Creamed Pearl Onions

By Sally Cameron on November 19, 2014

beans, legumes & grains, Gluten-Free, Holiday Dishes, Side Dishes, Thanksgiving, the daniel plan, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Creamed pearl onions. I hated them as a kid and love them as an adult who finally wised up. Creamed pearl onions are an earthy, sweet addition to a Thanksgiving turkey or a Christmas roast, but there is no rule you can’t enjoy them year round. And these are made with absolutely no dairy. Read on for my secret to a creamy sauce.

Creamed Pearl Onions |

Creamed Pearl Onions – Gluten and Dairy free

Creamed pearl onions were a mandatory side dish on my family’s holiday menu. My mom used to make them with a canned white sauce (shudder), until I grew up, wised up, read the label, and said mom, really? Then she started making them with homemade white sauce with white flour, butter and milk. But going gluten-free meant no white flour.

Coconut Milk Magic

My secret to a creamy sauce is whole coconut milk. So before you stop reading because you think you hate coconut, read on. There is no coconut taste in these creamed pearl onions. None. I had several people taste them. They loved them. I asked, do you taste coconut? They looked at me, like what? Of course not. You won’t taste the coconut. You just get to enjoy a rich and creamy sauce that is ridiculously easy to make. No white flour, no dairy, no kidding.

Pearl onions|

How to Peel Pearl Onions

Fill a medium pot  (4-5 quart) 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Drop in pearl onions and cook for 3 minutes. While they are boiling, get a big bowl out, fill half way with ice and water to create an ice bath. After 3 minutes, remove the onions from the pot to the ice bath. Allow onions to cool for a few minutes, then drain. To peel, slice off the root end of the onion and slip off the outer skin. Dump the cooking water.

Make the Sauce

Pour a cup of full fat coconut milk into a smaller pan. For coconut milk, I buy Native Forest. It’s organic and in a BPA-free can. You can find it for a great price in If you are sensitive to gums, try the can labeled Simple. Bring the coconut milk to a boil and add a cornstarch slurry. So what’s A slurry? It’s a way to thicken a liquid. Here’s how to make one.

Cornstarch Slurry

Add organic cornstarch to cold water to make a thick, smooth paste. Organic is important, so it is non-GMO. Next, whisk the slurry into the hot coconut milk. Whisk until smooth and thickened. It’s important to use cold water with cornstarch, then into a boiling or simmering liquid, or it won’t work as well.

Finish the Sauce

Add salt, white pepper, and granulated or a clove or two of fresh, finely minced garlic to the sauce. Cook for a minutes or two, then add the peeled onions. A  little Balsamic vinegar is nice too. Add grated nutmeg to finish, and if you enjoy dairy, a little Parmesan is pretty good too. That’s it.

Make them a Day Ahead

To save time, you can make the onions a day or two ahead of time and heat them for your holiday dinner. Use a small pan over low heat, covered, or put them in a dish in the oven, covered, until they are hot. For another version, try this recipe for pearl onions with brown butter and Balsamic glaze.

Creamed Pearl Onions|

Nutrition Facts
Creamed Pearl Onions
Amount Per Serving
Calories 153 Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Fat 10g15%
Saturated Fat 9g56%
Cholesterol 1mg0%
Sodium 37mg2%
Potassium 271mg8%
Carbohydrates 15g5%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 3g6%
Vitamin A 14IU0%
Vitamin C 10mg12%
Calcium 51mg5%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Creamed Pearl Onions

Creamy pearl onions are an earthy treat on your holiday table to accompany a Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas roast. Made with whole coconut milk for creamy richness, there is no coconut taste and no dairy. Make these a day or two ahead, then heat before dinner. Finish with a sprikle of fresh grated nutmeg.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword creamed, pearl onions, Thanksgiving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 153kcal


  • 1 1/2 pounds pearl onions
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup full fat canned coconut milk
  • Sea salt
  • White pepper or black, but the white disappears nicely
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1-2 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar or Balsamic syrup
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese or vegan cheesy sprinkle


