Onion rolls are so soft, fluffy and packed with buttery sweet onion flavor. Make these scrumptious bread rolls in the traditional way or try a French onion variation with cheese. Enjoy these with soup, as a snack or make sandwiches. These aromatic rolls are a real treat!
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Onion Rolls - Traditional and French Onion Style
Onion rolls are a classic favorite in many countries, including the United States. I've taken inspiration from a traditional German recipe to create my own spin on these delicious treats. The addition of poppy seeds, a common ingredient in Eastern European and Jewish recipes, elevate the flavor even further.
But why stop there? I've also created a French onion variation that includes tangy gruyere cheese, making for a mouth-watering combination that pairs perfectly with my Sweet Potato Soup With Coconut Milk. Trust me, it's a must-try.
While sweet rolls are great for breakfast and tea time, savory bread rolls are a versatile option that can be enjoyed any time of day. That's why I've been experimenting with some savory treats, like my aromatic Cheese Rolls with Zaatar.
What really sets these onion bread rolls apart is the deliciously buttery onions baked right into the dough. The savory flavor is simply unbeatable.
But the best part? There are so many ways to enjoy these delicious rolls. Whether as a hearty breakfast, a savory side dish, or a satisfying snack, the possibilities are endless. I'll be sharing more serving suggestions later in this blog post.
And if you're looking to add some healthy ingredients to your baking, this recipe takes additions like flaxseed meal and bran in stride, without sacrificing any of the mouth-watering flavor. So let's get baking!
Ingredients For Onion Rolls
Here are notes for some of the ingredients and substitutes.
- Onions: I use yellow onions for its intense flavor, which becomes more well rounded with cooking. Red onions will take on a darker color after cooking and baking.
- Butter: We use this to cook the onions, which gives a nice flavor. You can also use some melted butter to brush the rolls, or use a herb-spice oil.
- Salt: To season the bread and onions. Adding salt while sautéing onions helps draw out the moisture and enhances the process.
- Milk: Using only milk to make the dough, makes the rolls soft and rich. Because we are not using butter for the dough, so definitely use milk.
- Dry Yeast: I use fast acting or instant yeast. You can also use active dry yeast, but check the yeast package instructions.
- Sugar and Honey: Use a teaspoon of sugar to activate the yeast. For the dough use honey or sugar.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: We use this for making the dough and the herb-spice oil.
- Eggs: These make the rolls soft. The egg wash gives a nice shine and color to the baked rolls.
- Bread Flour: This will be the best for making these bread rolls, as it has higher protein content which results in better gluten development, giving nicely risen and fluffy rolls. But all purpose flour will also work. Check under variations for “healthier options”.
- Onion Powder: This enhances the onion flavor even further. You can substitute this with granulated onions.
- Poppy Seeds: These are more traditional for onion rolls, but you can also try sesame seeds.
- Herbs: Use dried or finely chopped fresh herbs to make a herb-spice oil to brush the baked rolls. Parsley, oregano, basil or mixed herbs are some options.
- Parmesan Cheese: Adds more flavor with the herb-spice oil.
Ingredients For French Onion Roll Variation
- Gruyere Cheese: This will give the characteristic French onion flavor in combination with the caramelized onions. Cheddar or gouda cheeses are other options to choose. Mozzarella cheese will give less flavor but nice cheese pull. So you could even combine the cheeses.
- Fresh Thyme: This goes well with the French onion flavor here. Use the leaves plucked from the sprigs.
How to Make Onion Bread Rolls
Brief overview below. First the traditional version and then the French onion variation. *Full recipe at the end of blog post.
- Sautéed Onions: Sauté onions until softened and translucent. Reserve ¼ for topping later. Cook the remaining onions until lightly caramelized. Set aside.
- Activate Yeast: Sprinkle yeast and sugar on warm milk. Let it rest until it foams up.
- First Hydration: Add some bread flour, honey, eggs, extra virgin olive oil, salt, onion powder and pepper. Combine to form a sticky mass and let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Knead Dough: Add bread flour gradually, and knead the dough at medium speed until it's slightly tacky, soft, and pulls away from the bowl.
- Add Onions: Incorporate sautéed onions into the dough at low speed.
- First Rise: Allow the dough to rise and double in bulk in a warm place.
