Everything You Never Knew About the History of French-Fried Onions

The recipe for this popular green bean casserole topping has been around for more than 100 years.

french fried onions atop a creamy green bean casserole
Photo: Meredith

In the week or two leading up to Thanksgiving, we'd be willing to wager that the majority of American homes stock at least one can of french-fried onions. You know, those battered onion ring-reminiscent crunchies that make the ultimate green bean casserole garnish (and secret snack for the cook as you finish assembly)?

As ubiquitous as these are come holiday season, we rarely consider the history of some pantry staples like this. To uncover the fascinating history of french-fried onions, we spoke with Kevan Vetter, executive chef and director of culinary development for McCormick Global in Hunt Valley, Md. McCormick now owns French's — yep, the French's that is emblazoned on a red flag that graces each can of one of the nation's best-selling onion toppings.

The History of French-Fried Onions

"To the best of our knowledge, Olney & Carpenter were the first large scale producers of canned french-fried onions at some point in the 1930s," Vetter explains. "There were several acquisitions over the years, with French's taking over in the 1980s. French-fried onions became known as French's Crispy Fried Onions in 1986. Through acquisition, French's joined the McCormick & Co. family of brands in 2017."

The original french-fried onion recipe dates back to 1904, making the formula more than 117 years old. The creator — and his or her inspiration to develop it in the first place — are two details that have been lost in that time. But we do know that french-fried onions are made with real onions, and French's alliums are all grown in the United States.

As far as *the* Green Bean Casserole recipe that's nostalgic in its condensed soup lusciousness and fried onion-topped glory, that was created in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly. At the time, Reilly was a chef, working in the Campbell's Test Kitchen, and the soup brand printed the recipe right on the label of their soup labels.

"Today, it can also be found on the back of the French's Original Crispy Fried Onions canister," Vetter says. "That Classic French's Green Bean Casserole has been gracing tables for over 65 years. In response to people's evolving diets and search trends, our chefs recently released a vegan recipe variation that includes raw cashews, plant-based milk, and is of course topped with French's Original Crispy Fried Onions," Vetter says.

The McCormick team also heard from many consumers that they noshed on french-fried onions as they prepared their holiday meals (guilty!), so they riffed on the theme to release a limited-edition Green Bean Casserole Snack Mix earlier this year.

"It's made with our famous French's Fried Onions, crisp vacuum-fried green beans and mushrooms, all seasoned with spices, onions, and sour cream. The popular release sold out quickly, and we're bringing it back due to consumer demand," Vetter says.

The Best Ways to Use French-Fried Onions

Why reserve these timeless treats for Thanksgiving alone? An unopened can of french-fried onions should last up to 12 months in the pantry, making it an easy and affordable recipe-booster any time of year.

Consider swapping french-fried onions for croutons atop soup or salad, use them instead of panko or crushed crackers to crown baked mac and cheese casseroles. Try french-fried onions as a condiment on burgers or sandwiches, crush them up to coat a cheese ball, or or toss on a stir-fry just before diving to a pleasant and flavorful crunchy addition.

Or try french-fried onions in these top-rated Allrecipes dishes:

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