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Creamed Pearl Onions

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Creamed Pearl Onions


What are Creamed Pearl Onions?

Creamed Pearl Onions are a traditional side dish featuring tender, sweet pearl onions bathed in a rich, creamy sauce. This dish is a staple at holiday meals but is delicious and comforting enough to enjoy year-round.

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The History of Creamed Onions

Creamed onions have been a beloved side dish for centuries, particularly in American and European cuisine. They became especially popular in the 19th and 20th centuries, gracing holiday tables with their smooth, velvety texture and mild, sweet flavor.

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Why They Are a Perfect Side Dish

Creamed Pearl Onions complement a variety of main dishes, adding a touch of elegance and a rich, savory note that enhances any meal. Their creamy sauce pairs beautifully with roasted meats, poultry, and even vegetarian entrees.

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Preparing for the Recipe

Selecting Quality Pearl Onions

Choose firm, unblemished pearl onions for the best flavor and texture. Fresh pearl onions are preferable, but high-quality frozen pearl onions can be used as a convenient alternative.

Prepping Ingredients for the Cream Sauce

Measure out all ingredients before you begin cooking to ensure a smooth, uninterrupted process.

Tips for Peeling Pearl Onions

Peeling pearl onions can be a bit tedious, but here’s a quick tip:

  1. Trim the root ends of the onions and place them in a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes.
  2. Drain and rinse under cold water. The skins should slip off easily.

Step-by-Step Creamed Pearl Onions Recipe

Step 1: Preparing the Onions

  1. Peel the pearl onions using the boiling water method mentioned above.
  2. Place the peeled onions in a pot of salted boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.

Step 2: Making the Cream Sauce

  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  2. Add the flour and whisk continuously to form a smooth roux. Cook for 2-3 minutes until it’s golden and fragrant.
  3. Gradually add the heavy cream and broth, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.
  4. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the ground nutmeg, salt, and white pepper.

Step 3: Combining and Cooking

  1. Add the cooked pearl onions to the cream sauce, stirring gently to coat them evenly.
  2. Simmer on low heat for an additional 5 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.

Step 4: Serving

  1. Transfer the creamed onions to a serving dish.
  2. Garnish with chopped parsley and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese if desired.
  3. Serve warm as a side dish.

Cooking Tips for Perfect Creamed Pearl Onions

Ensuring the Right Sauce Consistency

The cream sauce should be smooth and thick enough to coat the onions but not too thick. If it becomes too thick, add a splash of broth or cream to reach the desired consistency.

Balancing Flavors

Taste the sauce as you cook and adjust the seasoning as needed. The nutmeg adds a subtle warmth that complements the sweetness of the onions.

Cooking the Onions Properly

Ensure the onions are tender but not mushy. Cooking them in boiling water before adding them to the sauce helps achieve the perfect texture.

Serving Suggestions

Best Main Courses to Pair With

Creamed Pearl Onions are a versatile side dish that pairs well with:

  • Roasted turkey or chicken
  • Beef tenderloin or prime rib
  • Vegetarian mains like mushroom risotto or stuffed squash

Ideal Wine Pairings

A crisp white wine like Chardonnay or a light red like Pinot Noir complements the rich, creamy flavors of this dish.

Presentation Tips

Serve the creamed onions in a shallow, wide dish to showcase the beautiful, creamy sauce and the tender onions. Garnish with fresh herbs for a touch of color and freshness.

Variations of Creamed Pearl Onions

Classic Creamed Onions

Stick to the traditional recipe for a timeless side dish that never fails to please.

Creamed Onions with Bacon

Add cooked, crumbled bacon to the sauce for a smoky, savory twist that adds depth of flavor.

Modern Twists on Traditional Recipes

Incorporate different herbs like thyme or rosemary, or add a splash of white wine to the sauce for an elegant variation.

Health Benefits of Pearl Onions

Nutritional Profile

Pearl onions are low in calories but high in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin B6, and folate.

Health Benefits of Onions

Onions are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and are a good source of antioxidants, which can help boost the immune system.

Incorporating into a Balanced Diet

While creamed onions are rich and indulgent, they can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet when paired with lean proteins and plenty of vegetables.

Storing and Reheating Creamed Pearl Onions

Proper Storage Techniques

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Reheating Tips

Reheat gently on the stovetop over low heat, stirring frequently to prevent the sauce from separating. Add a splash of cream or broth if needed to restore the sauce’s consistency.

Freezing for Later

Creamed pearl onions can be frozen, though the texture of the cream sauce may change slightly. Freeze in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Overcooking the Onions

Avoid overcooking the onions, as they can become mushy. Boil them just until tender before adding them to the sauce.

Incorrect Sauce Consistency

Ensure the sauce is thick enough to coat the onions but not overly thick. Adjust with broth or cream as needed.

Not Tasting as You Cook

Tasting the sauce as you cook allows you to adjust the seasoning and achieve a balanced flavor profile.

Frequently Asked Questions About Creamed Pearl Onions

Can I Use Frozen Pearl Onions?

Yes, frozen pearl onions can be used. Thaw and drain them before adding to the sauce.

How Do I Make the Dish Less Rich?

Use half-and-half or milk instead of heavy cream to reduce the richness of the sauce.

Can I Add Other Vegetables?

Absolutely. Adding vegetables like peas or carrots can add color and texture to the dish.

Is This Dish Gluten-Free?

The traditional recipe includes flour, but you can use a gluten-free flour blend to make the sauce gluten-free.

How Do I Store Leftovers?

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Reheat gently on the stovetop.


Creamed Pearl Onions are a classic and comforting side dish that adds elegance to any meal. With their sweet, tender onions bathed in a rich, creamy sauce, they are sure to be a hit at your next dinner gathering. This versatile dish is perfect for holidays and special occasions, but it’s easy enough to enjoy any time you crave something comforting and delicious.

Yield: 8

Creamed Pearl Onions

Creamed Pearl Onions

Creamed Pearl Onions are a traditional side dish featuring tender, sweet pearl onions bathed in a rich, creamy sauce. This dish is a staple at holiday meals but is delicious and comforting enough to enjoy year-round.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes


  • Kosher salt
  • 2 pounds pearl onions
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns (plus ground pepper for seasoning)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 ⅔ cups whole milk
  • 6 sage leaves (finely chopped)
  • ½ teaspoon thyme (finely chopped)


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Set up an ice water bath. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Add the pearl onions and blanch just until the skins loosen, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to the ice bath to cool. Drain the onions and pat dry. Trim off the root ends and pinch off the skins.
  2. Add the peppercorns and bay leaves to the saucepan of water and bring to a boil. Add the peeled onions and simmer over moderately high heat until just tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain well and pat dry. Transfer the onions to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over moderately low heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until bubbling and just beginning to turn color, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and simmer, stirring, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and no floury taste remains, about 5 minutes. Stir in the sage and thyme and season generously with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the onions and bake for 20 minutes, until bubbling and just starting to brown at the edge. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
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