My grandmother swore by the healing power of onions. Turns out she was on to something.
My grandmother ate an onion every time she got sick. I grew up knowing this. Believing this. I told my children this. I confess that before I wrote this, I had to call my 92 year old Mom to confirm this. (I mean, maybe it was family folklore since Gragga has been long gone at the time of this post) Sure enough, my mother confirmed that this was true.
The Healing Power of Onions
My grandmother swore by the healing power of onions. Turns out she was on to something. Onions do have powerful flavonoids that have an antibiotic effect and contain compounds called cysteine sulfoxides, that inhibit pathogens.
In my pre-vegan days, when I felt a cold coming on, I would sauté an entire onion and then scramble an egg or two in it. I could usually get Greg and our son to have this when they were getting sick as well. My daughter, however, would rather have died from the illness than eat an entire onion. (Why didn’t I think of onion rings?)
Did it help? I think so. We didn’t get sick often and we weren’t sick for long. So, for years I have incorporated more onions into the meals during cold season, and I believe it made a difference.
Eating a Whole Onion?
After becoming a vegan, I was at a bit of a loss as how to get a whole onion down. (Again, onion rings hadn’t occurred to me.) I tend to want comforting and simple foods when I am sick, so consuming the amount of stir fry that could accommodate an entire onion seemed a little daunting.
Lovely onions – but could you eat them straight?
Onion Soup Was The Answer
The first time I made vegan onion soup, it was actually for a friend who had contracted a decimating tick born illness, erlichiosis, and wanted something easy and plant-based that would promote healing.
To be honest, I was totally winging it. I never had onion soup growing up (other than the dry stuff that everyone makes that potato chip dip with), but remember with great fondness a delicious pre-vegan bowl of French Onion Soup, a frothy dish of caramelized onions, topped with a fat piece of french bread toast and some melted cheese. I must confess that it was glorious to me. It was come-in-from-the-cold pub food in a thick pottery bowl. That was the experience I wanted to recreate with a vegan onion soup recipe.
My first attempts didn’t come close to that memory.,
However, after time and trial I finally feel if it were put in front of me on that cold day, I would find it just as glorious. The secret for me was adding the tamari. Traditional onion soup is made in a beef broth. Using vegetable broth, adding the tamari and a little wine, gives it the depth and richness that vegan onion soup needs.
A food processor really cuts the slicing time down!
A note about caramelizing onions: Don’t be nervous, it’s easy. It just takes time. Here’s how I do it: I start with a sauté pan over medium heat and melt some Earth Balance. You can use oil or, if you want no fat at all, you can start with a little water. Place the finely sliced onions in the pan and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
Stay Close to Your Pan!
Don’t go too far, because you will want to stay close to stir frequently (This is an excellent time to call your mother). I keep stirring occasionally until the onion starts to glisten and develop the beautiful caramel color. This process will greatly reduce the volume of onion in your pan. Plan on at least 20-25 minutes. If it starts to stick in the middle, I splash a little water in and gently scrape the bottom of the pan with my wooden spoon. The longer you cook, the richer the flavor and darker the color will be. Believe me, after a few minutes your kitchen will smell amazing!
You may find some recipes that call for adding brown sugar or balsamic vinegar. This creates the color of caramelized onions, but does not replace the process. It is truly worth it to put in the effort!
Cooking (and cooking and …) those onions down!
Delicious Vegan Onion Soup
Making this recipe straight produces a delicious, comforting, vegan onion soup with a rich broth. We frequently eat just like that, sometimes dipping a piece of crusty sourdough into the broth. Yum! But, you can also take it to that “other level” by adding croutons and melting some non-dairy shreds on top (Follow Your Heart Mozzarella is a fav, and their Parmesan shreds are awesome). Hello Vegan French Onion Soup! Whichever way you decide to prepare your bowl, we’re sure you will enjoy it!
This Vegan Onion Soup recipe produces a delicious, healthy, comforting, soup with a rich broth. Yum! Dairy-free and low-fat, we know you’ll love it!
4–5 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 Tbs vegan butter or oil (optional)
pinch of salt
2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp celery seeds
6–7 grinds of black pepper
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup tamari (I use low sodium)
1/4 cup white wine
Toasted french bread slices, or croutons, and vegan cheese (optional)
1. Melt butter or heat oil or water in a soup pot on medium heat with enough bottom surface area to be able to move the onions around in a fairly thin layer.
2. Add the onions and stir to coat.
3. Sprinkle with pinch of salt.
4. Stir the onions frequently and gently, maintaining a medium heat.
5. Add the mustard and celery seeds and black pepper and continue to stir.
6. And stir.
7. When the onions are a golden to caramel color, add the broth, tamari and wine and bring to a gentle boil.
8. Adjust salt and pepper to taste with care, as tamari can be high in sodium.
9. Remove from heat and serve into bowls, placing toasted bread and a generous sprinkle of cheese on top, if desired.
Yield: 2 main course or 4 appetizer servings.
There are lots of vegan cheeses available, and more appear all the time. Follow Your Heart* brand has been reliable and generally easy to find. We love their shreds, and their Parmesan Style works particularly well with this recipe.
*no affiliation – we just like to support brands we like.
Georgia is an unpretentious foodie who, at 50, transitioned from a vegetarian diet to a whole foods plant based diet and is loving it. She works as a nurse, plays as a quilter, loves to run, hates to race. She thinks dogs are actually angels (in dog suits).