(Almost Vegan) Caramelized Onion White Bean Dip

(Almost Vegan) Caramelized Onion White Bean Dip -- with vegan variation | the pig & quillI had such good intentions for how I was going to spend today. With Chris off traipsing around with one of his two-wheeled concubines, my Saturday was slated to begin with an early morning run (thanks again to that birthday gift we discussed), a jaunt to the market, several late-morning hours of intensive literary study via young adult romance, and an afternoon in the kitchen working on this week’s recipes for you guys.

And then something deliciously derailing happened.

I slept in.

(If you didn’t gather, this is a rare weekend occurrence likened only to something as epic as the marketing of Gak or the smooth sounds of Soul for Real.)

So now, instead of being halfway through photographing an early supper of quinoa cakes with avocado curry, I’ve barely lit the darn stove.

Can I get an Oh, Well?
(Oh, Well!)

The great thing about days like today is their ability to reset my appreciation for slowing things down. Contrary to my own delusion, you can extract a fair amount of reward from something as simple and blatantly labor-free as sleeping in. Frankly, I don’t know why I don’t do it more often.

Equal reward — and I’ve really tee’d this one up quite nicely — can be reaped from enjoying that same unhurried simplicity in the kitchen. And that’s where onions come in.

Real Caramelized Onions, no sugar added | the pig & quill

One of the first flavors I ever locked onto when exploring the transition from consumer of food to creator of food was that of the caramelized onion. Such a humble food! Such a dramatic transformation! So possessive of that then-yet-to-be-named taste of all things brown and savory! (Believers now refer to the flavor profile of this distinct taste as umami. Non-believers, my husband included, simply go with “bullhonky.” You win some, you lose some.)

With little more than a sack of onions and a modicum of patience (we’re bouts to make a big batch of real caramelized onions people, and yeah, it takes some time), you can create one of the most intensely transformative flavors of the modern kitchen, at once sweet and salty. Buttery, earthy. And silky and rich on the palate.

I mean, OK: onions are onions. But really, you guys. I know you know.
Or, differently: I know you know.

Which is why there is very little explaination required when it comes to this completely unfussy white bean dip, in which the unparalleled body and character of pure, caramelized onion shines like a mighty beacon of ohheeeyall-yeah.

(Almost Vegan) Caramelized Onion White Bean Dip -- with vegan variation | the pig & quillSure, it might be a little slow-going at the start, but therein lies the reward. That sweet, sweet victory of letting go, walking away or sleeping in.

When you think about it, we spend the majority of our lives attempting to cram as many complex accomplishments into as few hours as possible. But sometimes, we just gotta onion-up and chillthefugout.

Sometimes, a little delicious derailment is a very, very good thing.

(Almost Vegan) Caramelized Onion White Bean Dip -- with vegan variation | the pig & quill

(Almost Vegan) Caramelized Onion White Bean Dip -- with vegan variation | the pig & quill

(Almost Vegan) Caramelized Onion White Bean Dip
By Emily Stoffel
Cook time: 1:45 | Serves a few hungry snackers

Note: I see you eyeing that cook time and getting ready to skedaddle, but you knew there’d be a note, didn’t you? There is almost zero labor involved in this process, but in order to get that rich toffee taste and hue, the onions can take up to 1.5 hours on the stove. I’m sure there are slow cooker recipes out there that make this process even simpler, but this is kind of my groove. And since we’re NOT ADDING SUGAR, the onions need some time to do their own sticky-sweet thing. But it’s worth it. Just grab a book and set your timer to remind you to stir ’em every 10 or 15 minutes. Also worth noting: while this recipe looks just dandy on a cracker, I advise 100% to EAT THIS DIP WITH POTATO CHIPS.


  • 6 large sweet yellow onions (such as Walla Walla), peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 T butter (for vegan variation, use 6 T olive oil and omit butter)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 can (15 oz) white beans, lightly drained
  • olive oil and black pepper for serving


Heat olive oil and butter (if using) in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. (Choose one with a lid.) Add sliced onions and 1/2 tsp salt. Shake pan lightly to mix. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until onions begin giving up their liquid and soften slightly. Stir. Re-cover and cook an additional 10 minutes, until onions have reduced in volume by about one-third. Remove cover and cook for 1 hour – 1 hour 15 mins, until onions are very reduced and toffee colored, stirring every 10 minutes and scraping any browned bits into the mixture as you go. Set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, add drained white beans to a food processor and pulse until almost smooth. Add 1 cup of the caramelized onions (reserve the rest for another batch or recipe) and process until combined. Season to taste with additional sea salt.

Remove dip to serving bowl and drizzle with good olive oil and plenty of freshly cracked black pepper. Eat with crackers, crudite or — highly recommended — potato chips.

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6 Comments on “(Almost Vegan) Caramelized Onion White Bean Dip”

  1. YUM!! This sounds delicious!! I’m dairy and soy free, so I use this vegan, soy free butter called Earth Balance. I think that would work fine in this recipe for the butter and it’d be vegan too! I have to give this a try! 🙂

    1. Katelyn – Earth Balance would be an excellent substitution here! Or you could do full olive oil if you wanted to simplify. Either way. Hope you enjoy. 🙂

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