These homemade onion rings, made with vodka in the batter, turns out a shatteringly crisp coating and tender sweet onions. And they’re fried in a skillet, which means you can make them from scratch without a deep fryer. Here’s how to make them from scratch.
Onion rings are finicky, no question about it. Too often, the entire onion either comes out of its fried batter shell in one bite or the onion is cut so thin that the ring ends up being all batter. The real secret to creating the perfect onion ring lies in the frying temperature. We fry these babies at 400°F to break down the onion, ensuring it isn’t raw and crunchy. We use vodka in our batter because its high-alcohol percentage aids in the reduction of gluten formation, yielding a tender yet crisp melt-in-your-mouth exterior. The alcohol rapidly evaporates once it hits the fryer oil, and since vodka is a neutral spirit, these magic rings have no boozy aftertaste. (In other words, feel free to use bottom-shelf booze.)–Samuel Monsour and Richard Chudy
How do you make onion rings from scratch without a deep fryer?
Simple. Use a deep-sided pot to prevent hot oil spattering everywhere and clip an instant-read thermometer to the side of the pot so you can keep an eye on the temperature of the oil, which is critical to ensuring the perfection of the ethereally crisp, shatter-at-the-merest touch onion rings. There’s no need to use as much oil as you would in a deep-fryer. You just want enough to form a shallow wading pool for the onions.
Homemade Onion Rings
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 cup cold vodka
- 4 cups mild vegetable oil or peanut oil for frying
- 4 large Vidalia onions cut into 1/2-inch-thick (12-mm) rings (or sliced thinner, if you prefer)
- Seasoned salt or spice rub (optional)
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 tablespoon salt, cornstarch, and baking powder.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the water and vodka. Slowly pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and gently stir to combine. You want it to be the consistency of thick pancake batter. Add more water or equal parts flour and cornstarch as needed.
- Pour the oil in a wide, deep-sided pot and clip a deep-fry or candy thermometer to the side of the pot. Wait until the oil registers 400°F (204°C). While you wait, grab some scissors and cut open a couple brown paper bags and place them on a baking sheet or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Meanwhile, add the onion rings to the batter and stir to coat.
- When the oil reaches 400°F, carefully plop a few onion rings in the oil and fry until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onion rings from the oil and place them on the cut-open brown paper bag to drain. Sprinkle the onion rings with salt (or dry seasoning of your choice) while they're still warm. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, making sure the oil returns to 400°F (204°C) before you add each batch.
- The onion rings won’t store well, so eat ‘em up. Smash the onion rings in your mouth, perch them atop a burger, or heck, call your neighbor out to the yard and share them.
How To Vary The Flavor Of These Homemade Onion RingsThere are a million ways to flavor and spice these guys; if you want, pick out your favorite dry rub and, upon removing your rings from the fryer, generously dust with your seasoning of choice. Paprika also works well, if you’re so inclined. Even cayenne or your other desired chile pepper.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Wow! The best homemade onion rings ever. The batter forms a light, airy, crisp puff around the onion, and magically (yes, these are magical), the shell adheres perfectly to the onion.
The recipe makes a perfect batter—there was no need to add extra water to thin it. The onions fry fairly quickly in the 400°F oil—a little less time than the 3 to 5 minutes stated in the recipe. I went the “purist” route and seasoned the rings with fine sea salt after they were fried, but they would be fantastic with any number of seasonings, such as cayenne and/or a good smoky Spanish paprika.
Four large Vidalias produced a lot of rings, more than enough to make 4 to 6 people very happy. The prep time is pretty quick—about 20 minutes. The onions need to be fried in batches, so it takes some time to do the frying—plan on at least 30 minutes.
What a treat! These onion rings turned out beautifully, with a light, crisp batter on the outside and perfectly cooked onion on the inside.
I was only making a small batch, so I used a smaller pot, with high sides, but for a full batch of 4 onions, you’d want a large pot, or you would be frying for a couple hours. I followed the directions and added all the liquid to the dry ingredients, and I felt that the batter was too thin, as it barely seemed to coat the onions and certainly wasn’t as thick as pancake batter. However, the onions emerged from the oil with a light, crisp shell on them and they looked just like the picture. I’d add half the liquid, stir, and continue to add until you get the desired thickness.
This recipe makes a lot. Probably more like 8 servings. I don’t think I could eat an entire Vidalia onion worth of rings, no matter how tasty they were.
These were almost the best onion rings I’ve ever had. I cut the recipe in half, using just 2 large onions, and that was plenty for 4 people as a side. The crust was crisp, the inside cooked to perfection, and they were incredibly easy to make. My problem was that they all stuck together in a giant mass of fried onion mess. No matter how few I put into the oil, short of frying each ring individually, they seemed to gravitate towards each other. Next time I’ll reach for my biggest pot to attempt to alleviate this problem.
There was so much leftover batter—I know they’re supposed to soak in it fully but dumping out the near quart of remaining batter seemed wasteful (and not just the vodka, either!) Next time I’ll scale down the batter proportions even more. From start to finish, this took about half an hour. It’s something I would definitely consider as a quick side dish. The batter seemed slightly thin, I would try less liquid next time. The picture made the onion rings look like they came out a bright orange/red color, but I assume this was due to some added seasoning. I seasoned mine simply with salt and pepper when they were hot out of the oil and served them with burgers. Pretty perfect.
Originally published January 29, 2021
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
My onion rings were truly MAGICAL! I have tried many onion ring recipes and have always been disappointed…until now. They were so crisp and insanely delicious!
After mixing the batter, I found that I needed to add another 1/4 cup flour and another 1/4 cup cornstarch to get the proper consistency. The temperature drops drastically between each batch, so put your thermometer in and bring the oil back up to 400°F. I believe adding the extra flour and cornstarch completely coated the onion.
It took me nearly an hour with a 10 1/2-inch cast-iron skillet. If I were using a deep fryer or 2 skillets, my time would be cut significantly. I sprinkled my onion rings with Grippo’s Gourmet Bar-B-Q Spice from my favorite Bar-B-Q potato chips in Cincinnati. OMG, I LOVE THESE! I felt like this recipe made far more than 4 servings—and this is from a certified fat man.