This fried onion paste is an aromatic, delicious paste of slow cooked onions that are blended down to a paste with no other added ingredients.
Sometime last month, I started a new series here on LinsFood, focusing on Kashmiri cuisine. I have a pretty solid foundation in that, going back to the mid 90s in London. You can read more about this, as well as soak up some history and culture on the Kashmiri cuisine page.
So far, we’ve only done one recipe, Kashmiri Lamb Rogan Josh, and 2 articles on essential ingredients in the Kashmiri kitchen: Ratan Jot and Mawal (cockscomb flower). These are used to add the colour red to recipes. Then of course, there was the massive undertaking, the Kashmiri Cuisine page itself, which took me a few weeks, as I lost myself in the history of the region!
So I’m planning to work on the next Kashmiri recipe this weekend and realised that it would make sense to do a recipe post on the fried onion paste itself.
I’ve received many messages from you guys who are really excited about this Kashmiri cooking series, so here’s another one to get done and add to the freezer. Then we have a supply of fried onion paste whenever we need it, cutting down on each recipe’s cooking time. Makes sense, right?
Fried Onion Paste Recipe
As mentioned above, it’s an essential ingredient in the Indian kitchen. It is used a lot as a base in many curries, and imparts a deep, aromatic, almost caramelised undertones to whatever you use it in.
There is also boiled onion paste, but to me, that is nowhere near as delicious, so I don’t bother making that.
There are a few slightly different ways of making fried onion paste, but essentially, the idea is the same – we fry sliced onions, then we grind them to a paste. That’s it.
The differences I mentioned earlier are in how you fry them, and also in how you grind them. Let’s take a look.
Frying the onions
- The more traditional method is to deep fry a small amount of onions until they are crisp, in lots of oil, drain and grind.
- The other method, my preferred one, is to fry the onions using the low and slow method, in the same way that we make caramelised onions. To me, this produces a more aromatic paste with definite hints of caramel.
Grinding the onions
- Some people like to grind them with yoghurt and/or water. This is especially necessary in the first method because the onions will be crisp and dry. I’m not a fan of adding yoghurt to the onion paste, as I prefer any yoghurt to be added to the actual recipe, if called for. Same goes for added salt.
- The way I make the fried onion paste is to just add the finished onions into a chopper and blitz to a fine paste. No water. Because we employ the low and slow method and are caramelising the onions, they are completely moist and don’t need added liquid. If you find that you do need some, add a little of the cooking oil. Speaking of cooking oil …
What to do with the Cooking Oil?
The cooking oil from this fried onion paste recipe is one of the best extras ever – it adds so much to any dish you use it in!
When you’re done frying the onions, cool, cover and store the oil for up to a week. I prefer to keep it in the fridge, to ensure freshness. It gets rancid after a while. This fragrant oil can be used in so many different ways:
- in cooking rice (think pilau, biryani), couscous, or any grain
- drizzle over salad
- for cooking just about anything!
How to store the Fried Onion Paste?
I keep a little in a small jar and use it within 3 days. As I always make this in bulk, I tend to have lots extra. I freeze it in the same way that I do chilli pastes on this site.
Basically, we fill up an ice cube tray (or two), cover, and freeze for up to 3 months. Then, you can use as much or as little as you need, according to your recipe.
For a standard recipe serving 4-6, we only tend to use about 1 tablespoon of the fried onion paste (give or take), so an ice cube size is perfect.
Alright then, let’s get this done in the next few days, then you’re all set to move on to more Kashmiri recipes!
Shall we get our aprons on?
More Indian Recipes on LinsFood
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Fried Onion Paste (essential ingredient in the Indian Kitchen)
- a wok or frying pan
- a chopper
- 1 kg red onions peeled weight, about 6-8 large onions
- 250 ml vegetable oil or other flavourless oil
Let's fry the onions
- Peel and halve each onion.
- Thinly slice the onions and as much as possible, separate the individual slices.
- Heat the oil in a medium-sized wok on medium heat. You could do this before you start on the onions if you think you'll be quick enough.
- When the oil is hot, tip all the sliced onions into the hot oil and stir. You can test the oil for hotness by dropping a tiny piece of onion in. If it bubbles and comes back up, the oil is hot enough.
- After 2 minutes, when the oil has had a chance to heat back up, reduce the heat to low. Cook the onions at this temperature for 30 minutes, stirring regularly, especially in the last 10 minutes, as the onions on the bottom will get darker quicker. You are going for a dark brown colour, but not burnt.
- When done, using a slotted spoon, lift the onions out and place in a bowl. You DON'T want to line the bowl with paper, as that oil will be handy when grinding, adding moisture and flavour.
Time to grind
- Allow the onions to cool slightly to about lukewarm. Then place in a chopper, along with any oil in the bowl. Then blitz until you have a smooth, sticky paste.
- Store as described above in the post.