Here are 15 budget meals where onions take centre stage

A bag of onions can cost as little as 85p, and while onions are often the backbone of so many meals, they can actually make a brilliant centrepiece, with a little ingenuity.

From classic dishes like French onion soup to bean and caramelised onion stew, there are so many ways to make this thrifty ingredient stretch. Master the basics like how to caramelise onions and how to make onion gravy below, then try our 15 favourite recipes where onions are the star ingredient.

Here are 15 budget meals where onions take centre stage

How to caramelise onions

Caramelised onions crop up in many of the below recipes, and offer intense sweet and savouriness that brings many dishes alive. Caramelising onions is not a complicated process, but it is one that takes time and should not be rushed. We find the best way is to start with lots of onions sliced thinly. It’s easiest and quickest to cut an onion in half horizontally then do this on a mandolin, but if you don’t have one, slicing in half vertically and following the onions natural grooves with a sharp knife will achieve good results too.

Get a heavy bottomed pan on a low heat and add plenty of butter or oil. It’s important to cook at least 3 onions at a time, as the quantity in the pan vastly affects the cooking process. You need the liquid from the onions to seep out and stop them from burning, and to create a silky, soft result. Add the sliced onions to the pot, along with a pinch of salt then allow to slowly cook, stirring every 5-10 minutes, for at least 30 minutes. You can add a tablespoon or two of sugar or a splash of balsamic or wine vinegar to the dish. Once cooked, you can store the onions in a container or jar in the fridge for up to 5 days. Use on pizzas, in sandwiches, in pies or in omelettes. Or in one of the tasty dishes below…

How to make onion gravy

The best onion gravy can turn an ordinary meal into something special. To make the most delicious onion gravy, we recommend reducing stock until it’s thick gravy as it’s so much more flavourful than using a thickener such as flour. The process is simple: melt butter, add sliced onions with a big pinch of salt, stir until the onions are all coated in the fat and then add a splash of water, cover and cook on low for 20 minutes.


Add any flavourings such as balsamic vinegar, sugar, thyme leaves, bay leaves and pink peppercorns, then pour plenty of chicken, beef or veg stock to cover, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and leave for at least 45 minutes to gently reduce. For an intense gravy, you want to reduce the amount of liquid by half.

15 ways with a bag of onions

Ultimate French onion soup

Onion recipes don’t get much more indulgent than French onion soup, which is rich and velvety and alongside a bag of onions needs only beef stock, cider or wine, butter and some woody herbs. We count ourselves lucky we live in the same world as this soup.

French onion soup

Find the recipe here

Stuffed baked onions

These simple and elegant stuffed onions are a perfect vegetarian recipe, and even better, they’re fancy enough for dinner parties. The nutty filling provides plenty of protein, but do serve these with a good serrated knife to get through the onions outer layers.

Baked onions

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Ultimate pissaladière

You’ve got to give it to them, the French do seem to know the value of a good onion… In this Provençal dish, sweet caramelised onions are paired with sharp anchovies and olives for an impactful dinner to serve 4.


Find the recipe here

Prebranac (caramelised onion baked beans)

This recipe is one of the cheapest of the lot at just 51p a portion. It’s a Serbian dish of slow-cooked butter beans with caramelised onions – think homemade baked beans served with crusty bread for a filling (and vegan) dinner.


Find the recipe here

Sausages and sticky balsamic onions

Patience will reward you: don’t try to rush the caramelised onions as time is a key ingredient. We love the addition of balsamic vinegar, and this is perfect served with buttery mash.


Find the recipe here

Onion pizza

Pizza dough is inexpensive, and you can top yours with whatever you like! Here we’ve used crème fraîche, pancetta and two types of onions, but chillies and onions is also a great pairing if you need your pizza to be vegetarian.


Find the recipe here

Onion porridge risotto

Onion porridge! Don’t let the name scare you, this clever recipe from Gill Meller takes humble ingredients for a mighty result.

Onion porridge

Fried eggs with spicy onions and spinach

A simple, one-pan dinner that costs just £1.70 a portion, evidence that “brinner” (breakfast for dinner) is always worth considering…


Find the recipe here

Red onion soup

French onion soup but with red onions… we would. Good quality stock is the key here, but you could easily swap beef stock out for a vegetarian alternative if you prefer. Serve with cheesy sourdough melts and watch the crowds queue up…

Onion soup

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Vegan caramelised onion tart

Vegan mains don’t come much more delicious than our caramelised onion tart made with cashew cream and a kale, spinach and slow cooked onion filling. Onions do not need to be caramelised in butter after all.

Vegan tart

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Onion and pepper frittata

With just eggs, peppers, and the stars – both spring and red onions – you can create a flavoursome and filling dinner for 4. Plus we have it on good authority that frittata never goes out of fashion.


Find the recipe here

Pork stuffed red onions

Bored of the same old dishes? May we present: pork, fennel, apple and sage stuffed onions. These beauties will get your guests talking and all you need on the side is nice golden roast potatoes.

Pork stuffed red onions

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French onion panade

Feeling pangs for panade? If you’ve never had one before, think layers of bread, cheese, and slowly caramelised sticky onions… A one pot wonder.

French onion panade

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Caramelised onion tarte tatin

This five ingredient marvel is a thrifty cook’s friend, made with inexpensive puff pastry, onions, rosemary, a little butter and splash of sherry. It tastes so much richer than the sum of its parts, at 99p a portion!

Tarte tatin

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Caramelised onion risotto

This easy dinner takes 3 red onions and turns them into something far more extravagant with the flavours of pale ale, balsamic vinegar and crème fraîche. Topped with parmesan or crumbled goat’s cheese, it’s an easy winner of a winter dinner.

Caramelised onion risotto

Find the recipe here

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