- Shape The Rolls: Divide the dough and shape into smooth rolls, tucking loose ends underneath and sealing them well.
- Second Rise: Arrange rolls in a baking pan and let them rise to double in size.
- Topping and Bake: Brush egg wash on rolls. Top with sautéed onions and poppy seeds, bake and brush with melted butter or herb-spice oil.
- Herb-Spice Oil (Optional): Combine extra virgin olive oil, dried herbs, red pepper flakes and salt. Brush onion rolls with herb oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
French Onion Cheese Filling (optional variation)
- The quantity of filling is sufficient for half the dough.
- Roll out the dough into a 6x16 inch rectangle and brush with olive oil. Top with cheeses and thyme.
- Starting from the longer end of the rectangle, fold the dough over, sealing the edges.
- Cut into 8 rolls and place on a parchment-lined cast iron skillet. Let rise until double in size.
- Brush egg wash on rolls. Top with sautéed onions and poppy seeds. Bake the French onion rolls, brush with melted butter and sprinkle thyme on top.
Watch carefully to avoid burnt onions. Onions release water at first but will dry up in a few minutes of cooking on cast iron.
Stir occasionally for even cooking, but not too much or it'll turn into onion jam. Drain in a colander or air dry on a plate if too moist.
To avoid using excess flour and ending up with dry rolls, go slow with the addition of flour, giving enough time to absorb the liquids. Confirm gluten formation by conducting the window pane test; if it's not formed, knead for a bit longer.
Make 2 variations of onion rolls by dividing the dough into two halves. Make one plain and the other with cheese filing.
The rolls can be baked in a 9 x 13 baking pan or two 9 inch round pans. You can also check out other pans sizes.
These onion rolls are vegetarian, soy free and nut free. Here are some variations you could try, but I have not tested some of them.
- Vegan: Opt for olive oil or vegan butter instead of dairy butter, and use plant-based milk instead of dairy milk. Omit cheese from the recipe and replace honey with maple syrup. To make the dough, skip the eggs and increase the amount of milk until the dough is tacky.
- Gluten Free: You can try using gluten free all purpose flour, but may need to adjust the liquid amounts. Here is a gluten free rolls recipe you could try to use as a base.
- Dairy Free: Opt for olive oil or vegan butter instead of dairy butter, and use plant-based milk instead of dairy milk. Skip the cheese in the recipe.
- Higher Protein: Add more cheese or stuff with meat.
- Flavor Variations: Use ‘everything bagel seasoning’ instead of poppy seeds. Add extra onion filling along with the cheeses in the French onion cheese variation. Try adding some chopped sausage to the filling inside the rolls.
- Healthy Additions: These savory rolls take on addition of flaxseed meal, wheat bran or oat bran very well. Alternatively you can substitute ⅓ of the flour with whole wheat flour.
These versatile rolls can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.
Snack: They are great simply as a snack with a spread like muhammara.
Burger Buns: These are excellent with meat burgers or meat patties.
As a Side: Serve with soups such as mediterranean white bean soup or stews such as sausage and bean and sausage stew.
Breakfast: Onion rolls are delicious with Moroccan shakshuka or baghali ghatogh (Persian beans and eggs).
Cook onions until soft and with sweet flavor, being careful not to burn them. If too moist, drain in a colander or air dry on a plate. Mix the onions into the dough until well combined, being gentle to avoid mashing them.
Wrap them in paper towels and place them in plastic bags. They can be stored at room temperature for up to four days. If you need to store them for a longer period, freeze them by packing them in freezer-safe bags and freezing for up to two months. Simply thaw and warm them up in the oven or toaster oven.
You can try the delicious French onion variation in the recipe below. And check the suggestions above under “variations” for testing vegan, gluten free and dairy free options. There are also other flavor variations and healthy additions.
More Onion Recipes
- Onion Salad (Four Ways)
- Veggie Mac and Cheese (with French onion twist)
- Kabob Koobideh (onions add a characteristic flavor)
- Low Carb Pizza Recipe (with French onion twist)
★ DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? PLEASE COMMENT AND GIVE IT A STAR RATING BELOW!
