Served as an appetizer or a side dish, generally made from a cross-sectional “ring” dipped in a batter or breading before being deep-fried to perfection. Saying onion rings are a guest favorite at River City Cafe might be the understatement of the decade. But where did they come from? Who invented them? Can you make them at home? Why are they so delicious? Let’s explore that together.

Just like any popular food, there are several claimants to the invention of onion rings. There is a 1933 advertisement in the New York Times Magazine for onions dipped in milk and then dredged in flour before being deep-fried. In 1910 a recipe appeared in the Middleton, New York Daily Times, but they do not claim to be the originator of the recipe. Kirby’s Pig Stand, a restaurant chain that had more than 100 locations across the United States in the 1940s, also lays claim to the invention of the onion ring. But if you go back to the beginning of the 19th century, you find The Art of Cookery Made Easy and Refined by John Mollard. In Mollard’s book, you’ll find a recipe that calls for cutting onions into ½” rings, dipping them into a batter made of flour, cream, salt and pepper, and parmesan cheese before deep frying them in “boiling” lard. That sounds really close to how they are made today, with a few adjustments of course. 

So we can’t pin down exactly who created onion rings, but we are extremely thankful anyway. What we can do is make them at home! A simple google search will yield thousands of simple, at-home recipes to help even the most challenged cook create this awesome side dish. Here is an easy option for you to try at home. You will need:

  1. 1 large onion cut into ¼-inch slices
  2. 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  3. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 egg
  6. 1 cup milk
  7. ¾ cup dry bread crumbs
  8. Salt to taste
  9. 1-quart oil for frying

Start by heating the oil in a deep fryer to 365 degrees F. Sort the onion slices and set them aside. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Dip the rings into the flour mixture and then set aside. Add the egg and milk into the flour mixture and mix thoroughly. Dip the floured rings into the batter to coat completely and then set on a wire rack until the batter stops dripping. Spread the bread crumbs across a sheet of aluminum foil. Place the rings one at a time into the bread crumbs and then scoop the crumbs over the ring to coat evenly. Next, gently place the coated ring into the oil and fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and place on a paper towel to allow excess oil to drain. Season with salt and serve. 

They aren’t difficult to make. It was harder to track down information on where they originated than to find an easy recipe. But why do they taste so good? What about a vegetable that makes you cry when you cut it is responsible for the mouthwatering flavor? Raw onions are strong, pungent, and sharp. How does that transform into a mellow, sweet, savor? Well, the scientific explanation is that the cooking process decomposes the propanethial oxide in the onion into a sweet-smelling and tasting bispropenyl disulfide. In simple terms, cooking makes it taste good and that is a good enough definition for us! 

I don’t know about you, but all this talk about onion rings is making me crave some River City Cafe onion rings! I’m going to rush over to my nearest River City Cafe to get me some! We have seven locations to choose from! They all serve our huge and delicious onion rings. Want to know more about the locations? Check out this blog post.

We look forward to serving you soon!