UPDATED: The Very Best Side Dish

Creamed Onions:
the very best side dish

Now, when I say creamed onions are the very best side dish, I don’t want to take away from your family traditions by somehow implying that ours are better than yours.

That’s not my point at all.

In fact, I think blending family traditions is what this season’s all about. I bring something from my family. You bring something from yours. Together, we have something even better than the past.

Right? Right.

Like, for example, I bring creamed onions.

And my dad-in-law brings a gas mask.

And together we have something even better than before.

In conclusion,

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

And remember. No matter how you feel about your cooking, if no one shows up with gas mask this Thanksgiving, you’re steps ahead of me.


P.S. I know I couldn’t possibly look more awful in that picture, circa 2003. It was our first holiday season after we jumped from one kid to three. My hair. My ratty sweatshirt and jeans at dinner. My oh-dear-lord, I have to try to smile? look.

Which is all why this picture is SUCH A RELIEF! ‘Cause it proves I really was as strung out as I thought I was. I wasn’t crazy. I haven’t been exaggerating. I was completely exhausted. Good job, Mama Me, for showing up dressed


P.P.S. I should note for safety reasons that my dad, from whose family the creamed onions tradition hails, was less-than-pleased with my dad-in-law’s choice of facewear. My dad said, “Dave. Not smart. You can aspirate your own vomit wearing one of those things at the dinner table. Here’s my suggested alternative.”

Our dads, you guys. Our dads are always so very helpful.


P.P.P.S. What happens at your house on Turkey Day? Any must-haves? Any must-not-haves? I mean, although my father-in-law does have a long-standing doctrinal position against onions, he was (mostly) kidding with the gas mask. On the other hand, there was the year I had to talk a friend’s VERY upset mama down from a mashed potato ledge because we put Yukon Gold potato peels in ’em. There are some traditions you just don’t mess with, folks. Lesson learned.



By popular request (and because I couldn’t resist making your sister cry, Jessica), here’s the…

Recipe for Creamed Onions

Step 1: Buy the right kind of onions. They’re small and they come in a jar, like this.

They’re very hard to find. Last time my dad found them, he bought two cases. We are not kidding around about these. I suspect that they’re hard to find because they’re mostly gross and therefore hard to sell. However, that doesn’t keep me from eating buckets every holiday. What can I say? I have a strong affinity for gross.

If you can’t find these, you can use petite frozen onions, but then you should probably roast them or sauté them or something so they’re not quite so oniony. (The water in which the jarred onions are packed cuts down on that.)

Step 2: Flip open the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook your mom-in-law gave you for your wedding and find the White Sauce recipe. Make it without the pepper and salt. Unless you want to make it with the pepper and salt.

Be stunned that you’re instructed to “add milk all at once.” Next, wonder if you’ve been making white sauce wrong for years, adding a teaspoon of milk at a time and stirring thoroughly after every addition to avoid lumps. Finally, shrug your shoulders and do whatever works.

Step 3: When white sauce is bubbling, add at least a cup of shredded cheddar cheese. More if you can cram it in there. Stir ’til smooth.

Step 4: Combine drained onions and cheese sauce in a greased casserole dish.

And top with another handful of cheese.

Really, you’re just burying onions in cheese. It’s what makes this whole thing OK.

Step 5: Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes. Or at 375 F for 30 minutes. Or at any temperature you want since you’re shoving it in the oven with turkey and rolls and pies and sweet potato casserole and hoping it works out OK. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it comes out of the oven bubbling and with a crispy, oily, golden cheesy top.

Step 6: Serve hot. Gas masks optional.



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21 responses to “UPDATED: The Very Best Side Dish”

  1. I just am a little behind in reading this one, but I have to say that your comment, “good job, mamma me, for showing up dressed!” is the best comment EVER! I am going to use this comment for the next 4 days of school (yes, finals are upon me and I am feeling like if I make it to school DRESSED, it will be an accomplishment). Thank you for providing me with a standard that I can meet and congratulate myself for. You. Rock.

  2. Does it have to be a side dish? Then it would have to be cranberry chutney. But the real specialty was was my mother’s discovery in Sunset Magazine 40 years ago that the turkey could be cooked on a Weber grill thus freeing up the oven AND, since the Weber was my Dad’s territory, my mom hasn’t had to cook a turkey in 40 years…! A Weber turkey is delicately smoky with crisp, mahogany skin, with rich golden juices caught below in a disposable foil pan.

