Onions: A Favorite Not-So-Secret Ingredient

Onions: A Favorite Not-So-Secret Ingredient

The spring onion enhances the flavor of many Panera Bread meals.

“I remember when I was a kid, running through the grass in late April and early May, kicking the shoots of wild onions,” says Dan Kish, Panera Bread’s head chef and vice president of food. “Their perfume would fill the air. It was like tripping over spring,” he laughs.

That sweet aroma coupled with a delicate, thin skin and creamy white interior, lend these seasonal bulbs a unique spot in the larder. It’s also what makes them a crucial ingredient in many Panera Bread menu favorites. Because they have a higher water and sugar content than storage onions (which dominate grocery store bins in the fall and winter), spring onions tend to be mild and sweet rather than robust in flavor.

“I like to use spring onions much in the same way I use fresh herbs,” says Dan. “You don’t want to destroy the flavor properties by cooking them too long.”

And though sweet onions can stand alone, they’re most often used to enhance the flavor of a wide range of lightly cooked dishes. We’ve made them the flavor star of our Chive and Onion Cream Cheese.  “The onion is cooked just enough to release its delicate flavor.”

Onions are good for you, too. Early American settlers used wild onions to fight the common cold, and today researchers have discovered that there is a wealth of health benefits stacked between an onion’s many layers. Rich in antioxidants, onions are a good source of vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, and dietary fiber. They are also low in sodium and fat-free.

Onion Facts: Who Knew?

  • Onions date back to 2,500 B.C.
  • Ancient Egyptians believed onions were a symbol of eternity for the afterlife and placed them alongside the dead in tombs
  • Musicians, including The Beatles (“Glass Onion,” from The White Album), Booker T. and the MG’s (“Green Onions,” from the album with the same title), and Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (“The Onion Song,” a Motown single, from the Easy album), have sung songs around the bulb
  • Worldwide onion production totals 105 billion pounds a year