Cream Cheese

How to Make French Onion Dip From Scratch

December 29, 2014

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Do you want to eat French onion dip without feeling weird about it? Sarah Coates of The Sugar Hit has a homemade version that you can feel better about slathering on vegetables (or bagels). 

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Some people hear the words “French onion dip” and think tacky, outdated, and boring. I hear the words “French onion dip” and immediately start panicking about how many chips are on hand -- and whether we could ever have enough -- because I want to eat all of it. 

I never have been, and probably never will be, one of those people who is snobby about food. Of course I care about quality, but mainly I just want to eat delicious things and it doesn't really matter to me if they were invented in 1896 by Escoffier or in 1985 by someone's Aunt Betsy when she only had cream cheese and a packet of French onion soup mix in the house. (I don't really know who invented French onion dip, but that sounds about right, doesn't it?)

More: Turn another tired appetizer into a party sensation with this Homemade Shrimp Cocktail Sauce.

The point is, if something tastes good, that's all that matters. But there is no denying that homemade usually tastes better than store-bought. And lucky for us, this is definitely one of those times. It's no surprise to me that sliced red onions, slowly cooked down with thyme, olive oil, a little sugar, and white wine until they're a dark caramelized jam, taste better than a packet of dehydrated who-knows-what. 

It's also no surprise to me that good-quality cream cheese and sour cream, whipped together in front of my eyes, taste better than whatever stabilizers and thickening agents have gone into a tub of store-bought French onion dip. Once the creamy base and the dark, sticky onions come together, it's game over. I'm sorry, but that plastic tub never stood a chance. Homemade's got it beat, hands down. 

More: If you need additional proof that homemade is better than store-bought, just try these DIY Sweet Potato Chips

Now all you have to worry about is whether you have enough chips and crudités on hand, or whether you're going to adopt my eccentric habit of eating this dip smeared on a sesame seed bagel.

New-School French Onion Dip

Makes about 2 cups

For the onion jam:

2 large red onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup white wine or dry vermouth

For the dip:

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup crispy fried shallots, optional, to garnish (found in the "Asian" section of your supermarket)

First, make the onion jam. Peel and slice the onions into fine half-moons, then place them in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan along with the olive oil. Sweat them over medium-low heat until they begin to caramelize and brown, about 15 minutes.

Add the thyme leaves and the granulated sugar to the pan, and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the sugar is melted and the onions are well caramelized.

Pour the white wine or vermouth into the pan, and working quickly, stir and scrape any sticky, browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring and scraping until the pan is basically clean, and the liquid has completely evaporated. Turn off the heat, and set aside to cool. (If packed into a sterilized jar, this mixture will keep in the fridge for up to a week.)

To make the dip, beat the cream cheese (either with a wooden spoon or with an electric mixer) until it is completely smooth. Add the sour cream and beat again until smooth, thick, and combined.


You can either mix the cooled onion jam into the cream cheese, or do as I like to do, and serve the creamy dip spread out on a plate, topped with a tangle of onions. Either way, sprinkle with the fried shallots and serve.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Sarah Coates

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Tamara
  • Myra
  • citlalnahuac
  • theflamingwench79
  • tammie
Sarah is the author and photographer behind The Sugar Hit, a blog solely devoted to the joys of eating. She is a typical 21st century creative type, totally obsessed with food, writing, design, photography and styling. She lives in Brisbane, Australia and regularly eats mountains of crudités in a misguided attempt to offset the staggering amounts of butter she consumes daily.


Tamara December 30, 2014
I am about to make a triple recipe of this for a New Year's Day fête I am attending. I may make my own bagel chips as an accompaniment, but I have to ask, from where did you get your bagels. They are gorgeous and while we have some stellar bagels in Chicago, I am curious. Thank you for sharing this recipe, I post results.
Sarah C. January 2, 2015
Hey Tamara - sorry I couldn't get back to you sooner! I made those babies myself- the recipe can be found on my blog The Sugar Hit. Just search for bagels!
Myra December 30, 2014
This looks amazing, can't wait to try it!
citlalnahuac December 29, 2014
California Onion Dip (the original name of the sour cream-and-soup mix kind) is older than that by quite a bit: it was invented in 1954. It was standard party fare when I was in high school and college in the 60s - with potato chips, not tortilla ones, which hadn't yet exploded. (We knew about tortilla chips then, in Southern California anyway, but they weren't something you served at home.)
theflamingwench79 August 1, 2014
I am ridiculously addicted to French Onion Dip (the store bought kind). So excited at the idea of making my guilty pleasure from scratch.
tammie July 22, 2014
I was so disappointed. It was sooooo very sweet. I tried and tried to balance it out with salt and acid and could never kill the sweetness. It tasted like a weird onion cheese cake dessert. I end up tossing out the entire batch as nothing was killing the sweetness. :(
Sarah C. July 23, 2014
Hi Tammie - can I ask what kind of wine you used? I'm thinking that might have been the culprit. I'm so sorry you were disappointed!
tammie July 23, 2014
I used a dry Chardonnay.
Sarah C. July 23, 2014
I guess we might just have to chalk it up to personal taste then! For me, 2 teaspoons of sugar adds just the right amount of caramelised sweetness, but obviously that was way too much for you! Sorry again that you were disappointed Tammie. xx Sarah
Em H. June 28, 2014
Sarah, I've never eaten/made such a thing - but this looks darn delicious! I only just gave roasted onions a try (im always scared they're going to make me flatulate if i over eat them) bloody typical weird brit me x
Sarah C. June 28, 2014
That's hilarious! I've never had that problem, but I totally appreciate your concern. It's so tasty, though, it may be worth the risk?
Rhonda35 June 27, 2014
This past winter, I had loads of onions on hand and made a big batch of caramelized onions, measured it out into 1/4 c portions, froze them on a baking sheet and then transferred the "onion ice cubes" to a plastic storage bag in the freezer. That afternoon of cooking has been paying off every since, making quick work of stew bases, etc. and now making this easy recipe even easier - defrost, blend and serve! Tonight's cocktail hour just got better with chips and onion dip to accompany it. Thanks, Sarah!
Sarah C. June 27, 2014
My pleasure! I love that idea of making and freezing caramelised onions - what a time saver.
miznic June 27, 2014
Have added the necessaries to my grocery list. This will make for a good weekend surprise for my onion dip-loving hubby. =)
Sarah C. June 27, 2014
He's a lucky man!
CondimentQueen June 27, 2014
I love French onion dip but always feel a bit guilty about eating the store-bought kind. I can't wait to make this!
Sarah C. June 27, 2014
That means a lot coming from the condiment queen!
Mark F. June 27, 2014
I am so all over this...
Sarah C. June 27, 2014
By the time I was finished, it was all over me.
Merrill S. June 27, 2014
Cannot wait to make this -- sounds amazing!
Sarah C. June 27, 2014
Thanks Merrill! I hope you like it!
Cynthia C. June 27, 2014
This is freaking awesome, Sarah. And so much love for your food philosophy -- Team Aunt Betsy all the way!!! Except for when there's a masterpiece like this to blow hers out of the park. (Sorry Betsy.)
Sarah C. June 27, 2014
Yes! Go team Betsy! (but with some slight updates)