Onion Rolls (2 Ways)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ lb yellow onions peeled and finely diced
- 2 pinches salt
- 1 cup warm milk
- 2½ teaspoons dry yeast fast-acting, or active-dry see note
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 4 cups bread flour adjust as needed
- 3 tablespoons honey or ¼ cup sugar
- 2 large eggs save half an egg for egg wash
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1¼ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons poppy seeds or sesame seeds
- ½ tablespoon melted butter or extra virgin olive oil, to brush on top
Herb Oil Topping (Optional)
Optional Cheese Filling (Quantity for ½ the Dough)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup grated gruyere cheese cheddar or gouda cheese
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves plucked from sprigs
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese optional
- Melt butter in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add diced onions and 2 pinches of salt. Sauté for 4 minutes until softened and translucent. Reserve ¼ of onions for later. Cook remaining onions for another 3-4 minutes until they have some color but aren't burnt. Let cool and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook, pour warm milk (125° Fahrenheit) and sprinkle yeast, followed by sugar. Let it rest in a warm place until the yeast foams up, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add 3½ cups bread flour, honey, eggs, extra virgin olive oil, salt, onion powder, and pepper. Mix at low speed until it forms a sticky mass, then let it sit for 15 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the moisture. Tip: Scrape down the bowl as needed.
- Add bread flour gradually, 2 tablespoons at a time, allowing it to absorb the liquid. Knead the dough at medium speed for 5-10 minutes until it's slightly tacky, soft, and pulls away from the bowl.Tip: Check for gluten formation with the window pane test. If not, knead some more time.
- Add the sautéed onions and incorporate into the dough at low speed, about 1 minute.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let it rise in a warm place until double in bulk, about 1 hour or more.
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and transfer to a floured surface. Divide it into 16 pieces and shape into smooth rolls, tucking loose ends underneath and sealing them well.
- Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper, arrange the rolls smooth side up, spaced apart. Cover with oiled cling wrap or a moist kitchen towel and let them rise in a warm place until doubled in size, for about 30 minutes.
Topping and Bake
- Whisk half an egg and brush it on top of the rolls. Sprinkle reserved sautéed onions and poppy seeds. Bake until the rolls are golden brown on the top and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Brush with melted butter or herb-spice oil (below) and serve immediately.
Herb-Spice Oil (Optional)
- Combine extra virgin olive oil, dried herbs, red pepper flakes and salt. Brush rolls with herb oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Optional Variation: French Onion Cheese Filling
- Use half the dough for this variation or double the filling ingredients.
- Roll out the dough into a 6x16 inch rectangle. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle grated gruyere cheese, thyme, and parmesan cheese (optional) evenly.
- Starting from the longer end of the rectangle fold over and seal the edges by pinching them. Cut into 8 portions of 2-inch width using a pizza wheel or sharp knife.
- Place the rolls in a parchment paper-lined 9-inch cast iron skillet or round pan, spaced apart. Cover and let them rise in a warm place until double in size, for about 30 minutes or more.
- Whisk half an egg and brush it on top of the rolls. Sprinkle reserved sautéed onions and poppy seeds. Bake until the rolls are golden brown on the top and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with thyme, and serve immediately.
- Warm milk to 120-130°F for rapid rise yeast and 110°F for active dry yeast, following the yeast package instructions.
- Onion Powder or Dried Onion Flakes: Use this to enhance onion flavor.
- Tips for Success:
- Ensure the yeast has foamed up well before adding other ingredients.
- Allow enough time for the dough to double in size during the first and second rise in a warm environment.
- For better rising, place the dough or rolls in an unheated oven with a pan of hot water on the rack below, but not too close to the dough.
- Optional Healthy Additions: 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal, wheat bran or oat bran. Alternatively substitute ⅓ flour with whole wheat flour
- Make 2 variations by dividing the dough into two halves. Make one plain and the other with cheese filing.
- Make Ahead: You can cook the onions ahead. Make dough, let it rise, deflate and refrigerate. Let it come to room temperature before shaping the rolls and baking.
- Storage: Wrap cooled rolls in paper towels and pack in plastic bags. You may store at room temperature for up to 4 days.
- Freeze: Pack the bread rolls in freezer-safe bags and freeze for 2 months. Thaw and warm it up in oven or toaster oven.
- Nutrition facts based on plain onion roll.
- Check blog post above for more tips, variations, and FAQs, etc.