Learn How to Make Onion Dip From a Caramelized Onion Dip-Obsessed Wisconsinite 🤗
As a born & raised Midwesterner, few snacks make me more nostalgic than a good ‘ol onion dip recipe. There was pretty much always a bowl of caramelized onion dip on the snack table at any potluck, backyard BBQ, or cabin getaway throughout my childhood. If you ask me, a big dollop of creamy, dreamy onion dip on a golden & crisp ruffled potato chip is the perfect snack!
While I’ll always love store-bought onion dip, making dip from scratch really takes things up a notch. This caramelized onion dip recipe is our take on the ULTIMATE homemade onion dip. The secret lies in a carefully crafted ingredients list – naturally sweet Vidalia onions caramelize to create an intensely rich flavor that pairs perfectly with the richness of cream cheese & sour cream. As a nod to my Wisconsin roots, a splash of brandy takes the sweetness of the onions even further, while a bit of Worcestershire sauce, sriracha, & mustard powder finish things off with an extra punch of flavor.
The most time-consuming part of this recipe is letting the onions gently caramelize on the stovetop. Caramelizing is a process that you really can’t rush too much…BUT we do have a simple shortcut that helps things move along a little quicker. 🤓 From there, the dip comes together SUPER quickly. Any time spent is well worth the effort. 😉
Caramelized Onion Dip Recipe Highlights
You’ll LOVE this caramelized Vidalia onion dip recipe because it’s…
- PERFECTLY SAVORY-SWEET. Naturally sweet Vidalia onions caramelize beautifully, & they take on an even richer & sweeter thanks to a splash of brandy. The other ingredients intentionally balance everything out, creating a homemade dip that is well-rounded & super flavorful.
- CREAMY & DIPPABLE. Folding the caramelized onions into a blend of sour cream & cream cheese creates a dreamy, creamy texture perfect for dipping. There’s nothing better!
- PURE NOSTALGIA. If there’s one thing that transports me to the summers of my childhood in Wisconsin, it’s caramelized onion dip. This homemade onion dip recipe is an instant classic & fan favorite no matter where you’re from.
Any dip lover’s dream!!! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make this Brandied Caramelized Onion Dip, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!
Key Ingredients for the BEST Homemade Onion Dip
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
This caramelized onion dip recipe yields BIG flavor despite using really simple ingredients. There are about 10 key ingredients at play here, & you probably already have most of them in your kitchen!
- Vidalia onions – I love to use Vidalia onions when they’re in season because of their uniquely sweet flavor. You can, however, use any other sweet onion if that’s what’s most readily available to you.
- Brandy – This spirit made from distilled wine is ICONIC in Wisconsin, so I couldn’t resist using it for onion dip! Just a splash brings out the onion’s natural sweetness even more. If your home bar isn’t stocked with brandy, be sure to refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for a few simple alcoholic & non-alcoholic substitutes.
- Creamy base – A blend of cream cheese & sour cream creates a base for the dip with the absolute best texture & flavor. You can also use Greek yogurt or a dairy-free yogurt if you prefer.
- Flavor boosters – A few dashes of umami-rich Worcestershire sauce, zippy sriracha, & earthy ground mustard help round out the sweet & creamy flavors in the Vidalia onion dip. Small additions that all have a big impact!
While all onions have some natural sweetness, that of Vidalia onions is especially delicious & distinct! Vidalia onions add a simple, tasteful touch to any meal & the onion’s abundance of sugars are fantastic for caramelizing.
Vidalia onions are harvested in only 20 counties in South Georgia & are typically only available in the spring & summer months (from about April to September). It’s convenient that their harvest is perfectly aligned with summer dipping season! 😉
Be sure to grab them while you can, but if you have a hard time finding them, feel free to use any other sweet onion to make this caramelized onion dip recipe.
How to Caramelize Onions for Homemade Vidalia Onion Dip
Caramelizing onions is a delicate process that requires low & slow heat to extract the onion’s natural sugars. How does it work? ⇢ As the onions cook, the heat transforms the sucrose in the cells of the onion into simpler forms of smaller sugars (glucose & fructose). 🤓 This makes the onions much sweeter & also releases some of their natural moisture, causing them to soften.
Caramelizing onions takes TIME. It’s not a process that you can rush. Truly caramelized onions will take about 30 – 45 minutes to prepare, allowing the sugars in the onions to break down slowly so they don’t burn. Be patient – the end result is so worth it!
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Onion prep. Thinly slice a few Vidalia onions or sweet onions of choice, then place them in a bowl & toss with baking soda & salt. Why? ⇢ This trick draws the moisture out of the onions, which helps them caramelize faster. A time-saving kitchen hack!
Soften the onions. This step is about getting the onions going on their way to caramelization. You don’t need to do much with the onions here – just let them cook, stirring only occasionally, & keep an eye on them. Once they start to turn more translucent & slightly browned, you’ll know they’re on their way to caramelizing. This takes about 7-10 minutes. Tip! ⇢ Thanks to the baking soda & salt, the onions will lose their shape a bit and release a lot of moisture at this point – simply spoon out of the skillet & discard.
