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What’s in Season: Vidalia Onion Dressing

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How to Make Homemade Vidalia Onion Dressing and other Great Sweet Onion Recipes

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A few weeks ago I shot a video making Vidalia Onion Dressing for Facebook. Since then, I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit and while we liked it before, now we really love it! In this new version, I eliminated the apple cider vinegar and instead purée an entire onion for the dressing base. The result is mildly sweet and creamy with just enough heat from the mustard. This dressing is perfect for salads or as a dipping sauce for everything from crudité to chicken fingers. Homemade Vidalia Onion Dressing also makes a great spread for sandwiches and wraps–and it’s only four ingredients!

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Honey is a Natural Sweetener

According to the National Honey Board, the story of honey is as old as history itself. An 8,000-year-old cave painting in Spain depicts honey harvesting, and we know it’s been used for food, medicine, and more by cultures all over the world since. Honey bees visit millions of flower blossoms in their lifetimes, pollinating plants, and collecting nectar to bring back to the hive. They then make honey from the nectar and store it in the hive for nourishment. Fortunately for us, bees make more honey than their colony needs, and beekeepers remove the excess honey and store it.

Honey is higher in fructose than glucose. Fructose is sweeter than glucose, so with certain recipes you may be able to use a smaller amount of honey than sugar without sacrificing sweetness.

I seek out raw, organic honey for better nutritional benefits. Raw honey, meaning unpasteurized, contains a wide variety of nutrients. Pasteurization is a process that destroys the yeast and some antioxidants found in honey by applying high heat. Some Vidalia Onion Dressing recipes contain a cup of sugar! Yikes! A dab will do you in my Vidalia Onion Dressing and it marries very nicely with the natural sweetness of the onion.

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Some Like it Hot

Mustard can be sweet, mind, or fiery hot. It lends a clean, sharp flavor and a pleasant punch of heat to many dishes. It has been one of the most widely used spices in the world for many centuries. The word mustard comes from an ancient Roman condiment of crushed mustard seed and must, or unfermented grape juice. The French word, moutarde, is derived from a contraction of moust, or must, and ardent, meaning blazing or burning – as in hot.

Dijon mustard gives this dressing a bit of “zippy zip zip” and helps the dressing emulsify. An emulsion is a suspension of small droplets of one liquid into another that is insoluble. Simply put, it is the combination of two liquids that do not go together, such as the proverbial oil and water, or, in the case of a vinaigrette, oil and vinegar. (In this dressing, the mustard helps the puréed onion and its juices emulsify with the canola oil.) For the formation of a stable emulsion, an emulsifying agent must  be present.  Dry or prepared mustard can help keep a hollandaise sauce or a homemade mayonnaise from separating, and a vinaigrette with a substantial amount of mustard will stay blended longer than one without mustard.

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Strike Oil

There are internet claims that canola is poison, causes BCE, is made from genetically modified organisms, you name it, canola is the root of the menace. The USDA disagrees. There’s a lot of misinformation about canola oil. Canola oil, which is extracted from the seeds of the canola plant, is recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Misinformation about canola oil may stem from the fact that the canola plant was developed through crossbreeding with the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed oil contains very high levels of erucic acid, a compound that in large amounts can be toxic to humans. Canola oil, however, contains very low levels of erucic acid.”

As a chef, I often use canola oil because it’s flavorless and allows the flavor of the food shine through. It also has a high smoke point and is a very versatile cooking oil. It’s cholesterol free and a good source of vitamin E. Most canola in the US is actually genetically engineered, so I do choose to buy organic. Organic, by definition is not allowed to be GMO. I also buy Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, which is a chemical-free mechanical process that extracts the oil. Canola is a good all-purpose cooking oil and is excellent for sautéing, frying, and baking or for use in raw form in salad dressings, mayonnaise, and vinaigrettes.

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Homemade vs Store-bought Salad Dressing

Buying salad dressing off the shelf at the grocery store may seem like a time-saver, but making it at home really doesn’t require much time or effort. (Check out my recipe for The World’s Best Salad Dressing. We always have a jar in the fridge.) Salad dressings like this Homemade Vidalia Onion Dressing can easily be tossed together in a matter of minutes! A lot of store-bought Vidalia onion dressings are packed with sugar and hard-to-pronounce chemical preservatives. My new version uses honey as a sweetener — and there’s not a preservative in sight. The deal is that what you dress your salad with should be as healthy as the salad itself. This homemade version contains about 52 calories a tablespoon vs nearly double that for some of the store-bought ones! Why ruin a good-and-good-for-you salad with a store-bought dressing that contains refined sugars, inferior oils, and fake flavors when you can make a healthier version at home?

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Vidalia Onion Recipes

‘Tis the season for Vidalia Onion recipes — take a look.

  • Vidalia Onion Dip is a party favorite — but so often it’s a soggy, greasy mess. Take a look at the flavorful-not-fatty Vidalia Onion Dip I created for (Don’t worry — it’s not so healthy that it’s not fun – look at that yummy cheese!)
  • Check out my Sheet Pan Supper: Vidalia Onion and Chicken Tacos that I created for the Vidalia Onion Commission.
  • Want to jazz up your grits? Try this recipe for Grits with Corn and Vidalia Onion. Rich, creamy and bursting with flavor. They are finished with just a tad of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and are equally fantastic for breakfast or dinner.
  • One of my all time favorites is my Vidalia Onion Quiche. I am so old school — I absolutely love quiche. The sweet onions are cooked into a soft and melting confit, then combined with eggs, milk, and cream for a decadent and divine dish.

Thanks for reading. I’ve got upcoming classes and appearances in Texas, Maine, and Massachusetts. Please take a look at my Events Page and I hope to see you soon!

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

Virginia Willis

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Vidalia Onion Dressing

Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Salad
Cuisine: American, Southern
Keyword: dressing, onions, Vidalia
Servings: 32 tablespoons


  • 1 Vidalia onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper


Put the onion, honey, and mustard in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until smooth. With the motor running, add the oil in a slow steady stream until thick and emulsified. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

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    Virginia Willis

    Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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