Recipe: Beer-Battered Onion Rings

They’re messy. They take a while. You might even wonder if they’re worth it.

“They” are home-made beer-battered onion rings, and I am here to tell you they are.  Worth it that is. Messy, too.  But definitely worth it.

I enjoy cooking almost as much as brewing beer.  Much like switching to all-grain brewing seriously raised the quality of my beer, learning some basic techniques and fully embracing the value of multiple thermometers converted my mediocre grilling and bland dishes into a creative, fun, and tasty time.

Even better, the time it takes to cook doubles as the perfect opportunity to pour a beer or three and celebrate a couple of hours with warm aromas, great tastes and good conversation.  It’s a favorite part of many Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.

One of the recipes I’ve played around with for years is beer-battered onion rings.*  Here’s how to do them:

1 – 2 sweet onions

3/4 cup of beer, possibly more
Canola oil, typically around 40- 48 ounces
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

I’ve long grown my own onions, thus the interest in finding more things to do with them.  I grow two types, fresh-eating walla walla sweet onions and long-term storage onions.  The big, sweet walla wallas are perfect for beer battered onion rings, but any sweet onion  will do just fine.  Cut them into approximately 1/2 inch thick rounds.  No need to be perfect.  Use the ends and the smallest rings in something else. Some recipes suggest you soak the onions in ice water for at least 30 min.  Some recommend soaking them in beer and a tablespoon of vinegar to soften them up.  I’ve done both (and more) and have never noticed any difference in the finished product.  If you do one or the other, just make sure to pat them dry before you coat them.

Canola oil works just fine.  Peanut, too. Even vegetable.  Each will subtly change the flavor.  You don’t need a deep fryer, though they work just fine (just harder to clean).  Instead, use a large dutch oven (I use an enamel-coated cast iron one) and pour about 2 inches of oil into it.  That usually takes about 40-48 ounces of oil for mine.  No need for perfection here. 

Here’s where you do need to pay closer attention.  Heat the oil to 350 degrees and make sure to check with a thermometer.  I use my electronic one with a probe and just leave the probe in.  Don’t guess at the temperature.  Too cool and the batter will soak up a ton of oil and not brown properly.  Too hot and the rings will burn without cooking the onions.  Remember, when you add the battered rings to the oil, the temperature of the oil is going to drop. Thus, kick up the heat at the same time you start dropping in some rings to help get the oil back up to 350 as quickly as possible.


Whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper together in a bowl.  Don’t mess too much with the ratio of flour, cornstarch and baking powder.  Don’t skip the cornstarch. It adds a nice crunch that is missing from the all-flour recipes.  Feel free to play with the rest. Pop open your beer of choice, measure it and whisk it into the flour.

The type of beer is entirely up to you. I’ve used IPAs, imperial red ales,  pale ales and others.  Honestly, I’ve not been able to tell the difference. You’re looking for a consistency that’s close to a good pancake batter and you might need to add a little more beer.  If you’re not a pancake fan, that means you can pour it, but its not runny and not so thick that it starts to sludge.  There’s a lot in between that will work just fine. Relax . . don’t worry . . . drink the rest of the beer. 

Drop some of the rings into the batter.  Or do them one at a time. I don’t care which.  Coat them well, pick them out of the batter and let a good bit of the excess drip back into the bowl. Drop them into the oil one at a time.  Don’t crowd them too much, but don’t worry if a couple stick together. They’ll forgive you.  At this point you’ll realize you are going to be frying these in several batches to get through all the onions. You’ll want to leave them in the oil for 2-3 minutes and then flip them over for another 2-3 minutes.  I don’t really time them, I just wait for a good golden color.

Pay attention to the temperature of the oil and adjust the heat to keep it as close to 350 as practical.  Pull them out and let them rest on some paper towels to soak up the excess oil.  You can keep them warm in a 200 degree oven while you’re waiting on the other batches to finish.  Let the oil temperature

get back to 350 and keep doing this until you run out of onions or batter.  If you’re frying for a crowd, you may want to double the recipe.

Now, the good part.  Pig out. With another beer.  Ketchup and Ranch are the favorite dips around these parts.

* I’ve tried a variety of recipes. This one is largely adapted from one that appeared in Cooks Country in June 2009.