Continue cooking to caramelize the onions. At this point, the sugars in the Vidalia onions begin to really transform. You’ll notice the onions turn fragrant & brown, which is a good sign! Stick near the stove & stir them more frequently so they continue to cook without burning. Adjust the heat if you need to & give the onions another 15-20 minutes to reach peak caramelization.
Deglaze with a splash of brandy & water. Just as the onions finish caramelizing, add a splash of brandy & water to deglaze the skillet. As you do so, be sure to use a wooden spoon to scrape up browned bits that formed on the bottom of the pan (they’re full of flavor!). Why? ⇢ Brandy really brings out the sweetness in the Vidalia onions, making them taste extra caramelly & sweet – just what we’re after here!
Whipping Up Caramelized Onion Dip
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Once the onions are caramelized to perfection, all that’s left to do is whip up the onion dip! A few quick tips to keep in mind…
Mix the cream cheese & sour cream well. As the base of the onion dip, it’s really important to take your time in mixing together the cream cheese & sour cream. Use a hand mixer & be sure to blend out any lumps or bumps. A good dip needs to be hearty enough to hold all the flavors but also delicate enough to easily dip into, so take your time in ensuring it’s totally smooth & creamy.
Add flavor boosters. Since brandied caramelized onions are sweet & sour cream + cream cheese are really rich, we need a few more ingredients to balance everything out:
- Worcestershire sauce adds an instant depth of flavor. It’s my favorite little umami bomb!
- Mustard powder adds an earthy warmth that helps cut through the creaminess.
- Sriracha adds the littlest kick of heat. You can ditch the sriracha if you prefer or swap it with any other hot sauce you love.
Fold in the brandied caramelized onions with care. The last step is to add your cooked onions into the mix. Being delicate is important here – since the caramelized onions are nice & soft, they are quite fragile. Use a spatula to gently fold them into the dip until just combined. Work slowly & do your best not to overmix!
Meal Prep Tip
This caramelized onion dip recipe really benefits from chilling overnight before serving, which allows all its flavors to meld together. I highly recommend prepping your homemade caramelized onion dip at least 1 day ahead of time. Make a batch the day before your summer gathering or the big game & it’ll be ready to go when the party starts. Pro Tip! ⇢ Store the caramelized onion dip right in its serving bowl so you can simply take it out of the fridge & set it on the table – easy! 😎
Easy Onion Dip Recipe Variations
Add bacon to for a deliciously rich & smoky bacon caramelized onion dip. Simply cook a few strips of bacon, slice them fine, & fold it into the dip when you add in the caramelized onions. Pro Tip! ⇢ Be sure to reserve a few crispy bacon bits for sprinkling on top of the onion dip just before serving!
Swap Greek yogurt for the cream cheese or sour cream to make the dip a bit lighter. You can also use your favorite non-dairy yogurt if you need a dairy-free dip!
Make it extra-cheesy! Add some shredded gruyère or cheddar cheese to the mix when you fold in the caramelized onions.
Freshen things up with some herbs. I love the bright green color of fresh chives, but fresh thyme also works great here – it’s a classic pairing for caramelized onions!
Dip Your Heart Out! Serving Suggestions for Brandied Caramelized Onion Dip
Homemade onion dip is perfect for kicking off a summer backyard grill out, serving as a game-day snack, or sharing at weekend cabin getaways up north. Basically, it’s a great choice whenever you need a delicious appetizer or snack to share!
To serve, simply take the dip out of the fridge. I always like to garnish it with some fresh chives for color & a fresh pop of allium flavor. From there, simply gather your dippers! Some ideas to get you started…
- Chips – Ruffled potato chips are the ONLY chips for chip dip, IMHO! 🤓 But any variety works here – feel free to choose what you love most!
- Crackers – Choose a sturdy cracker for the best dip-ability!
- Grilled bread or crostini – I love making grilled bread in the summer months – it’s easy & goes with everything! Baked crostini are always a great option if you don’t have a grill.
- Crudité-style veggies – Slice up some raw carrot, celery, broccoli, &/or bell peppers. They’re great for a colorful pop of freshness next to a bowl of rich & creamy Vidalia onion dip.
Homemade Onion Dip FAQs
What are the best onions for caramelized onion dip?
When they’re in season, I love using Vidalia onions to make onion dip. Because they’re naturally sweet, they caramelize particularly beautifully. If they’re not in season, or you can’t find them easily, feel free to use another sweet onion in their place – Maui, Walla Walla, etc.
Is caramelized onion dip the same as French onion dip?
Not quite! While they both use onions, French onion dip is typically made solely with sour cream & tends to be a bit more savory than this particular caramelized onion dip recipe.
How to make caramelized onion dip without cream cheese?
Greek yogurt is a quick & easy sub for the cream cheese in this caramelized onion dip recipe. Feel free to make the swap if you prefer a lighter, less rich dip.
How to make vegan caramelized onion dip?
Simple! For a a dairy-free & vegan caramelized onion dip…
- Swap the cream cheese & sour cream for your favorite non-dairy Greek-style yogurt.
- Be sure to grab a vegan Worcestershire sauce. (Annie’s is my personal favorite!)
