I have murky memories of the first time I ever tried onion rings.  I was a kid, probably seven or eight, and we were at a restaurant that had onion rings on the menu.  I glanced over the name with mainly disgust and a smidgen of curiosity, and moved right along (probably to nachos or pizza).  I can’t remember who I was with, but someone at the table actually ordered this unthinkable dish.  I must have expressed my surprise because they then tried to convince me that onion rings were, in fact, very good.  I think they even said better than French fries.  Come on now, let’s not exaggerate.  Anyway, when our food finally arrived this persuasive devil convinced me to try one (who was this person?!  I wish I could remember).  I grudgingly agreed that they were pretty good, but I would still never choose them over French fries.

Though I still pick French fries over onion rings, I have a husband who loves onion rings and has asked me to make them on numerous occasions.  I pretty much always turn to Cook’s Illustrated when I’m in need of a reliable recipe, and I had bookmarked this one a year ago with Ben in mind.  Now don’t go thinking that just because these are made in the oven, they are a healthified version of onion rings.  They still have plenty of oil and are coated with a potato chip crust…yeah, I told you.  Of course you might feel a little better about the whole thing if you choose to serve them as we did with bean burgers instead of regular hamburgers.  I really liked this method though, and all of us thought the outcome was fantastic.  The onions were cooked through but the coating was crispy and browned, just as it should be.  Even Andrew devoured them without batting an eye (though he eats practically anything I put on his plate, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.)  I doubt I’ll be making them again anytime soon since this is a once-a-year kind of indulgence, but I think we’ll all be looking forward to when that day rolls around again.

  • Yield approx. 24 onion rings


½ cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 large egg, at room temperature
½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
30 saltine crackers
4 cups kettle-cooked potato chips
2 large yellow onions, sliced into 24 rings (½-inch thick rounds)
6 tbsp. vegetable oil


  • 01

    Adjust oven racks to lower- and upper-middle positions.  Preheat the oven to 450˚ F.  Place ¼ cup of the flour in a shallow baking dish.  Beat the egg and buttermilk together in a bowl.  Whisk the remaining flour, cayenne, salt and pepper into the buttermilk mixture.  Combine the saltines and potato chips together in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.  Place half of the crumb mixture in a second shallow baking dish; reserve the other half.

  • 02

    Working one at a time, dredge each onion ring in flour, shaking off the excess.  Dip the onion rings in the buttermilk mixture, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl, and then dredging in the crumb coating, turning to coat evenly.  When the crumb mixture is low, add the reserved crumb mixture to the dish for dredging the remaining onion rings.  Transfer the coated rings to a large plate or platter.

  • 03

    Pour 3 tablespoons of the oil onto each of 2 rimmed baking sheets.  Place the baking sheets in the oven and heat just until smoking, about 8 minutes.  Tilt the heated sheets to coat evenly with the oil.  Lay the onion rings out in a single layer on the oiled baking sheets.  Bake, flipping the onion rings and rotating the pans halfway through baking, until golden brown on both sides, about 15 minutes total.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined rack briefly before serving.