Dishes without onions or garlic
July 26, 2013 9:10 PM   Subscribe

Two of my close friends are allergic to onions and garlic, and I'm running out of ideas for food to make when they come over! Please help me think of some new dishes to try.

When they come over, I mostly make things where the onions and garlic can be subtracted, like pizza (without the garlic I usually add to the dough and sauce) so that everyone can choose their toppings as allergies and taste dictate, or pasta/grain salads with no garlic in the dressing and onions served on the side for anyone who wants them.

I'm a fair cook, either using cook books or making it up as I go, but most of my dishes start out with a couple slugs of olive oil in a pan and a ton of chopped garlic and onion sizzling in it.

I'm running out of inspiration, and tired of just making my old standards and removing the onion and garlic - please suggest some really flavorful dishes that are tasty on their own without having onions/garlic as part of the original recipe! Entrees, appetizers, veggies, just about any cuisine, I'm open!

Challenge rating - we don't eat beef, and I have a hard time with spicy foods and abhor bell peppers.

posted by skycrashesdown to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Manjula's Kitchen has Indian vegetarian recipes all without onions or garlic.
posted by hoyland at 9:14 PM on July 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Salads are actually a really good idea. Can you do a big meal-sized green salad with a protein? I'm not allergic to either onions or garlic, but I don't like eating them raw in salads, so I leave them out and that seems fine. The nice thing about salad is you can leave out almost any item that folks can't eat or don't like. And yet there are always all sorts of ingredients you can have. You can put basically anything in a salad.

Along the same lines --

Pizza with a non-tomato based sauce?


Burgers? (Welp, turkey burgers, I suppose)

A lot of Indian recipes don't use onions or garlic -- there are religious Hindus and Jains who don't eat alliums.
posted by Sara C. at 9:16 PM on July 26, 2013

I too cannot eat garlic, and rarely eat onions. Soups can be good, as long as you check the spices you put in there. Add lots of flavorful veggies like kale, carrots, and potatoes (sweet potatoes are yummy.)

Asian food that you make from scratch can cut the garlic and onions too. I make eggrolls often and just skip adding garlic. (I do use green onion, not sure if that's a problem.) But stir-fry and other Asian inspired meals can be made from scratch. Most teriyaki sauces have garlic, but Kikkoman Sweet and Sour has no garlic - check for onions though. Mix in some Chinese five spice with soy sauce and maybe some brown sugar or honey for some sweetness.

Mix spices from scratch too. Often spice mixes like All-Spice and Italian seasoning mixes have garlic. Instead, buy the spices individually that are in your favorite mix, and don't add onion or garlic. You can season soups, steaks, chicken, what-have-you with the onion and garlic free homemade seasoning mix.

Note on salad - many many many many dressings have garlic and onion. More than you would think. Even some ranches have garlic. Bleu cheese, some ranches, fruit based, and asian style dressings don't usually have garlic. I basically stick to Toasted Sesame dressing.

Basically when it comes to seasoning, sauces, and mixes you want to make them from scratch. The majority of store-bought seasonings have onions and garlic unfortunately. Memail me if you want more specifics.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:19 PM on July 26, 2013

many many many many dressings have garlic and onion. More than you would think. Even some ranches have garlic.

FWIW, making your own salad dressing is both dead easy and much more delicious than the bottled stuff.
posted by Sara C. at 9:21 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think there should be lots of kinds of Chinese food which don't have either. A decent stirfry with marinaded chicken or pork, for instance. Yeah, you can use onion or garlic when making them, but you won't miss them if they're gone. Do you own a wok?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:21 PM on July 26, 2013

As someone who doesn't like to eat garlic and onions, I sympathize with how hard it is to avoid those things. You could make veggie burgers from scratch, various types of chicken (such as with tarragon and lemon), sushi, pasta with butter and salt, omelets, fancy grilled cheese sandwiches, many kinds of salads with home made dressing, rice and bean medleys (or use delicious pre-mixed SooFoo), steak, pork chops, steamed or baked fish with butter, etc.
posted by Dansaman at 9:52 PM on July 26, 2013

Cut up your meat and put it in a plastic bag, along with soy sauce, hoi-sin sauce, and cooking sherry, and leave it in your fridge overnight.

For the main stir fry, you can use any or all of: broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, chestnuts, beansprouts, and pea pods.

Serve with, or without, rice as suits you. It doesn't have any official name, but if you practice it'll come out really good. (The main thing is that some of this stuff has to cook longer to come out right, so you have to stage the order in which you add stuff. In particular, the bean sprouts are last, only 30 seconds before you serve!)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:54 PM on July 26, 2013

Asafoetida is a spice that many people use as an alternative to onions or garlic.
posted by jb at 9:57 PM on July 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

I also use celery to replace onions in recipes like stir fries or stews, where I might use big chunks of onion if my SO didn't hate onions. Celery has a nice flavour and texture when cooked.
posted by jb at 9:59 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Warning: hoisin sauce frequently has garlic in it. Possibly not the best flavouring. There are different varieties of soy sauce though, like tamari, which are umami as well as salty, and you could substitute miso paste in the recipe idea suggested above by Chocolate Pickle.

Other ideas: roast chook and vegies, more steamed vegies/salad on the side. Simple meat/3 veg meals like meatloaf (non-beef mince) + baked potatoes + salad + steamed veg. Shish kebab type things on the grill, with chunks of marinated tofu/chicken/fish/whatever. You can have separate bowls of things so people can assemble their own as long as everyone's okay with them being grilled on the same equipment - your friends can add capsicum (bell pepper) which you don't like, you can add onion which they don't eat. Other vegies like eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, pumpkin, tomatoes are yummy when grilled.