  • Fill a medium pot (4-5 quart)  3/4 full with cold water and bring to a boil. Drop in pearl onions and cook for 3 minutes. While they are boiling, get a big bowl out, fill half way with ice and water to create an ice bath. After 3 minutes, drain the onions and place in the ice bath. Allow then to cool for a few minutes, then drain. To peel, slice off the root end of the onion and slip off the outer skin.
  • Add cornstarch and water to a small bowl and stir until smooth. Add coconut milk to a smaller pot (about 3 quarts) and bring to a boil. When milk is boiling, add the cornstarch and whisk into the milk. The coconut milk should start to thicken up. Cook for about 1 minute to get rid of any raw taste. Turn heat to low and  add onions, salt, pepper, garlic, Balsamic and thyme. Cook onions, covered for a few minutes until onions are tender when pierced through. Add nutmeg to serve and Parmesan (optional)


Onions can be cooked a day or two ahead and heated in the oven in a covered dish or on the stove top in a pan, covered, over low heat until hot. If you cannot find pearl onions, use boiled onions. They may take just a little longer to cook. 


Calories: 153kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 37mg | Potassium: 271mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 14IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 1mg
  1. Sally - November 18th, 2014

    This is one of my all-time favorite standbys that my grandmother made, and I still make. I’ve cut out the cream and use the cooking water from the onions, but I still use butter and flour. I like this alternative way of making with coconut milk and cornstarch. Will have to try them this year. Great recipe!

  2. Ohmydish - November 8th, 2015

    Hi ! Just wanted to let you know that we’ve added this recipe to our top 100 recipes for thanksgiving 2015! Check it out: 🙂

  3. Debbie - October 12th, 2017

    I am looking for vegan Thanksgiving dishes and creamed onions are a favorite this looks amazing! However, I am sorry to be a pain, but since you said it was your family silver, I am thought you actually made these onions with the recipe given. I don’t see any white sauce, nor do I think the browned onion ends come from the boiling of the onions. It is a pet peeve of mine that the pictures used for recipes are not made following the recipe given or are stock photos. I am drawn to a recipe by the pictures. I consider myself a good cook, but I cannot achieve what you are capturing in the picture following the recipe given…. My 2 cents.

  4. Sally Cameron - October 23rd, 2017

    Hi Debbie. I always create and cook my own recipes and shoot them myself for this blog. I never use stock photos for any of my recipes. Yes, that dish in the photo was my mother’s or grandmother’s and I am lucky to have it but it has nothing to do with the recipe. It’s just the dish I chose to put them in. My recipe is gluten-free with a creamy sauce. The creaminess comes from the coconut milk, and yet it does not taste like coconut. If you’ve never used coconut milk this way, it is fantastic. Rich, creamy, vegan (leaving out the little bit of Parmesan), and gluten-free. No white sauce needed as in a traditional recipe. Please try making the recipe you will see it’s easy and comes out just like the photo, just without my family silver dish. And if you want a little cheesy flavor but want to keep it vegan, try using nutritional yeast. I also have a recipe for a vegan cheesy sprinkle on my site. You could use that too. I am not sure what the problem is.

  5. Mary Michelsen - November 20th, 2017

    Just made these for thanksgiving. I loved using coconut milk and the addition of the balsamic was great. They are delicious and I am sure will be even better reheated. I roasted frozen pearl onions to get some caramelization. I left out the parmesan in case there is anyone that is Vegan at the table.

  6. Sally Cameron - November 20th, 2017

    So glad to read your comment Mary. I am going to make mine tomorrow! Using fresh pearl onions, but the frozen ones are a great idea for readers. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for sharing.

  7. Mary Scaletta - March 24th, 2018

    This sounds great! I’m on the ketogenic diet and want to make this without corn starch. Do you have any ideas for a substitute?

  8. Sally Cameron - March 25th, 2018

    Hi Mary, the substitute is arrowroot starch. Have you tried that?

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