Creamy Vegan Caramelized Onion Dip (no Added Oil)

Denise Perrault
by Denise Perrault
12 servings
40 min

Creamy vegan caramelized onion dip is a twist on traditional French onion dip using cashews and white beans for a hearty, velvety plant-based dip. And this recipe comes with a bonus - my easy method to caramelize onions without oil.

Vegan French Onion dip in a bowl with chopped chives and caramelized onions.

This vegan French onion dip recipe is a crowd-pleasing appetizer and a favorite of vegans and non-vegan friends. Don't just flip the lid on another 'ho hum' store brand - make this recipe ahead and serve it on game day or whenever you want a yummy, elegant dip.

Why you'll love this recipe

  • This vegan French onion dip recipe is rich and creamy, with an irresistible combination of sweet and tangy flavors and a plethora of healthy caramelized onions.
  • Combining cashews, white beans, and common vegan sour cream ingredients like lemon juice and apple cider vinegar creates a thick, creamy dip with a zesty, oniony flavor.
  • Using a simple process of caramelizing onions without oil, you can skip the dehydrated onion or dip mixes for a natural flavor, using only plant-based ingredients.
  • 9 simple ingredients, all easily accessible. The recipe takes 40 minutes or less, with another hour (or overnight) to chill and set.

Ingredients and Substitutions

Here are the basic ingredients you'll need for making this creamy vegan dip. Chives are optional, but they are delicious as a subtle, oniony garnish.

ingredients for vegan French onion dip.

Onions. Yellow onions, deeply caramelized, are a signature of classic French onion dip. You can also use white onions. Red onions can be caramelized, but they have a slightly sweeter flavor and of course, they are red!

White beans. Soft white beans, such as cannelloni or haricot beans, make a dippable texture when combined with the rest of the ingredients. Chickpeas could be used, but the resulting texture will be more like cream cheese.

Cashews. Use raw cashews. For a nut-free substitute, consider silken tofu, which would make a lighter texture. If you make vegan cashew sour cream or sour cream made with sunflower seeds, you may need to adjust the amount of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.

Fresh chives. Chives aren’t mandatory but add a beautiful color and more onion flavor. Use can also mince a few of the green parts of green onions (scallions), for the same effect.

Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions.

How to caramelize onions without oil

Caramelizing is cooking onions to a golden brown so they release their natural sugar and have a sweet flavor.

Oil-free carmelizing is easy and only requires onions, water, and a few minutes. Your homemade French onion dip deserves it (as do your taste buds). Once you learn this trick, you'll be an oil-free caramelizing master.

The process of caramelizing onions without oil

Step 1: For best results, heat your skillet or frying pan to medium heat before adding the onions. Hot pans repel the onions, so they won’t melt into the pan and immediately stick.

Step 2: Stir the onions constantly. Movement keeps them cooking, not burning.

Step 3: Add water or vegetable broth, no more than ¼ a cup at a time. You want the liquid to burn off quickly. Keep the heat high enough that the onions continue to cook and the water absorbs. Low heat can result in mushy onions.

Step 4: Repeat the process of stirring, adding a little more water and letting it burn off until the onions are soft and golden and all the liquid is absorbed.

Step-by-Step Dip Instructions

For best results, place cashews in a small bowl and cover them with boiling water. If you do this before starting the onions, you just need to drain them and toss them in the food processor.

how to make vegan French onion dip.

Step 1: Add the white beans and cashews to a high-speed blender or food processor.

Step 2: Blend until you have a creamy texture, then add the rest of the ingredients and continue blending.

Step 3: Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and stir in at least half the onions, reserving some for the garnish.

Step 4: This is the most difficult! Cover and chill the dip for an hour. This builds the flavor (although I’ve more certainly eaten it before chilling). Before serving, add the remaining caramelized onions and chopped chives.

Serving ideas

Caramelized onion dip is denser than dips made with sour cream and a packet of 'seasonings' So serve it with an assortment of sturdy dippers like fresh veggies such as celery or carrot sticks.

