I inadvertently made you a recipe with a detectable “game day” vibe this week. How crazy is that?! Mark and I went to our first ever NFL game with these lovely people when we were in Denver last year and the atmosphere kinda threw/took me. I’m usually pretty chill at any and all sporting events, partaking in more of the social drinking/deep fried snack-related aspects, but the tendency to veer from complete elation to total effing outrage was decidedly acute in that environment. But did I mention it was also awesome? Anyway, it was amazing to see the Broncos win when we were there and we’ll be steadily summoning up the good juju for the big win this Sunday, even if it means eating a quinoa burger that tastes like a dirty old tree branch.
But obviously I won’t be doing that because I have these golden delicious little orbs of crunch to snack on. I’ve been working on this recipe since I developed a version for a magazine a while ago (which wasn’t vegan or gluten free). These are, admittedly, a shameless rip on my favourite onion rings of all time from a Toronto vegetarian restaurant (this one if you’re wondering). Their rings were very obviously fried and for that reason, very obviously delicious. I knew I could make some baked magic happen without any major sacrifice.
To start, I went classic on the battering steps: a toss in flour, a swipe through a wet mixture, and then a final coating in some crumbs and other tasty bits. I used a GF all purpose flour for that first step. Generally eggs are employed as the glue for crumb coatings on nuggets, onion rings etc. But heavy life truth? You can make any coating stick to any food with a little unsweetened almond milk, a fat pinch of salt and some flour. I whisked some dijon into mine for extra flavour, but you could use herbs, chili sauce, lemon zest, whatever you like. The puffed quinoa makes for really light and beautiful bits of airy crunch along the outside. I mix the puffs with heavily ground up GF crackers (Mary’s Gone Crackers are my fave), lots of Old Bay seasoning, some little sesames and lots of pepper. You could use smoked paprika, za’atar, curry powder… lots of options.
I’m not saying these are exactly like deep fried rings, but they are crunchy and golden and salty, which basically covers all of my pleasure points. They don’t really have that moist slick-of-oil-upon-biting thing, so a tasty sauce to smooth things over is somewhat necessary. And also, I love sauce in most applications of most food. Since I was already in deep with mustard and celery salt flavours, horseradish stirred into a creamy mayonnaise kinda scene seemed natural. I point out a few methods of achieving this in the notes–veering from simple to only slightly complex.
vegan + GF quinoa onion rings with horseradish dip
serves: a large onion’s worth of rings (like 20ish)
notes: It is crucial that you let these hang in the fridge for an hour once they’re coated. It helps to pre-soften the onion and it also helps to adhere the coating that extra bit more. Also, I basically used my pine nut mayonnaise recipe and added a tablespoon of fresh grated horseradish and a little squeeze of lemon, but if you vibe to Vegenaise (which I sometimes do) or regular mayo, you could certainly just stir some fresh/prepared horseradish into some of that. Even some sheep’s milk yogurt or sour cream could be nice.
1 large spanish onion, peeled + cut into 1/2 inch thick rings
1/2 cup GF all purpose flour
salt + pepper
an oil spray of some kind
1 cup unsweetened almond or other non-dairy milk
1 tbsp dijon mustard
small handful of GF all purpose flour
salt + pepper
1-2 cups gluten free bread/cracker crumbs (I ground up Mary’s Crackers in the food processor)
1-2 cups puffed quinoa
handful black sesame seeds (optional)
1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning (or whatever spice you like)
salt + pepper (keep in mind that Old Bay already contains hella salt)
1 cup mayonnaise/creamy base of your choosing (see notes)
squeeze of lemon juice + some zest
1 tbsp finely grated fresh horseradish (or a prepared variety)
ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
Combine the cut onion rings, 1/2 cup of flour, salt and pepper in a large Ziploc bag (or bowl). Toss the rings to evenly coat them in flour and seasoning. Set aside.
In a pie plate, combine the almond milk, mustard, flour, salt and pepper. Whisk this together with a fork until combined. Set aside.
In another pie plate or large dish, combine the GF bread/cracker crumbs, puffed quinoa, sesame seeds, Old Bay, salt and pepper. Toss lightly to combine.
Set up an assembly line like this: flour coated rings, almond milk mixture, quinoa + crumb coating and then the lined baking sheets. Take a few rings out of the Ziploc bag and toss them into the almond milk mixture, coating them evenly and completely. Transfer the almond milk-soaked rings to the quinoa crumb mixture. Toss the rings in the quinoa crumb mixture, really pressing the coating onto the rings. Once the rings are adequately covered, place them on the parchment lined baking sheet, ensuring that there’s a bit of space around each one. Repeat with remaining onion rings.
Place the onion rings in the fridge to firm up for at least an hour (I once left a tray of these in the fridge for a full 24 hours by accident and they were totally fine).
While the onion rings are chilling, whisk the horseradish, lemon juice/zest and pepper into your dip base of choice. Keep covered in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
When you’re ready to bake them, spray the coated rings lightly with oil and then slide them into the oven for 20-25 minutes or until firm and golden brown, flipping them halfway. Serve hot with the horseradish dip.