Recipe

Tennessee Onions: The Ultimate Cheesy Southern Delight Recipe

Every family has its legacy, its heirloom, its story that is passed down through generations. For the Harrison family, this legacy was not in the form of jewelry or property but in a recipe – the Tennessee Onions.

The tale starts with Great-Grandma Ellie, a spry woman with a twinkle in her eyes and magic in her hands. Born and raised in a quaint Tennessee town, Ellie was renowned for her culinary skills, especially her knack for turning simple ingredients into delectable delights.

It was during the Great Depression that Ellie first stumbled upon this dish. Times were tough. Fresh produce was limited, but what was abundantly available in the community garden were Vidalia onions. Ellie, always the one to make do with what she had, decided to make these onions the centerpiece of her family dinner.

As legend goes, she had a block of cheese, some leftover butter, and a few spices. Drawing from her instinct, she sautéed the onions, sprinkled them with spices, and topped them generously with shredded cheese. Expecting it to be just another meal to fill their bellies, she was surprised by the reaction she got from her family. They were smitten!

From that day, the Tennessee Onions weren’t just a dish; they became a tradition. Every family gathering, every celebration, every Sunday dinner had Ellie’s onions shining on the table.

As years rolled by, the recipe was passed to Ellie’s daughter, Louise, who added her own touch by introducing a blend of three cheeses. Louise’s daughter, Clara, introduced the touch of garlic powder, making it more aromatic. And now, in the present day, it’s being lovingly made by Clara’s son, James, who swears by his Great-Grandma Ellie’s method but isn’t shy to serve it with modern accompaniments.

The beauty of the Tennessee Onions lies not just in its flavors but in its history. Every bite speaks of Great-Grandma Ellie’s resilience, of the hard times that led to the creation of something beautiful, and of a family that finds joy, connection, and legacy over a dish.

Today, the Harrisons not only cherish this recipe as a testament to their ancestry but also share it with friends, neighbors, and anyone who’s willing to listen to a story of love, survival, and onions.

So, the next time you’re savoring the Tennessee Onions, remember – you’re not just having a dish; you’re partaking in a tale that has been simmered, baked, and served for generations.


There’s a tantalizing aroma that floats through the southern states, especially Tennessee, that piques one’s curiosity. The mesmerizing scent of sweet onions, melting cheese, and an amalgamation of spices wafts from local kitchens, making mouths water in anticipation. For the uninitiated, this divine creation is known as ‘Tennessee Onions’. Today, we’re diving deep into this southern delight and giving you the foolproof recipe to make it right in your own kitchen!

Tennessee Onions: What’s the Buzz?

Before we hop into the recipe, let’s understand the essence of Tennessee Onions. The star of the dish is sweet onions, preferably Vidalia. These onions, known for their unique sweetness, provide a flavor profile that’s both robust and delicate, creating a symphony on your palate. Paired with a trio of cheeses and some staple spices, this dish is simple yet incredibly rich in flavor.

Tennessee Onions Recipe

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Servings: 4-5

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 sweet onions (Vidalia recommended)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt (adjust according to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 cup shredded Italian blend cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese

Instructions:

  1. Preparation:
    • Begin by peeling your sweet Vidalia onions and then slicing them into approximately 1/2-inch thick rings.
    • Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Onion Magic:
    • In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, gently place the onion rings into the skillet.
    • Sprinkle the onions with salt, garlic powder, and oregano. Cook until the onions become translucent and slightly caramelized. This usually takes around 10-12 minutes.
  3. Cheesy Goodness:
    • Once your onions are perfectly sautéed, transfer them to a baking dish, creating a single layer.
    • Begin by sprinkling the shredded Italian blend cheese generously over the onions.
    • Follow this with an even layer of the cheddar cheese.
    • Finally, top everything off with the shredded parmesan cheese.
  4. Baking Bliss:
    • Pop your dish into the preheated oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and has a golden-brown hue.
    • If you desire a more caramelized top, you can broil the onions for an additional 2-3 minutes. Just keep a close watch to prevent burning.
  5. Serve & Enjoy:
    • Once out of the oven, let the Tennessee Onions sit for a few minutes to cool slightly.
    • Serve them as a side dish or even as a decadent topping on grilled meats. Either way, get ready for a burst of flavors that will transport you straight to the heart of Tennessee!
Shredded Italian blend, cheddar, and parmesan cheese in separate bowls.

The Secrets Behind Perfect Tennessee Onions:

The secret to perfecting this dish lies in the choice of onions. Vidalia onions, with their unique sweetness, are ideal. Additionally, balancing the three cheeses ensures a creamy, gooey, and crispy texture that’s to die for. Always monitor the baking time to avoid over-caramelizing the cheese.

Serving Suggestions:

Tennessee Onions shine as a standalone side dish. However, they’re equally delicious when paired with grilled meats, especially beef or pork. For a light meal, accompany them with a fresh green salad with a tangy vinaigrette.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

  1. Can I use other types of onions?
    While Vidalia onions are recommended for their sweetness, you can use other sweet onion varieties. The key is to opt for a less pungent, more sweet variety.
  2. Is there a vegan alternative?
    Absolutely! Swap out dairy cheese for your favorite vegan cheese alternatives. Vegan butter or olive oil can replace the regular butter.
  3. How do I store leftovers?
    Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the oven or microwave until warm.

Tennessee Onions aren’t just a dish; they’re an experience. A combination of sweet, savory, and cheesy goodness, they encapsulate the soul of southern cooking. Whether you’re introducing your family to southern cuisine or reminiscing about a trip to Tennessee, this dish is bound to be a hit. Happy cooking!

Absolutely loved this recipe? Make sure to pin it on your favorite recipe board on Pinterest and share the love with others! 📍 #TennesseeOnionsDelight

The final dish of Tennessee Onions served on a rustic table with grilled meats.
Credit: Easy Instant Recipes

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