Learn how to make crispy fried onions, also called birista. Whether you’re topping a green bean casserole or biryani, garnishing a soup or salad, or enhancing the flavor of a curry, fried onions add a depth and crunch that can elevate any dish. There’s something truly magical about the aroma and taste of perfectly crunchy fried onions.

crispy fried onions
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Recently, I have been using fried onions a lot. They are perfect on so many dishes. My favorites are casseroles and salads. As you might know, crispy fried onions are a must-have in Indian dishes such as biryani and Indonesian dishes such as Nasi uduk and gepuk.

Watch How to Make Crispy Fried Onions

Fried Onions (Birista)

Fried Onions, also called birista, are a special ingredient used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking to make food taste better. They add a nice flavor, smell, and crunch to dishes like biryanis, pulao (a rice dish), curries, and kebabs.

Sometimes referred to as shoestring onions or frizzled onions, these crunchy delights are not only a staple in Indian cuisine but also grace classics like green bean casserole and tuna noodle casserole in American cooking.

In American dishes, the sliced onions are usually drenched in buttermilk, rolled in flour, and then fried. These fried onions are not gluten-free due to the use of flour. Here is a recipe for gluten-free French fried onions.

Whether you’re adding them to salads, soups, stews, or even sandwiches, burgers, meatloaf, or veggie dishes, they give a nice crunch and extra flavor. Let’s learn how to make crunchy fried onions right in your kitchen!

Ingredients

You need two main ingredients to make crispy fried onions at home. We don’t need any additional ingredients, but you can add optional ingredients if you like.

  • Onions: Any kind will do, like red or yellow or shallots. Make sure to slice them thinly.
  • Cooking oil (such as vegetable oil, sunflower oil, or canola oil)
  • Salt (optional)
  • Cornstarch or Flour (optional): For South Asian fried onions, we don’t need any cornstarch. However, if you want to make “French fried onions,” coat the onions in cornstarch or all-purpose flour before frying.

Variations

Spiced Birista: Add spices like cumin, coriander, or chili powder to the oil before frying the onions. This adds an extra kick of flavor and makes the birista perfect for adding to savory dishes like biryanis and curries.

Sweet Birista: Sprinkle some sugar over the sliced onions before frying them. This caramelizes the onions, giving them a sweet and crispy texture. Sweet birista is great for adding to salads and sandwiches or even as a topping for soups.

Garlic-y Fried Onions: Add chopped garlic to the hot oil before frying the onions. This infuses the birista with a rich garlic flavor, enhancing its taste and aroma. Garlic birista is ideal for adding to dishes like stir-fries and noodles.

How to Make Crunchy Fried Onions?

Slice & Prep the Onions

  • Peel the onions and slice them thinly, aiming for slices about 1/8 inch thick.
chopped onions on a chopping board
  • Separate the onion layers and pat them dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.
  • Optionally, use a slicer for uniform slices and quicker prep.
sliced onions in a glass bowl

Deep Fry Onions

  • Heat oil in a large pot or pan over medium-high heat until it reaches 375°F (190°C).
  • Once hot, reduce the heat to medium to maintain the temperature.
  • Add the sliced onions to the hot oil and fry until golden brown and crispy.
  • Stir frequently to ensure even frying.
deep frying onion in a pan
  • Remove the onions from the oil when they reach a golden brown color.
  • Do not wait for them to darken further, as they will continue to cook after being removed from the oil.
  • Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fried onions to a plate or baking tray lined with a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
scooping out fried onions using strainer
  • Optionally, gently pat the fried onions with another paper towel to further reduce oil content and maintain crispiness.
spread out fried onions to make them crispy

Air Fryer Fried Onions

  • Preheat the air fryer to 400ºF.
  • Toss thinly sliced onions with a little oil to coat evenly.
  • Arrange onions in a single layer in the air fryer basket.
  • Air fry at 320F for 12-17 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes to ensure they brown evenly.
  • Every air fryer heats differently, so make sure to check and adjust the time as needed.

Recipe Tips

  • Uniform slicing: Try to cut all the onion slices to be the same thickness. This helps them cook evenly, so they all end up crispy.
  • Oil temperature: Keep the oil on the stove at medium-high heat. Drop in a small piece of onion to check if it’s ready. If it starts sizzling right away, it’s good to go. This ensures the onions cook nicely without soaking up too much oil.
  • Avoid overcrowding: Don’t put too many onion slices in the pan at once. Cook them in small batches, so they have enough space to get crispy all over. Crowded onions might end up soggy instead of crispy.
  • Keep an eye and remove when golden: Watch the onions closely while they cook. Once they turn a golden color, take them out of the oil. They keep cooking even after you take them out, so don’t wait for them to get too dark.
  • Pat dry: Before you fry the onions, gently pat them with a paper towel to remove any extra moisture. This helps them crisp up better and prevents splattering in the hot oil.

