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What Is a Blooming Onion?

By Eugene P.
Updated May 16, 2024
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A blooming onion is a type of appetizer made from an onion that is cut in a way so the layers separate and create a shape that resembles a flower in bloom with many individual petals. The onion is usually cut multiple times before being dipped in a batter and deep fried in oil. The oil causes the batter to expand and forces the onion to open, creating a large and dramatic presentation. In most instances, a blooming onion is served with some type of dipping sauce that can contain ingredients such as horseradish, mayonnaise or chili peppers. The blooming onion is usually eaten by pulling away the individual petals that have been formed and dipping them into the sauce that is placed in the center of the bloom.

The original Bloomin' Onion® was created as an appetizer for the Outback Steakhouse® restaurant chain, where it grew in popularity and soon was copied by other chains. Larger onions are generally used in the preparation, making the dish appropriate for groups of people as opposed to just one person. The entire process of creating a blooming onion, from the deep frying to the dipping sauce, deals more with presentation and taste than with health and nutrition, and some versions of the dish contain in excess of 2,000 calories.

The way the onion is cut is the basis for creating a blooming onion. The top of the onion is cut off so the individual layers inside the onion are exposed and detached at one end. The onion is then cut from the flattened top down toward the base, but not all the way through; some portion of the tough end is left intact to keep the layers together during cooking. Several of these cuts are made to form the petals of the bloom, sometimes as few as two cuts to make four thick petals; other times, as many as 14 cuts make thin petals. Machines or cutting guides are sometimes used to make the task easier and to prevent the onion from coming apart when cut.

The sliced onion is sometimes soaked in ice water, causing the layers to spread and separate. After this, the onion is dipped into a flour-based batter and may be sprinkled with breadcrumbs and spices. The whole onion is then lowered into hot oil and deep fried so the expanding batter forces the individual petals to spread farther apart, creating its distinctive blooming appearance.

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Discussion Comments
By bagley79 — On Apr 10, 2012

@orangey03 - I agree that we have a problem with greasy, fatty foods. The sad thing is many people don't seem to care as long as they like the taste of it.

If a restaurant can make money selling something that is unhealthy, and people are willing to buy it, then they are going to continue have unhealthy food choices on the menu.

A blooming onion wouldn't be so bad without the deep fat frying and sauce that has a lot of fat in it. Of course, then it wouldn't taste very good. I don't know anybody who likes to just eat an onion by itself.

I do like the taste of a blooming onion, and have found that it is hard to just take one bite of it. Most things are OK in moderation, so I try to limit my serving to just a few bites.

By SarahSon — On Apr 09, 2012

If I try something at a restaurant and really like it, I am the type of person who tries to copy that at home.

After the first time I ate a blooming onion I was determined to make this myself. It came out OK, and I actually liked the dipping sauce I made better than what was served at the restaurant.

It just took way too much work for just one appetizer. By the time you go through all the steps to prepare it, you could have prepared a whole meal.

Now when I get a craving for a blooming onion, I just go to a restaurant that serves them and let them make it.

By honeybees — On Apr 09, 2012

I never was a big fan of the blooming onion, and now when I realize how many calories are in one, I really don't care if I have another one.

I don't think onion rings have fewer calories, but I think they taste a lot better. With a blooming onion, I feel like there is too much onion.

I prefer the skinny onion strings where you have only a little bit of onion. Whether you order a blooming onion or an order of onion rings, they can always feed a crowd of people though.

If we are eating at a restaurant with several other people, we will order a blooming onion as an appetizer before our meal. Even with several people there, we don't always finish the whole thing.

By orangey03 — On Apr 08, 2012

I think that the blooming onion is a prime example of why our nation has an obesity epidemic. Are restaurants actually in competition with each other to see who can create the menu option with the most fat and calories?

Some people think that the more calories something has, the better it tastes. I feel that the opposite is true. Anything full of fat and calories feels so heavy on my stomach that I want to vomit after eating it just to get some relief.

I know that restaurants are coming up with things like the blooming onion because they want to get people hooked. It has been proven that fatty foods are addictive, and at the cost of the public’s health, restaurants are taking advantage of that.

By shell4life — On Apr 07, 2012

My husband is really great at picking up on which ingredients are used in foods and making them himself. He managed to do this with a blooming onion, and it has been such a hit with our friends that every time they come over, they ask him to make one.

He also makes a special dipping sauce that goes so well with them. I’m not sure what all is in it, but I do know that he uses ketchup, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper. It tastes a lot like comeback sauce, which is used on chicken tenders here in the South a lot. It goes great with anything battered and fried, and it makes the awesome blooming onion taste even better.

By MissDaphne — On Apr 06, 2012

I know that the blooming onion is a novelty and all, but I have to say, give me onion rings or onion straws any day. I just don't like to have to dismember my food before I eat it - way too messy.

I'm the same way with chicken. I prefer it boneless and skinless; I bought a full rotisserie chicken once, but never again. Didn't like having to disarticulate all the joints just to get some food!

By kylee07drg — On Apr 06, 2012

@Ivan83 - I feel the same way! I don’t know exactly what secret ingredients are in the batter that restaurants use for their blooming onions, but it is like crack.

I seriously crave them about once a week, and sometimes, the urge is so strong that I give in and call in an order for one. I think that it is better to pick one up and take it home than to eat it there, because I can portion out exactly how much I think I should allow myself to eat at one sitting and save the rest for later.

I am really trying to control my weight, and you would think that the calorie content of the blooming onion would make me run screaming from it. Rather than give in and binge on the whole thing, I give myself a little at a time, and this hasn’t caused me to put on pounds.

By OeKc05 — On Apr 05, 2012

@ZsaZsa56 - You can bake a blooming onion? That is awesome! I love those things, but I am afraid to order one from a restaurant now that I know the calorie content.

If I could get the flavor without all the grease and fat, I would be so happy. I don’t own a deep fryer, because too much grease makes me sick. I bake everything from french fries to chicken just to keep myself healthier, but I never thought this would be possible with a blooming onion.

I’m going to look for one of those kits. I would love to bake a blooming onion for my nephew’s birthday party to use as an appetizer.

By backdraft — On Apr 04, 2012

I like blooming onions but I am really more partial to onion strings. It is basically the same thing except the onion are cut into long thin strings that are then battered and fried. They practically melt in your mouth when you eat them.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Apr 04, 2012

@Ian83 - Well, maybe I shouldn't be telling you this, but you don't need a fryer to make blooming onions at home. A few years back my wife got me a kit. It comes with a special device for cutting the onion into the blooming flower shape and then a big bag of premade batter mix.

You cut the onion. Dunk the while thing in batter and then bake it on a cookie sheet. It tastes almost exactly the same as in a restaurant except that it is not greasy. No fryer needed.

By Ivan83 — On Apr 03, 2012

I have a real weakness for blooming onions. I, honestly, could eat one every single day of my life until I died. But lets be serious, what is not to love about them?

They are like onion rings but even better because the batter is always crisp and the onions don't get soggy inside. Then there is that spicy creamy dipping sauce that always gets included. Who needs ketchup when you have this stuff? It is by far my favorite appetizer and I am lucky I don't have a deep fryer at home or I would be tempted to start making them myself.

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