Tennessee Onions Medley Recipe

While onions are not one of the main crops grown in Tennessee, a state better known for producing tobacco and soybeans, a cheesy onion casserole called Tennessee onions has been making the rounds of food bloggers in recent years. The origins of the dish are unknown, although one anecdotal backstory credits it to somebody's thrifty grandma making the most of what she had on hand during the Great Depression.

Developer Tess Le Moing's take on Tennessee onions involves a medley of different aromatics: sweet onions, red onions, shallots, and garlic. As she tells us, "You'll want a total of 1 ½ pounds of onions and shallots." She notes that her use of sugar in the recipe "brings out the natural sweetness of the onions," explaining, "While I love cooked onions, they can be strong on their own." For this same reason, she also squeezes a bit of lemon juice over the top, an addition that "brightens the dish and mellows out the onion."

Gather the ingredients for this Tennessee onions medley

This onion medley is made with a Vidalia onion and a red onion, along with shallots, garlic, and shredded cheddar cheese (Le Moing uses both white and orange). Other ingredients you'll need to assemble the casserole include olive oil, sugar, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, butter, and lemon juice.

Step 1: Turn on the oven

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Step 2: Combine the onions and shallots

Place onion and shallot slices in a large mixing bowl.

Step 3: Mix the onions with seasonings, sugar, and oil

Toss gently with garlic, olive oil, sugar, salt, black pepper, and cayenne to combine.

Step 4: Put the onions in a baking pan

Transfer onion mixture to an 8x11-inch casserole dish.

Step 5: Top with butter and lemon

Distribute butter cubes over the onion mixture and drizzle lemon juice evenly over the top.

Step 6: Bake the casserole

Cover casserole with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes, until onions are softened.

Step 7: Make it cheesy

Remove foil and evenly sprinkle cheeses on top.

Step 8: Melt the cheese

Broil until cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Step 9: Add a little more lemon, if you like, and enjoy

Squeeze additional lemon juice on top, if desired, and serve.

What kind of cheese is best for Tennessee onions?

Le Moing makes her Tennessee onions medley with two colors of cheddar cheese, both orange and white. However, Le Moing tells us, "You can use any melty cheese you like," whether that's just one type of cheddar or perhaps gouda, Gruyère, mozzarella, or Parmesan, as she suggests. Virtually any cheesy combination would work well with versatile onions, but you could also opt for pepper Jack, Swiss, havarti, or any other variety that can easily be grated.

Le Moing does have one caveat regarding the cheese used in this casserole, though. In her experience, pre-shredded cheese may not provide the best texture. As she explains, "When you shred it yourself, it melts more evenly," which is likely because many pre-grated cheeses contain anti-clumping additives that hinder their melting qualities. "If pre-shredded cheese is all you have, the casserole will still taste delicious," Le Moing assures.

What should I serve with a Tennessee onions medley?

Le Moing tells us that her Tennessee onions medley "can be served as a side dish alongside roast beef or chicken," although it would also complement pork chops or sausages. It could also be used as a side for classic Southern entrees like barbecued ribs, country-fried chicken, or shrimp and grits. This richly flavored dish might even make a great addition to your Thanksgiving spread alongside the mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and turkey with gravy.

Tennessee onions don't need to be limited to side dish territory, either, since Le Moing suggests them as a topping for burgers or other hot sandwiches. As for any leftovers you may have, she tells, "I love putting them in frittatas, quiches, or omelets." They would also be great in a breakfast skillet made with hash browns and bacon and topped with a fried egg, or they could be repurposed in a savory breakfast casserole.

Tennessee Onions Medley Recipe
5 from 22 ratings
Per Southern tradition, this old-fashioned casserole stars sweet Vidalia onions and lots of cheese for a comforting, crowd-pleasing side dish.
Prep Time
10
minutes
Cook Time
50
minutes
Servings
4
servings
cheesy onion casserole in pan
Total time: 1 hour
Ingredients
  • 1 sweet Vidalia onion, sliced crosswise into ¼ inch-thick slices (about ½ cup)
  • 1 red onion, sliced crosswise into ¼ inch-thick slices (about ½ cup)
  • 2 shallots, sliced crosswise into ¼ inch-thick slices (about ⅓ cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice, plus more for serving
  • ¼ cup shredded white cheddar
  • ¼ cup shredded orange cheddar
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Place onion and shallot slices in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Toss gently with garlic, olive oil, sugar, salt, black pepper, and cayenne to combine.
  4. Transfer onion mixture to an 8x11-inch casserole dish.
  5. Distribute butter cubes over the onion mixture and drizzle lemon juice evenly over the top.
  6. Cover casserole with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes, until onions are softened.
  7. Remove foil and evenly sprinkle cheeses on top.
  8. Broil until cheese is melted and lightly browned.
  9. Squeeze additional lemon juice on top, if desired, and serve.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 212
Total Fat 14.4 g
Saturated Fat 7.0 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 30.4 mg
Total Carbohydrates 17.0 g
Dietary Fiber 2.3 g
Total Sugars 9.5 g
Sodium 348.0 mg
Protein 5.4 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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