How to Store Fried Onions?

  • Cool Completely: Allow the fried onions to cool completely at room temperature before storing.
  • Airtight Container: Transfer the cooled fried onions to an airtight container to maintain their crispiness.
  • Refrigeration Option: For longer storage, refrigerate the fried onions up to a week to extend their shelf life.
  • Reheating: Reheat briefly in the oven or air fryer to regain crispiness before using in dishes, if needed.
Fried onions on a plate

How to Use Fried Onions?

  • Topping: Sprinkle crispy fried onions on salads, soups, or baked potatoes to add a delicious crunch and flavor boost.
  • Garnish: Use fried onions as a decorative garnish for dishes like biryanis, curries, mujadara, or grilled recipes. They not only enhance the presentation but also add a savory depth to the dish.
  • Mix-ins: Incorporate crispy fried onions into rice pilafs, casseroles, or pasta salads for an extra layer of texture and a savory kick.
  • Add to Burgers, Wraps, and Pizza: Upgrade your burgers, wraps, or pizza by adding a handful of fried onions for a flavorful twist and satisfying crunch.
  • Top on Dips: Elevate your dips such as hummus or yogurt dip by sprinkling crispy fried onions on top. They add a unique texture and depth of flavor to your favorite dips.
  • Snacking: Enjoy fried onions as a standalone snack for a tasty and addictive treat. You can also mix them with nuts and seeds to create a flavorful and crunchy trail mix perfect for snacking on the go.
Chicken Biryani garnished with cilantro

Common Questions

Can I make crispy onions without deep frying?

Yes, you can make crispy onions without deep frying by using alternative methods such as air frying. Here’s how:

Preheat the air fryer to 400ºF
Toss thinly sliced onions with a little oil to coat evenly.
Arrange onions in a single layer in the air fryer basket.
Air fry at 320F for 12-17 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes to make sure they brown evenly.

How do I prevent the onions from burning while frying?

Keep the heat on medium-high and stir the onions now and then to cook them evenly. Don’t put too many onions in the pan at once, as it can make them cook unevenly. Also, make sure to watch them closely so they don’t burn.

5 from 1 vote

Crispy Fried Onions Recipe (Birista)

Learn how to make crispy fried onions, also called birista, by deep frying and in the air fryer. Whether you're topping a green bean casserole or biryani, garnishing a soup or salad, or enhancing the flavor of a curry, fried onions add a depth and crunch that can elevate any dish.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound Onions , see notes
  • 3 cup Oil , for frying

Instructions 

  • Peel the onions and then thinly slice them. Slice evenly so they fry well. Separate the onions layers after slicing. This is important.
  • In a large pot or pan, heat the oil on a medium-high flame to a temperature of 375F (190C). Once hot, change the heat to medium. Then add the sliced onions and fry until they are golden brown and crispy. Stir frequently to make sure they're frying evenly.
  • When golden brown, remove the onions from the oil using a slotted spoon. Don't wait for them to darken in color as there will be some residual cooking even after you take them out of the oil.
    Place them on a plate or baking tray lined with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. You can dap them with a paper towel is you like to reduce oil.
  • Ensure to cool the onions completely before storing them.
  • For air fryer crispy onions: preheat the Air fryer to 400ºF. Add the sliced onions, and spray a little oil. Toss the onions so they coat with the oil. Air fry at 320F for 12-17 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes to make sure they brown evenly.

Video

Notes

Which onions? You can use any onion you prefer—white, yellow, red, sweet, or shallots. 
Slice the onions: I usually use a sharp knife. But you can also use a mandolin or the slicer disk on your food processor to create even-sized pieces. This helps them cook evenly, so they all end up crispy.
Make ahead/Store: These crispy fried onions can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container for 3-4 days at room temperature. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. When using them, I suggest re-crisping them in the oven or air fryer for just a few minutes.
 
Avoid overcrowding: Don’t simultaneously put too many onion slices in the pan. Cook them in small batches, so they have enough space to get crispy all over. Crowded onions might end up soggy instead of crispy.

Nutrition

Calories: 286kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 1gFat: 27gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 19gSodium: 5mgPotassium: 166mgFiber: 2gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 2IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 26mgIron: 0.2mg

Additional Info

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Indian
Diet: Dairy-free, Gluten-free
Tried this recipe?Mention @pipingpotcurry or tag #pipingpotcurry!

About Meeta

I strongly believe that each one of us has a chef inside us, we just need to explore the ingredients and create great food. My passion is to share easy, healthy, and wholesome recipes made using Instant Pot & Air Fryer, that are well tested, so you can cook with confidence.

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