Creamed pearl onions are an earthy, sweet addition to a Thanksgiving turkey, a Christmas roast, or Easter ham, 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 were a mandatory side dish on my family's holiday menu. My mom used to make them with a canned white sauce (shudder). Then I grew up, wised up, read the label, and said mom, really? T
hen she started making them with homemade white sauce with white flour, butter and milk. But going gluten-free meant no white flour. Time for a family recipe update.
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.
How to Peel Pearl Onions
Fill a medium pot (4-5 quart) ¾ 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 Thrivemarket.com.
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.
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 a clove or two of fresh, finely minced garlic to the sauce. Cook for two minutes, 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 Ahead Tips
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.
Creamed Pearl Onions
- 1 ½ pounds pearl onions
- 1 cup full fat canned coconut milk
- 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 ½ tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper or black, but the white disappears nicely
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg optional
- 1-2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese or vegan cheesy sprinkle
- Fill a medium pot (3-4 quart) ¾ 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 and 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 them to cool for a few minutes, then drain. To peel, slice off the root end of the onion and slip off the outer skin. Discard the cooking water and use to finish the onions.
- Add the coconut milk to the pot. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth then whisk into the coconut milk. Add the onions to the pot, bring to a boil over medium heat, turn the heat down to low, place a lid on top and cook until the onions are tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 7-10 minutes. The sauce should be thick and smooth. Stir in vinegar, thyme, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Top with Parmesan to serve.
Mary Scaletta says
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?
Sally Cameron says
Hi Mary, the substitute is arrowroot starch. Have you tried that?
Mary Michelsen says
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.
Sally Cameron says
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.
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.
Sally Cameron says
Hi Debbie. I am confused by your comment but want to respond. 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.
Hi ! Just wanted to let you know that we've added this recipe to our top 100 recipes for thanksgiving 2015! Check it out: http://ohmydish.com/100-best-thanksgiving-recipes-for-2015/ 🙂
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!