Granulated onion is ground up or finely chopped onion used for making a variety of dishes. It is sometimes sold as dehydrated onion or dried onion.
The seasoning is made by dehydrating fresh onions, and then breaking it down to small granules to form the final product. It is sometimes confused with onion powder or onion flakes. The difference that separates these products is simply granule size and overall fineness.
What To Use Granulated Onion For
There are many ways you can use granulated onion in cooking. For starters, it is much easier to season meats and vegetables with onion in its granulated form.
It is also much more convenient than chopping up fresh onions, and has a much longer shelf life of around 3 – 4 years.
Because it is granulated, it is perfect for making sauces and spice mixes. You can also add it to patties, stir fry, or use it in any situation where minced onion might be required.
The granules are also large enough such that it can behave similarly to freshly chopped onions when cooked on a low heat, slowly rehydrating, liquifying and releasing its flavors into the dish.
What Does It Taste Like?
One might expect it to taste simply like regular onions. However, that is not the case. The dehydration process give the onion granules a strong, sweet and savory flavor, with perhaps less of the “sting” that raw onions have.
When cooked, however, the granules will rehydrate and provide a flavor that’s closer to fresh onions spread throughout your dish.
How To Make Granulated Onion
Making granulated onion starts with dehydrating chopped fresh onions. The best way to do this is by using a food dehydrator. This can take anywhere between 6 hours to even a few days, depending on how much onion you are drying out. Chopping them into a finer consistency will help speed up this process.
Alternatively, an oven may be used, but one must be careful not to heat the onions too much and cook them. Slowly heat the onions at around 140 degrees Fahrenheit (or 60 degrees Celcius).
To help the onion granules dry faster, leave your oven door slightly open to allow moisture to escape.
Regardless of the method you choose to dehydrate the onions, you will know they are ready once they easily crumble in your hands.
At this point, you are ready to crush or grind the dehydrated onion bits into granules. You can use a spice mill, food processor or coffee grinder for this.
The key is to stop once the granules are around the same size as grains of sand. Go any further, and you’ll end up with onion powder instead (see below for more details).
You may then store your dried onion granules in an airtight container for up to 12 months. Make sure to shake the container around daily for the first week to distribute any remaining moisture evenly and prevent molding.
What To Substitute For Granulated Onion
Not all onion seasonings and products are created equal. Your options for substituting granulated onion will depend on your specific recipe.
Your first instinct might be to substitute it with freshly diced onions. However, you will have to deal with trying to match the quantities in your recipe, since 1 tablespoon of granulated onion will be a lot more dense than 1 tablespoon of freshly diced onion. This is because onions shrink dramatically when dehydrated.
You may also find that, depending on how fine you dice your onions, the flavors may not spread out and mix in quite as well.
In most cases, your best option would simply be to use another ground onion seasoning, such as onion powder or onion flakes.
Alternatively, you might find that the taste of granulated or powdered garlic might make them viable substitutes for granulated onion in select recipes.
Granulated Onion vs Onion Powder
The main difference between granulated onion and onion powder is its fineness, or the size of the particles. Both products are made by first dehydrating onions, then breaking them up into fine particles.
However, granulated onion has a rougher texture, with each granule being approximately the size of a grain of sand. On the other hand, these granules are ground even further into a fine powder to make onion powder.
When bought in a store, granulated onion will usually be of higher quality than onion powder. This is because it is made from whole dried onions in a factory, whereas onion powder is simply from what is left over from the manufacturing process. It can include unwanted parts such as onion tops and skins used as filler.
Both seasonings can be used in similar situations. However, there are many recipes or applications which may call for a certain texture or fineness.
For example, onion powder will dissolve quicker in sauces and dressings, but granulated onion might be more suitable for making meatballs and casseroles.
The difference in size also means you will have to alter the volume used if you were to substitute the products for each other. A tablespoon of onion powder will be stronger and more dense than a tablespoon of onion granules.
You may also find that onion powder dissolves very quickly while cooking, whereas onion granules will rehydrate and cook, making it taste closer to fresh onion in the end.
Granulated Onion vs Chopped Onion or Onion Flakes
In some grocery stores, you may find dried chopped onion or onion flakes on sale. These products are virtually identical to granulated onion, but the individual granules are much larger.
This makes it an ideal replacement for freshly chopped onion. It’s a great choice when you want the onion bits to be intact and visible in the completed dish, such as stir fry and burger patties.
Granulated Onion vs Onion Salt
Onion salt differs from granulated onion in that it is usually a blend of onion powder and salt. Usually, an anti-caking agent is also added to keep the mixture from clumping.
It provides added convenience for recipes where you need both onion and salt. However, you will give up the ability to control how much of each you want in your dish.
What’s more, just like onion powder, onion salt is usually made from lower quality ingredients and manufacturing leftovers.
For these reasons, we recommend adding onion and salt separately to your dishes.
Where Can You Find It?
Granulated onion can be found in many grocery stores or online specialty shops. It can also be found in bulk at spice specialty shops, and can be stored for up to 3 – 4 years without losing its flavor or quality.
Alternatively, you can always purchase it online quickly and easily, and get exactly what you are looking for!