It’s no secret that we love to dehydrate things on this little urban homestead. It is such a great way to preserve so many types of foods! Onions are no different. Whenever we have a large harvest of onions, we always turn some into powder for long-term storage. Truth be told, onion powder just might be my favorite of all our homemade seasonings. Shhh! Don’t tell the garlic powder.
Homemade onion powder is sweet, herbaceous, and versatile – adding the perfect pop of flavor to dang near any meal! The smell reminds me of onion bagels… Yum! Onion powder is also super simple to make, and requires significantly less work than creating garlic powder. When dried properly, it will last over a year in your pantry. Come follow these 6 easy steps to make your own too!
What kind of onions should I use?
You can use any kind of onions to make onion powder! Red, yellow, white, sweet, spicy, small, large… We tend to grow mostly sweeter white or red onions, which helps make our resulting onion powder nice and sweet as well. Even more, the green leaves from all onions can also be dried and turned into powder with the rest of the onion!
Use your homegrown harvest, or pick up a bunch of onions at the farmer’s market or your local natural foods store! Good thing onions are quite inexpensive. You can create many months worth of onion powder for under $10! I suggest using organic onions if possible, especially for preserving.
We are bad about harvesting our onions before they flower sometimes. It happened again this year when we were away on vacation. Ideally, onions are harvested before they flower – because in the process, they form a tough middle stalk. Flowering onions also do not cure as well for long-term dry storage.
This is one of my favorite aspects of making dried seasonings! Because it is all going to get ground up and mixed together anyways, it is an amazing way to make use of less-than-ideal onion parts, like those tougher stalks or less-flavorful old greens that you may not otherwise eat. It is also a great solution for those “overripe” onions that aren’t going to have the best shelf life otherwise. Use it all! The perfect zero-waste solution.
HOW TO MAKE ONION POWDER
- Onions – Make a little, or make a lot! To create a full pint of powder, we used most of the onion bulbs shown above, plus about half the greens.
- Food dehydrator or oven. The use of a dehydrator may be preferred for optimal quality and health benefits, explained further below.
- A good blender, food processor, or coffee grinder. We use a Vitamix.
- Airtight storage containers, such as mason jars.
Oven-Drying Versus Using a Dehydrator
We choose to dry our onions in a food dehydrator rather than the oven, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible! I will include instructions for both ways below.
Why do we prefer using a food dehydrator, you ask? Well, for a few reasons. First, using a dehydrator allows us to “set it and forget it”. No stirring and fussing over the hot oven needed. There is also zero risk of burning it, and ensures even and consistent drying.
Another important aspect (in my opinion) is that a dehydrator allows us to dry the onions while also preserving the nutritional value. While we do not follow a raw food diet, we try to avoid exposing our food to excessively hot temperatures when we can. Especially healing foods like onions! If you read our Fire Cider recipe, you’ll remember that onions have stellar immune-boosting, inflammation-reducing properties. When food is exposed to heat over 118°F, it will reduce beneficial nutritional properties, antioxidants, and active enzymes. Therefore, we dry our onions around 100-110°F.
Low, and slow.
1) Wash & Peel Onions
If you are using using fresh homegrown onions, the roots and greens may still be attached. Wash them to remove excess dirt, and cut away the tough bottom bit that is attached to the roots. We also find it easier to cut the green tops off, and set aside in their own pile to process separately from the bulbs.
Peel away and remove the outermost papery skins of the onions.
2) Thinly Slice Onions
Are you ready to cry? Oh man, some onions really get me going! I suggest to have a slice of lemon or lime nearby, just in case. Did you know that biting on a piece of citrus while you’re chopping onions helps reduce the sting and tears? It really works!
Slice your onions, and pull apart any thick layers that are stuck together. The thinner you go, the quicker they will dry. Furthermore, the more consistent the cuts, the more evenly they’ll finish drying together. We typically aim for about 1/8” to 1/4″ thick, if I had to measure – which I don’t! For green onion stems, you can either cut them into rounds or long slender pieces. We typically cut the tougher flowering stalk into small rings.
