Easy Southern Crispy Fried Onion Rings made from scratch, and pan-fried in a cast-iron skillet are light, crunchy, and delicious!
Thinly sliced and more like onion straws or onion strings, these easy onion rings are tasty cruciferous vegetables bathed in buttermilk and coated with a light dusting of flour. Then they are quickly pan-fried, which makes them extra crispy, and incredibly flavorful! Like my Fried Crab Claws, they are versatile and can also be served as an appetizer or side dish.
I can promise you that these tasty morsels will disappear right before your eyes, and well, there is no telling how many you will have to taste, just to make sure they are perfect! I mean, you wouldn’t want to serve anything to your family that hasn’t been taste-tested first. Right?
What kind of onions are best?
If you are lucky enough to be able to find them, Vidalia onions, which are grown in only 20 counties in Georgia, have a mild, sweet taste and make awesome onion rings. However, they are only available from late-April through mid-November.
If you can’t find Vidalias, you can use another sweet or yellow onion. I don’t recommend using red onions, and I think they are too strong.
Here’s what you need for this recipe:
The ingredients are simple: sweet onions (preferably Vidalia), all-purpose flour, ground red pepper, kosher salt, peanut oil or another vegetable oil, and buttermilk. That’s it!
How to cut the rings:
First, cut the stem end off, then peel the onion. Place the peeled onion on a cutting board and then, using a sharp knife or mandoline, slice it to your desired thickness. I prefer thinner rings, but you can make them thicker if you like. Separate the rings.
If you are making strings, definitely use a mandoline, and don’t worry about keeping the rings intact.
Why soak onion rings before frying?
Many folks soak them in ice water before frying to get rid of the strong taste and crisp them up a bit. I like to soak mine in buttermilk instead. A buttermilk soak also neutralizes any strong taste, plus it also helps the coating stick and keeps it from falling off when they are cooked.
How to make this recipe:
1. Add buttermilk to a shallow bowl and soak the rings in the buttermilk for at least an hour.
2. When you are ready to cook them, preheat the oil in a dutch oven or large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat to 350 degrees F.
3. When the oil is hot, take a handful of the rings, let any excess buttermilk drip off, and dredge them in the flour mixture. Shake off any excess flour and add to the hot oil.
4. Use a fork to separate the rings, so they don’t clump together. Fry for one to two minutes or until they are golden brown.
5. Observe them; they can go from perfect to burned in a matter of seconds.
6. Repeat as needed until all of the onions are cooked. Drain on paper towels.
7. Serve immediately while they are still hot.
What to serve with them?
These buttermilk onion rings can be served as a tasty snack, or yummy side dish for just about any meal, but they are also a perfect topping for a ribeye steak, blackened steak, pecan-crusted fish fillets, your burgers, or pulled pork sandwiches.
This recipe is easy to scale up. No matter how much you are planning to make, do me a favor and at least double it! You will thank me later.
The most important aspect of this recipe besides the type of onion is to make sure your oil is at the optimum temperature of 350 degrees. Use a candy thermometer to confirm. If the oil is cooler, your rings will be greasy, and if it’s hotter, they will most likely burn.
I have called for two cups of oil in this recipe. You may need more or less depending on the size of your pan. The oil should be about an inch deep.
You can keep the onion rings warm by putting them on an oven-safe plate in a 225-degree oven for up to 30 minutes or until you are ready to serve them.
I always use peanut oil when frying. Canola, grapeseed, safflower, or rice bran oil are suitable substitutes because they all have a high smoke point.
I usually use a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven for this recipe. A Dutch oven with its high sides helps to minimize grease splatter.
More Southern recipes:
If you like this recipe, you might also like these other great recipes with a Southern spin: Easy Southern Lump Blue Crab Cakes, Easy Classic Southern Tomato Pie, Southern Cheese Grits Casserole, Kay’s Southern Pimento Cheese Spread, and Southern Pecan Praline Cake.
Here are a few more suggestions: Easy Southern-Style Broccoli Salad, Southern-Style Baked Mac and Cheese, and Southern-Style Sweet Onion Casserole.
If you need more menu ideas, here is a link to all of my Southern recipes.
★ If you make this recipe, please consider rating it and leaving a comment. I’d love to know how you liked it!
Thank you so much for visiting Grits and Pinecones. I hope you’ll come back soon!
Southern Style Crispy Onion Rings Recipe
- 2 large sweet onions Vidalia if available, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground red pepper
- 2 cups peanut oil
- Peel and slice the onions as thin as possible. Separate the rings.
- Place the onion rings in a shallow bowl and cover with buttermilk. Allow the onions to soak in the buttermilk for at least an hour.
- Combine the flour, salt, and red pepper in a shallow bowl.
- Preheat the oil in a dutch oven or cast-iron skillet to 350 degrees F.
- When the oil is hot, take a handful of the onion rings and dredge them in the flour mixture. Shake off any excess flour and add to the hot oil. Fry for one to two minutes or until they are golden brown. Watch them carefully; they can go from perfect to burned in a matter of seconds. Repeat as needed until all of the onion rings are cooked. Drain on paper towels.
- Serve immediately while they are still hot.
**This recipe was originally published on June 6, 2017. I republished it on July 30, 2020, with new images, expanded directions, and the addition of helpful tips.
My husband and I really enjoyed these. Just left out the cayene.
I just showed this to a co-worker and she said she has a new job… She is going to move in with you and you cook and she will eat 🙂
I believe that would be a great job. Only problem; if Sharon cooked like that all the time, I would gain way too much weight. Love her recipes.
Crazy, I had onion rings yesterday.. from Whataburger.. LOL Have not had onion rings in forever .. and there you are making them like it is just another day .. Yours look amazing and I would have eaten that whole plate ….. Yes ma’am!
OMG – these look incredible!
Thanks Chula! They are really, really good! I had a hard time not eating all of them!
These look awesome! Hard to get in New Jersey. Our favorite old fashioned drive-in recently closed and this looks like their onion rings. I’m going to try it out.
Hi Mary Ann, thank you for your nice comment! They are really good and very addictive! If you make them let me know how you like them!
I just made these yesterday for dinner. They turned out delicious! Everyone loved them and it seems it IS the same recipe as our beloved restaurant that is now closed.
Thanks so much for sharing Mary Ann! I’m so glad you and your family enjoyed them!
Melissa | Bless this Mess
Mmmm…onion rings! So yummy and so easy! Love that pan!
Hi Melissa, thank you! Yes, they are really yummy! I love the pan too and actually just bought it at an arts and crafts show. It’s hand-forged and if you are interested, you can buy one on Etsy. It was made by Matthew Shirey at Shira Forge.