These Smoked Beer Battered Onion Rings are made by slowly smoking a whole onion, slicing it, and coating it with our flavorful beer batter. The texture and lightly smoked flavor make for the perfect onion ring. These make a great appetizer or you can use them on an epic Western Style Burger.
Vindulge Recipe Highlights
- The inspiration for this amazing treat came from Chef Doug Adams, former chef of Bullard Tavern in Portland, OR. In this Instagram video he walked through his favorite way to get the perfect onion ring.
- We smoke the whole onion for more flavor and then cool it down so it has the perfect bite.
- Fry the onions with a beer batter so the carbonation adds texture and body to the onion rings.
The most important ingredient is the sweet white onion. While any onion works, the balance of sweet and flavor is best with the Walla Walla Sweet or general sweet onion. Vidalia is another great variety. If you go yellow we find the results tend to be a bit bland, and with red onions the flavor gets more intense. The right balance is the sweet variety.
For the breadcrumbs we use flour, dry rub seasoning, and beer. The carbonation of the beer helps to bring a fluffy and airy texture to the result after frying. The dry rub adds salt and some extra flavoring to the bite as well.
Lastly we’re mixing some ranch dip (homemade or store bought) with some chipotle in adobo for some sweet heat.
How To Smoke an Onion
- Prepare the smoker for a low heat cook. Target 225 degrees Fahrenheit using your favorite wood. We strongly recommend fruit woods for a sweeter and less smoke intense flavor. Oak or hickory will be nice, but adds more of the smoky flavor. Avoid Mesquite as that can burn too smoky.
- After the smoker is at temperature, place the entire onion on the smoker and smoke for one hour.
- Remove the onion from the smoker and then place it in the refrigerator to cool down.
About Cooking Time: We tested at two and three hours, and after one hour the onion starts to get too soft for onion rings. Two hours would be great for a smoked onion dip, three gets too mushy.
Chef’s Note: Onions have a higher ratio of water in them. So the longer you smoke them, the more that water is pushed out of the onion and can affect the texture.
If you simply take the warm onion rings and dip into the batter and fry, then as you bite into the onion ring, the entire onion will just come with it and you are left with fried batter. The trick for bite through onion rings is cooling down the smoked onions. Thus the freezer or fridge trick.
Cool Onions: Place the onion into the refrigerator for four hours, or the freezer for one hour to cool down. As the onion cools you can prepare the fryer oil. After the onions have cooled, remove the outer skin of the onion, and cut into pencil width rings.
Heat Oil: In a large Dutch oven, prepare a combination of avocado and olive oil (50/50 blend), use 2 cups of each. Place it on a burner on medium/low heat and get the oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. If the oil is too cool, the frying takes longer and you are left with soggy onion rings.
If the oil is too hot, then the batter will burn before getting crunchy all the way through. So be sure to target 375 degrees F.
Tool Tip: Having a good instant read thermometer is a key tool we recommend for any type of cooking. The Thermoworks Thermapen One is the best instant read thermometer on the market and is a great tool for monitoring fry oil.
Advanced Preparation: You can smoke the onion the day before and cool it down overnight in the fridge. If you do this, then be sure to cover the sheet tray with plastic wrap so they don’t dry out.
Making the Onion Rings
You need two stations for the smoked onion rings. The batter and the dredge.
- Dredge the onion rings into the flour first to coat.
- Then drop the dredged onions into the wet batter to coat them thoroughly.
- Drop into the hot oil and flip once until golden in color, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the onion rings and place them on a cooling rack with some paper towels to catch any access oil.
- Lay the onion rings on a sheet tray lined with paper towel or on a cookie drying rack and then lightly salt as soon as they come off.
Frequently Asked Definitions
Dredge – A dredge in cooking is using a dry ingredient to help batter stick. In this case we use ½ cup of flour in a medium size bowl or tray. Drop four or five pieces of onion into the tray and coat with the flour.
Batter – Great onion rings start with the batter. Add flour, corn starch, and dry rub together in a large bowl. Then slowly whisk in the beer. After combined it should have the texture of pancake batter. Thick, but not dense. Add a little water if it’s too thick until it’s the correct texture. Don’t overmix or you over-activate the gluten and it becomes gummy.
Why corn starch in onion rings? It helps with the crispiness and texture. We also like to use it on our chicken wings as well.
Frying Onion Rings – Unless you have a commercial fryer, the best technique is to fry the smoked onions in smaller batches. We use a large cast iron dutch oven. Once they are placed into the fry oil, the oil cools down, and by only doing in four or five rings per batch you get the right texture and then allow the oil to heat up again in between the batches. Another reason for a good instant read thermometer or frying oil thermometer.
When finished frying, place the onion rings on a paper towel or a cookie drying rack, and immediately dash with kosher salt for more flavor. Let cool and eat.
You may find yourself increasing and decreasing the heat source often as you fine tune your stove top and the temperature of the oil. Especially if you do not fry often, after a few times, you will find the sweet spot.
While you can use regular ranch, adding an additional smoky and spicy element just makes this smoked onion recipe pop. Simply add some adobo and one finely diced chipotle pepper to ½ cup of ranch and stir to combine. That’s it.
Or you can try our awesome fry sauce recipe with a hint of heat and tang.
Gluten Free Option – We tested this recipe with both gluten and gluten-free all purpose flour (Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 GF mix) and the ratios were the same.
Beer – We used Pilsner, Stout, Amber, and IPA for the variations of beer batter and the Pilsner and Amber had the most balanced flavor. IPA was a little bitter and the stout beer masked the flavor of the smoked onion.
Other Appetizer Ideas
- Grilled Chicken Wings
- Smoked Beef Armadillo Eggs with Red Wine Glaze
- Goat Cheese Dip with Shiitake Mushrooms
- Smoked Chicken Wings
Mary (a certified sommelier and recipe developer) and Sean (backyard pitmaster) are co-authors of the critically acclaimed cookbook, Fire + Wine, and have been creating content for the IACP nominated website Vindulge since 2009. They live in Oregon on a farm just outside Portland.
Tried this recipe? Give us a star rating and we would love to see! Mention @vindulge or use the hashtag #vindulge on all the social media handles. And consider subscribing to our newsletter where we drop all our favorite ideas and inspirations every week.
This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you click on the link, we may receive a small commission if you purchase through the link. We partner with brands we know and love and use and it helps keep the blog going!