The Origin Of French-Fried Onions Dates Back Over 100 Years

There's no argument that garnishes can elevate a dish. Take the cilantro, onion, and cheese sprinkled on a plate of tacos, or a spoonful of sauerkraut atop a hot dog. But when it comes to crispiness, few toppings can beat the appeal of french-fried onions

Most iconically placed on a green bean casserole, a similar topping is also used in South Asian dishes such as biryani. Crispy onions used as a garnish have existed for decades, because the truth is that these fried onions taste delicious on just about everything from soup to meatloaf, and salads to sandwiches. But don't confuse them with fried onion rings — the batter is softer on onion rings, which are served as a side, rather than a super-crunchy topping.

Of course, while french-fried onions can be made from scratch by coating onions in buttermilk and creole seasoning before deep frying, they are more typically found in a canand kept on standby in the pantry. So when exactly was their rise to fame, and how did their placement on top of that classic green bean dish arrive? 

French fried onions emerged from an unknown source in the early 1900s

Although referencing a European nation in the name, French's instead refers to a popular trademarked brand. And this crunchy creation is American-born and continues to be manufactured in the United States. The "french-fried" part of the name really refers to the cooking method being similar to french fries, that is being deep fried in oil. Records suggest that the first recipe was created in 1904, but by whom is unknown. It did use real onions, though, and still does. The product had already hit the shelves in large numbers by the 1930s, distributed by a company called Olney & Carpenter. After a subsequent changing of hands, it wasn't until 1986 that the crispy topping took on its current name.

And as far as its interlinking with green bean casserole? That's all due to a recipe advertised by Campbell's in 1955 to drive up the sales of cream of mushroom soup. In fact, the bond between Christmas dishes and toppings became so strong that French's launched their own promotional campaign in the 2010s. All to demonstrate just how versatile the product is outside the holiday season. There's no need for any convincing — loads of dishes benefit from the fried onion bites.