As you go, lay the slices of onion out evenly on your food dehydrator trays. You can pack a large amount on to each tray! The pieces can touch side to side, but make sure they aren’t piled on top of each other. We need some space for good air flow between them.
3) Dehydrate the Onions
Load up your food dehydrator with its trays full of onions, and turn that puppy on! We choose to dry ours on about 100-110°F. Again, this is because we don’t want to overheat and essentially “cook” the onions, denaturing its beneficial enzymes and antioxidants. If you aren’t overly concerned about that, you can use a warmer setting (around 130°F) to get it done much faster. It will taste just as good!
The time it takes to fully dry will vary. It depends on your dehydrator or oven, how you prepared and organized the onion, and the temperature you use. When we used our old Nesco dehydrator, it took several days on 110°F to completely dry. Our Excalibur dries it nicely in about half that time, and could easily do it in less than 12 hours on a higher setting than we use.
Pro tip: Avoid running your dehydrator full of onions in an enclosed room where your coat rack is also stored. Nope, didn’t happen to me. 😂
Keep reading to see how to tell when they’re ready!
Drying Onions in the Oven:
If you want to use the oven, prepare your onions in a the same fashion as described above. Next, spread them in a thin layer on a baking pan covered with parchment paper. Bake at 140°F until they are completely crunchy dry. It is suggested to stir and re-spread the onion bits every 30 minutes as you go. We have never done this, but read that this method takes a few hours.
4) Check Doneness
Before removing the onions from your dehydrator or oven, check to make sure they are totally dry! If you try to break them, the thin dry slices should snap and crack crisply in half, and not bend or be malleable at all. The texture tells you if all the excess moisture has been removed. If they’re still bendy or soft instead of crunchy, keep on drying!
If too much moisture is left, your powder will clump up later in the storage container!
You may find that some are done and some are not. Also, onion greens tend to dry much faster than the bulb portion. In that case, you could either pull out the crispy ones and continue to dry the others, or just keep drying it all. We’ll often keep all the green onion leaves on separate trays than the other onion slices. That way, we can pull out those trays of greens when they finish more quickly than the rest.
Once it is dry as tinder, it’s….
5) Time to Grind!
Next, it is time to grind your crispy dry onion bits into a fine powder. This can be done in a blender, food processor, or coffee grinder. In a Vitamix, the result is a super fine, fluffy powder. Pulse and grind it until all the chunks appear to be broken up.
Finally, transfer your finished ground onion powder into an airtight storage container. We typically use mason jars, either half-pint or pint-sized, depending on how much we make. Repurposing old spice containers would work well too! You’ll probably want the assistance of a funnel here, so you don’t spill your precious goods. Our canning funnel is our best friend when we’re working with mason jars.
When stored in an airtight container, it is good for up to a year! And hot dang, is it good… We have enjoyed year-old onion powder that had no obvious degradation in quality or taste, though we usually go through it must faster than that. Good thing onions grow quicker than garlic – so we can make several batches per year to easily replenish our supply!
7) Enjoy Your Onion Powder
I’m sure you can all figure out a million wonderful ways to use your homemade onion powder, right? Well, just in case you need some ideas: Add it to fresh salsa, guacamole, sautéed veggies, in tomato and pasta sauce, soups, curry lentils, hummus, salad dressing, egg dishes, sprinkled in with cooking rice or pasta, or added to homemade sourdough or herb sourdough pizza crust (yeah, that is as delicious as it sounds)… There are limitless options!
You have successfully made your own onion powder! Wasn’t that easy?
In all, I hope you have enjoyed this article, and feel empowered and excited to go make your own. I will work on making a “how to grow onions” article soon. Please feel free to ask questions, and spread the love by sharing this with all your onion-loving friends!