Sam Sifton's Creamed Onions

[Photograph: Kate Williams]

Nothing screams fancy dinner quite like a bowl of pearl onions. The small orbs of sweetness signal vast amounts of prep time and tears on the part of the cook, and so are rarely seen outside of feast tables around the holidays.

But don't let the extra work steer you away from Sam Sifton's recipe for Creamed Onions. These morsels are easy to peel once par-boiled and shocked, and are then coated in the most luscious of cream sauces. A smattering of bacon adds even more richness as well as smoky flavor, and a bright finish of herbaceous parsley, cayenne, and black pepper balance the sauce.

Why I picked this recipe: Peeling pearl onions may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I find it meditative. Also, this is a great excuse to eat an extra cup of cream at dinner.

What worked: Creamy and rich as promised, these onions are an excellent addition to the table, as long as you aren't scared of a little more cream. Be sure not to skip the parsley at the end; it adds welcome brightness.

What didn't: My onions varied in size a great deal, so I found I needed an extra 10 or 15 minutes of simmering time until all were tender.

Suggested tweaks: You could make this vegetarian by swapping out the bacon for butter or vegetable oil if you want (or need to).

Reproduced by permission of Sam Sifton, author of Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author or publisher, Random House.

Sam Sifton's Creamed Onions

About This Recipe

Yield:serves 6
Active time:40 minutes
Total time:1 hour and 20 minutes
This recipe appears in: Sam Sifton's Creamed Onions


  • 2 pounds fresh pearl onions
  • 3 thick slices of bacon, cut into lardons
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups turkey or chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream, or light cream, or milk
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed, leaves chopped fine
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for serving


  1. 1

    Fill a saucepan about halfway with water and set over high heat until it comes to a boil. Add onions and cover, then turn off the heat and allow them to sit for 15 minutes, or until the skins are very soft. Drain onions and rinse them in cold water until they are cool enough to handle. Using a small paring knife and your fingers, remove the skins.

  2. 2

    In a large sauté pan set over medium heat, cook the bacon until it renders its fat and begins to turn crisp, approximately 5 minutes. Remove bacon from pan and set aside. 

  3. 3

    Add flour to the pan and stir it into the fat to create a roux. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the roux begins to color. Add the broth and whisk to combine. Add the cream, the thyme and the cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes to thicken.

  4. 4

    Add the onions to the pan, reduce heat to a low simmer and cook, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the onions are tender and the sauce is quite thick. Garnish with the reserved bacon, another pinch of cayenne and — of course — chopped parsley.

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