Whole grain crackers or thick kettle-type potato chips hold up to the double-dipping you may be tempted to engage in. For something on the healthier side, we recommend toasted pita pockets or whole wheat potato tortillas for a dipping experience extraordinaire!

A cracker is dipped into a bowl of vegan French onion dip with oil-free caramelized onions and chives.
Frequently asked questions

How long does leftover vegan French onion dip last in the fridge?

Store leftover dip in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Stir it before serving, and add a little lemon juice if needed.

Do you need a special pan to caramelize onions without oil?

A heavy-bottomed frying pan or skillet works best for caramelizing onions. The pan's surface (non-stick or stainless steel) is less critical than regulating the heat, stirring the onions, and adding water when needed.

Can you caramelize onions in the oven?

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F to caramelize onions in the oven. Toss the onions in vegetable broth or water with a pinch of salt. Shake the liquid off the onions, then place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a baking mat. Roast the ovens for 20-25 minutes, tossing them a few times.

Can you caramelize onions in the air fryer?

To caramelize onions in the air fryer, slice them and add them to a bowl of water with a pinch of salt (or use veggie broth). Preheat the air fryer to 350 F. Drain the onions, shake off the water and add the /onions to the air fryer basket. Check every 4-5 minutes and toss the onions. It should take about 10-12 minutes to caramelize. Note: Caramelizing onions in the air fryer works best if you use slices or rings rather than diced onions.

What is the difference between fried onions and caramelized onions?

Frying is a method of softening onions until they are soft and translucent and only lightly browned, if at all. The amount of cooking time is the main difference between frying and caramelizing, which dictates the color. The more caramelized, the deeper the brown color.

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Do you have a question or recipe request or need a cooking tip? Leave a comment below or contact Denise. I’m here to help! If you want more healthy vegan recipes, please subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on Facebook or Pinterest for the latest updates.

If you make this recipe, please leave a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ rating. It’s much appreciated!

👩🏻‍🍳 Recipe
Creamy Vegan Caramelized Onion Dip (no Added Oil)
Recipe details
  • 12  servings
  • Prep time: 15 minutes Minutes Cook time: 25 minutes Minutes Total time: 40 min
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  • ▢ 1 cup raw cashews
  • ▢ 3 medium yellow onions - peeled and chopped (3 cups)
  • ▢ 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans - 1 can, such as haricot, cannellini, or white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • ▢ 4 teaspoons lemon juice - more if needed
  • ▢ 4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar - more if needed
  • ▢ 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ▢ 1/2 teaspoon paprika - smoked or sweet
  • ▢ 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • ▢ 2 tablespoons chives - chopped

Add the cashews to a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Set aside.
To caramelize the onions, heat a large frying pan or skillet to medium heat. Then add the onions and start stirring them.
Lower the heat slightly and add ¼ a cup of water. Use a wooden spoon to stir the onions and pick up any stuck to the bottom of the pan. Continue stirring and repeat the process until the onions are silky soft and dark brown when all the water is absorbed.
Remove the onions from the heat and set aside.
Drain the cashews and add them to a food processor with the beans. Blend until smooth. Then, add the lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, onion powder, paprika, and ground black pepper. Continue blending until you have a smooth, dippable consistency.
Transfer the dip to a bowl. Mix in about half the onions. Reserve the other half to use as a garnish. Before garnishing, cover and chill the onion dip in the refrigerator for an hour.
Once the dip has chilled, stir and add more lemon juice if you want to thin it. Garnish with the rest of the caramelized onions and chopped chives.
Serve with veggies, crackers, toasted pita bread, or any of your favorite dippers.
  • If you forget to soak the cashews, grind them into a fine powder using a spice grinder.
  • Be sure to complete the chilling step of this recipe. That's what gives this dip the maximum flavor.
  • Substitute all or part of the cashews with silken tofu or use our cashew sour cream recipe or sunflower seed sour cream. Add the additional lemon juice and apple cider vinegar called for in the recipe after you add the sour cream.
Denise Perrault
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