with a lid. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook covered until the onions are tender (about 10 minutes).
- Remove the lid and turn up the heat to medium-high to quickly burn off the excess water.
- When you hear the onions start to sizzle, saute them stirring continuously, until the onions are fully caramelized (another 10 minutes or so).
- While the onions cook, add the raw cashew nuts to a small pan and cover with about an inch of water. Bring the cashews to a boil and then set a timer for 2 minutes. When the timer goes off, turn off the heat and let the cashews cool to room temperature in the liquid.
Use a slotted spoon to add the cashew nuts to a blender. Measure out 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid and add it to the blender. Add the nutritional yeast, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, salt, black pepper, and half of the caramelized onion mixture.
Blend until very smooth. If your blender is having trouble spinning, you can add a little extra cooking liquid from the cashews to help it out.
- Transfer the dip from the blender to a bowl and stir in the remaining caramelized onions. Adjust the seasonings (salt and vinegar) to taste.
Garnish with minced parsley and paprika and serve your vegan French onion dip with bread, chips, or vegetable sticks .