And yes, try asafoetida in your normal recipes instead of the onion and garlic. Be warned, supersmellers will find it smells absolutely revolting when dry. Amazingly, this horribleness goes away when it's cooked, but if you find you can't stand the smell, try an airtight container.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:21 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Peppers, mushrooms and celery sauteed as you are accustomed to saute onions and garlic, make lots of flavor... Fresh herbs, lime juice, and balsamic vinegar add great flavor to cooked foods as well as to fresh veggie dishes. Ham, bacon, italian meats, rich, flavorful cheeses; a flavor bang using relatively small amounts. Pine nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, slivered almonds, toasted, are great in salads, sauces and stirfrys...Make a great pesto...just leave out the garlic, and if you want more zip, add bell peppers, or a little heat...also, to salad dressings, stirfry, pasta dishes...cayenne (be very conservative with that!), serrano peppers chopped small are moderately hot and very tasty...or try a little tabasco, our favorite is chipotle. Jazzes up many dishes. Steamed and stirfry veggies, chicken breasts, baked fish, and lots of meat marinades are all greatly enhanced with the simple go-to seasoning, lemon pepper. And don't forget real butter.
posted by mumstheword at 10:29 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

1 lb fresh green beans, cleaned and trimmed
1 cup oz cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tbs lemon basil, chopped coarsely (or more if you like)
1.5 c balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs butter
Coarse salt to taste

Put balsamic vinegar in small saucepan and place over low heat
(reduce the balsamic to about 1/2c while making rest of dish, Google it to figure out timing. Don't forget you have it going and burn it!)

Heat butter in 12-14" skillet until just starting to brown. Not too brown! You want it to finish browning during the next couple of steps.

Add beans and saute 2-3 minutes (the idea is for the beans to be al dente, not as soft as if boiled)

Add cherry tomatoes and toss to heat tomatoes

Add lemon basil and toss just long enough for lemon basil to start releasing its flavor and aroma

Add balsamic reduction and toss lightly

Turn out onto serving plate and sprinkle with coarse salt as desired

Serve and eat
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 11:10 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lots of summery foods are good without onions or garlic, because you want to keep things fresh and herbal. Try any number of pastas with fast, light sauces made out of a little pasta water and a deglazed pan of the following:

-Cherry tomatoes, broccoli florets, olives, parsley
-Ripped kale, white beans, lemon, thyme
-Sage, prosciutto, white wine
-Bell peppers, basil, chicken

The combinations are quite endless but you'll want to basically pick an herb and maybe three things to match with it. The idea is to keep the herbs at the forefront in exchange of the backbone of onions or garlic, so use them both cooked and fresh on top to get their full dimension.
posted by Mizu at 11:44 PM on July 26, 2013

Chicken Saltimbocca? Great Italian recipe with no garlic, onions, bell peppers, or beef.

I'm also a big fan of a caprese salad for non-onion/garlic Italian.
posted by Muttoneer at 12:03 AM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Watermelon salad.

Slice up some watermelon into large pieces, drizzle olive oil and add feta and chopped basil to taste. Stir and serve.
posted by oceanjesse at 12:06 AM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree with jb about the celery. In some dishes you can also use sliced leeks instead of onions - the result won't be the same, but in many cases it will be good.
posted by Segundus at 1:45 AM on July 27, 2013

Many Buddhists, Jains, and followers of Krishna do not eat onions or garlic for religious reasons, so their recipes might be helpful. Here are a few pages to check out:
Cooking With Kurma
Sanjeev Kapoor
Jain Rasoi
Pham Fatale
Bhavna's Kitchen

As mentioned above, asafoetida is great for imparting a similar flavor without using onions or garlic; it's especially common in Indian cooking. And yes, you will need to segregate it from the rest of your spice cabinet; it is very pungent-smelling and can impart its odor into stuff that is stored nearby if you don't put it in a mostly airtight container. I keep mine in a glass Mason jar.
posted by divined by radio at 6:35 AM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

My mother in law is allergic to onions but can handle chives so I just substitute those in any recipe when she comes over. Might be worth checking with your friends about that.
posted by wwax at 8:39 AM on July 27, 2013

Two words: Fettuccine Alfredo
posted by Talullah at 7:00 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can they handle leeks? Leeks are a good alternative to onions. And chives.

- Various soups, like carrot, celery and leek Soup
- Pasta Carbonara (egg and bacon based sauce)
- Pasta Amatriciana (tomato base with guanciale pork)
- Eggplant Parmigiana
- Anything with a bechamel base, like a tuna-pasta bake or cheesy cauliflower vegetables.

Things that may impart more flavor while cooking if you're lacking punch:

- Caramelization/Roasting (for example, oven-roasting tomatoes with olive oil and salt before blending them in your sauce instead of using fresh or a can)
- Cooking in stock instead of water (Check ingredients or make your own; store bought may contain garlic or onion.)
- Spices
- Herbs

For example, in Bolognese sauce, I find diced sauteed mushroom and carrot to be a great way to add more flavour without adding the onion it's supposed to have. Of course you'd need to subsitute with a meat of your choice. Or alternatively, with enough mushroom you can use that as a base and actually leave the sauce meatless.
posted by Dimes at 11:28 PM on July 27, 2013

Thanks for all the fantastic ideas, everyone, I really appreciate it! I guess I'd just gotten stuck in a rut and was having a really hard time brainstorming new things to try, but now I have all sorts of ideas!!
posted by skycrashesdown at 9:16 AM on July 28, 2013

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