    My innovation was to brine the turkey the night before. The combination of brining and the Weber makes an awesome turkey: rich dark meat, and juicy white meat. And the soup you make out of the turkey carcass afterwards is delicious.

    Shout out to creamed onions: my mother didn’t add cheese, but they’re delicious either way.

  3. Granny’s Cranberry Mold. Canned whole berry cranberry sauce, gelatin, mayo and pecans or walnuts. Would you be surprised to know that people think putting mayo in sounds gross? But really it just cuts the tartness and makes the whole thing a bit sweeter, somehow. Wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it!

  4. I’ve never even heard of creamed onions! We don’t have any traditions worth mentioning, but I am too busy trying to stay cool amongst the awkwardness of a bunch of crazy Catholics (hubby’s fam) thrown together with two super conservative Baptists (my parents) hosted at my house because I don’t want to shuttle my five kids to two Thanksgiving meals. How will the prayer be handled? Unision or solo recital? Oh, the discomfort! And my husband is no help at all! It’s up to me to break the ice every time.

    Your picture made me laugh!

  5. Oh my word, I just cannot support creamed onions. Even though no one ever eats them, every year my dad makes the cranberries and oranges mush stuff. Really? Why bother? Thanksgiving is all about dessert for us…chocolate steamed pudding with delicious sauce. It’s crazy good and just cooking it costs you 3000 calories.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  6. I just want to make sure I still have a permanent claim on my historic inclusion in the “Family Creamed Onion Control Group”. That being: when everyone gets sick but me, we know it was the Creamed Onions that did it…

  7. I actually had little grandkids crying because I (gramma) served the canned cranberry jelly fluffed up with a fork, in a bowl and not in the circle slices on a plate. Thankfully, gramma had another can of that deep red, overly sweet, gelatinous goodness to slice and serve on a plate…all smiles at the table.

  8. My sweet potato pie. It was my ex mother-in-law’s recipe, handed down in such a way that I should never have been able to replicate it (“you take a little of this…..some of that….etc.”) and although the first few years my ex declared it “ok, but not quite mom’s” I kept trying, and now I am THE SWEET POTATO PIE QUEEN. I have made improvements, and mine is now better, in my not-very-humble opinion. My kids won’t let me skip it. I never even used to like sweet potatoes, and now I love this pie.

    You’ll notice I said “ex” husband.

  9. Grandma’s corn. That is just what it has always been called. Not sure which grandma it came from. From my dad’s mom for sure but was it hers originally? Was it my great grandmothers? Or my great, great grandmothers? No one knows and none of them are here to ask. One of the family mysteries that will continue to be a mystery.
    But, the special thing about Grandma’s corn is that every male that has ever been exposed to it has LOVED it. Not so much for the females. It’s about 50/50. Don’t know what it is as the ingredients are pretty much loved amongst all humans; corn, creamed corn, little smokies, butter and saltines. What’s not to love, right? But I hate it. And I have become the honorary Grandma Corn maker because I come the closest to the “way Grandma used to do it.” I have made plenty of things in my life that I refuse to eat so what’s one more?! We could have nothing else for our holiday meals but there would be a huge revolt if Grandma’s corn were not on the table. My mom tried to do a Mexican theme for Christmas one year to try something new. It didn’t go over AT ALL but Grandma’s Corn was there on the table so it wasn’t a total loss.
    I love that it is always there, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter. It’s our little link to the past and something that we will pass on for the future. Too bad I hate it. No matter. That just means more green bean casserole for me (love!). Happy Thanksgiving!

    • OMG! Until I read Little Smokies, I knew which gramma it came from – MINE! LOL My gramma’s corn does not have little smokies, but it has sugar and pepper instead. Other than that, the recipe is the same, and so is the reaction. The men fight over it and about half the women love it to. At our holidays, it’s not uncommon for the dish to go missing before the meal – one of the men having taken and hidden it so he can have it all to himself. And last year I didn’t even go to Christmas dinner at my sister’s (went to my in-laws instead), but I still sent the gramma’s corn, since I am the “Honorary Gramma’s Corn Maker” in our family! LOL

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