How long does onion dip last?
You can store caramelized onion dip for up to 1 week in the fridge. Its flavors will meld more as it sits, getting even better with time. 😏 Be sure to refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for more storage guidance.
I can’t wait for you to try this Brandied Caramelized Onion Dip! It’s nostalgic yet new all at once, & I’m pretty sure you’re going to be just as obsessed with it as we are. If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy dipping!
More Recipes Like This:
As a born & raised Midwesterner, there are few snacks that make my food-loving heart happier than good ol’ onion dip, the snack table mainstay of practically every potluck, game day, or weekend at the lake throughout my childhood.
This particular Brandied Caramelized Onion Dip is our take on the ultimate onion dip. Thanks to a carefully crafted ingredients list, it’s creamy, perfectly savory-sweet, & created with maximum dippability in mind.
3 quick notes before you get started:
- Caramelized onions take time, but with patience comes major pay-off! Plus, you can speed things up by tossing the onions in a little baking soda & salt prior to cooking. Doing so draws out the onions’ moisture much faster, so you’ll notice quite a bit of liquid in the skillet – simply drain it off & discard.
- The use of brandy in this particular recipe is inspired by my Wisconsin roots. ICYMI, brandy is absolutely iconic in Wisconsin & I love how its sweetness enhances that of the caramelized onions. If you don’t keep brandy on hand, check the Recipe Notes, below, for some quick substitutes.
- This dip really benefits from chilling overnight before serving, which allows all of its flavors to meld & develop. Prep it the day before you’d like to serve & leftovers will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge.
Refer to the blog post, above, for some easy & fun recipe variations, as well as some delicious serving suggestions. Happy dipping! ♡
- 3 large Vidalia onions or sweet onions of choice, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons brandy (see Recipe Notes)
- 2 tablespoons water
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 tablespoon sriracha or hot sauce of choice
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard powder
- kosher salt & white pepper, for seasoning
- for serving, as desired: finely chopped chives, kettle chips or ruffled potato chips of choice, crudité-style veggies, etc.
- Prep the onions: Place the thinly sliced Vidalia onions in a large bowl with the baking soda & 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Toss to combine well. Set aside to rest for 15 minutes.
- Soften the onions: Add the butter & oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the sliced onions, stirring to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 7-10 minutes until softened. (The onions shouldn’t require too much attention at this point!) As they soften, the onions may lose their shape a bit and they will let out a lot of moisture thanks to the salt & baking soda – use a spoon to remove excess liquid & discard.
- Caramelize the onions: Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, fragrant, & deeply browned, 15-20 minutes more. Helpful hints: Be sure to adjust heat as needed to allow the onions to caramelize slowly & prevent burning. The closer the onions get to reaching caramelization, the more often you will want to stir to promote even browning & prevent burning. Once caramelized, deglaze the skillet with the brandy & water, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits formed on the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high & cook for 3-4 minutes until brandy is evaporated. Transfer the caramelized onions to a large plate & set aside to cool slightly.
- Mix the caramelized onion dip: Add the cream cheese & sour cream to a medium bowl. Using a hand mixer, blend until the mixture is completely smooth & creamy. Blend in the Worcestershire sauce, sriracha, & mustard powder, seasoning with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Mix to combine well. Add the brandied caramelized onions to the bowl, using a spatula to gently fold them into the dip, just until combined.
- Serving: Time permitting, this caramelized onion dip really benefits from resting overnight, which allows all of its flavors to meld together. Transfer the caramelized onion dip to a serving bowl, cover, & store in the refrigerator overnight. Whenever you’d like to serve it, simply remove from the refrigerator & top with finely chopped chives or fresh herbs as desired. Serve with chips or crudité-style veggies. Enjoy!
- Ingredient Notes:
- Brandy is a spirit produced by distilling wine. While it’s aged in oak barrels like most whiskeys, brandy is much smoother & sweeter than whiskey. I like adding a splash into my caramelized onions since brandy is an incredibly popular spirit in Wisconsin, where I am from & where my love of caramelized onion dip was first born. Its sweetness complements the sweet Vidalia onions beautifully! If you do not keep brandy on hand, dry sherry, dry vermouth, or dry white wine are great substitutes. If you prefer not to cook with alcohol, substitute with a splash of balsamic vinegar or chicken stock.
- Worcestershire sauce adds amazing depth of flavor. To keep your caramelized onion dip completely vegetarian-friendly, be sure to use vegan worcestershire. Annie’s Worcestershire Sauce is my favorite vegan & organic option.
- Storage: Caramelized onion dip will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 1 week. Make it ahead of time, or enjoy the leftovers later!
- 10-Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all of the active prep work for this caramelized onion dip comes from prepping the onions. Take care of this in advance – it takes 10 minutes, tops – & you can jump straight into cooking whenever you’d like to throw together your onion dip. Simply peel & thinly slice 3 large sweet onions. Transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (>10 minutes active)
Keywords: dip recipes, cream cheese dip recipes, caramelized onions, Vidalia onions, summer dip recipes, party appetizers, chips and dip recipes, bbq appetizers, party snacks
Recipe and Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.