Onion-free substitute for cream soups in casseroles
January 31, 2021 6:17 PM   Subscribe

Onions make my mouth itch (yes, even in soups). I’d like to make a casserole, but most of them have cream-based soups as an ingredient. I haven’t found a cream soup that doesn’t have onions in the ingredients. What can I use as a substitute?

Cream soups=cream of mushroom, cream of corn, cream of chicken, etc
posted by pxe2000 to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Are you against making your own cream-of-whatever soup? You can just make your own and leave out the onions. I'd simmer it quite a while to thicken it (since casseroles usually call for condensed soup). Here's one that even specifies cooking it down to make it "condensed" -- leave out the onion powder, obviously.

Depending on the flavors involved, you can use sour cream in place of condensed cream soups, thinning it with a bit of milk if desired. Of course you'll lose the flavor of chicken, mushrooms, potatoes, or what-have-you, and I can imagine in some recipes it'd taste a little weird, but in a lot it works fine, and you can always pump up the seasonings so you don't notice the missing chicken flavor because you've got interesting spices happening. When I've been caught out without a can of cream-of-whatever and MUST make a particular family holiday recipe, this is how I usually substitute on the fly. It's a bit bland on its own but I could imagine reworking the recipe a bit and getting somewhere good.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:31 PM on January 31, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you are willing to do just a little cooking instead of just opening a can, make a simple white sauce also known as a béchamel sauce.

You can also make it with cornstarch instead of flour (which is the way my mother taught me - the trick is to disolve the cornstarch in a cold liquid before you add it to anything hot)

With either flour or cornstarch you can adjust the how thick or thin the sauce is by shifting the proportion of liquid used.

Starting with the basic white sauce, you can add more flavor with any spice that fits the dish you are making.
posted by metahawk at 6:33 PM on January 31, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Sautée mushrooms in butter until soft. Add in one part milk. Reserve one part milk and whisk in 1-4 TB flour before adding that. Add salt, pepper, or bullion cube. Add powdered garlic, dried herbs, nutritional yeast or cheese as desired. Simmer on very low until thickened. Freeze in cubes or use fresh for any cream casserole recipe.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:39 PM on January 31, 2021 [5 favorites]

I would use the same amount of evaporated milk with an appropriate bouillon cube added (if they make onion free ones?).
posted by Youremyworld at 7:00 PM on January 31, 2021 [2 favorites]

I can't eat dairy, so I make a roux (equal parts flour & fat, butter's good, or olive oil) cooked for a few minutes, then slowly whisk in add stock, usually chicken, but other stock, broth, milk will work. Season well; canned soups have a lot of salt, and whatever herbs you like.
posted by theora55 at 7:13 PM on January 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cream of mushroom soup in casseroles is itself a substitute for a white sauce. Here's a recipe.
posted by shadygrove at 7:20 PM on January 31, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Vegan "cream of" soups commonly use nut butters, seed butters, and coconut milk. Asafoetida is sometimes used instead of onions/garlic.
posted by aniola at 7:33 PM on January 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you're going to be cooking/baking the casserole anyway, I think you can just add proportional ingredients instead: cream or butter + milk (butter freezes better, plus you could use dehydrated milk powder stored in the freezer), flour (whisked/blended into something so it doesn't form lumps), herbs, mushrooms (optional). Mix everything together into the casserole and bake as usual, as long as you'd be baking/cooking long enough to cook the dairy and flour so they thicken up.
posted by amtho at 7:38 PM on January 31, 2021

You can also use Greek yoghurt which, depending on the brand, may be thinner than sour cream. Again, augment with other flavours to suit the recipe.

Just in case you haven't already checked, many stocks/bouillon cubes also include onion (and garlic, if that is also a problem).
posted by Athanassiel at 8:51 PM on January 31, 2021

Yeah, bechamel is the answer. It’s useful for a lot of other things as well (Mac and cheese, biscuits and gravy). And you can make it in bulk and freeze it, which, incidentally, I just did over the weekend.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:28 AM on February 1, 2021

Are you asking for an ingredient to substitute for onions? It hard to guess what is and what isn't too onionlike. The first thing that comes to mind is a leek. Possibly also a ramp, but I only know those from TV. Possibly shallots. Possibly chives. Possibly even scallions may be kinder to you. And along that line, all onions are not the same. It could be that you could tolerate a Vidalia (sp?); they are grown is soil with low sulfur and contain little of some of regular onions more active compounds.

If the food is too bland if you just omit the onions, I'd try a spoonful of a bottled sauce that complements the dish. Worcestershire, hoisin, fish sauce, anything in the grocery store.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:01 AM on February 1, 2021

Best answer: Seconding that if you want onion-like flavor a pretty effective substitute is asafoetida aka hing. You will probably have to get it from a spice store online or an Indian specialty store. There are some people with religious objections to onion and garlic, and hing is the usual substitution.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:04 AM on February 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

While I was browsing through food sites, I found this on the serious eats front page: Nutritional Yeast: Savory, “Cheesy,” and Not Just for Vegans and read it, because I am desperate for entertainment. Way down in the article, there is this, which might be of use:
Like in broth, here nooch works because of its glutamate content. When recreating green bean casserole as a vegan recipe, cookbook author Kristin Donnelly reached for a combination of garlic powder and nutritional yeast to mimic what one would find in a store-bought can of cream of mushroom soup, which she also used to similar effect in a spinach and artichoke dip. Both those recipes use puréed cauliflower for body, which can be dull on its own, but nutritional yeast jazzes it up with the intensely satisfying salty flavor that one has come to expect from processed foods. Here, though, it’s an ingredient with heavy hippie connotations that provides a dose of B vitamins along with that umami punch.
Personally, I prefer using rehydrated, dried mushrooms for umami, with the liquid they rehydrated in.
Another thing I thought about is sweetness. Onions bring a lot of sweetness to sauces, which you might miss if you leave them out. My own solution would be to taste, and then if I need more sweetness I'd just add a teaspoon of sugar or sirup, or alternatively a spoonful of double cream or butter. Another option is to use other sweet vegetables like peas and carrots in the casserole.
posted by mumimor at 10:12 AM on February 1, 2021

Best answer: While I was writing the above, I was also making "leftover stuff spaghetti" and it turned out insanely delicious. Bake this in the oven with some breadcrumbs on top, and serve with a salad, and you will be a happy person. Though maybe not a skinny person, if you don't work out a lot.
I had a bit of cream, maybe two tbs of gorgonzola, some parmigiano reggiano, that I put altogether in a saucer at low heat. Meanwhile, I started a pot of water for cooking the pasta with plenty of salt. When the pasta was al dente, I added some butter and pepper to the sauce, and when the butter was completely immersed, I added some pasta water and the pasta to the sauce, and then stirred until the sauce was thick and coated every strand of spaghetti completely. Then I sat down and ate and felt I was in pasta heaven, and that this could easily become a glorious casserole. You could add dices of ham. Or cauliflower florets. Definitely eggs turned into the mix before baking. Shreds of kale would work well too.
posted by mumimor at 10:36 AM on February 1, 2021

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