A blooming onion is a type of appetizer made from an onion that is cut in a way so the layers separate and create a shape that resembles a flower in bloom with many individual petals. The onion is usually cut multiple times before being dipped in a batter and deep fried in oil. The oil causes the batter to expand and forces the onion to open, creating a large and dramatic presentation. In most instances, a blooming onion is served with some type of dipping sauce that can contain ingredients such as horseradish, mayonnaise or chili peppers. The blooming onion is usually eaten by pulling away the individual petals that have been formed and dipping them into the sauce that is placed in the center of the bloom.
The original Bloomin' Onion® was created as an appetizer for the Outback Steakhouse® restaurant chain, where it grew in popularity and soon was copied by other chains. Larger onions are generally used in the preparation, making the dish appropriate for groups of people as opposed to just one person. The entire process of creating a blooming onion, from the deep frying to the dipping sauce, deals more with presentation and taste than with health and nutrition, and some versions of the dish contain in excess of 2,000 calories.
The way the onion is cut is the basis for creating a blooming onion. The top of the onion is cut off so the individual layers inside the onion are exposed and detached at one end. The onion is then cut from the flattened top down toward the base, but not all the way through; some portion of the tough end is left intact to keep the layers together during cooking. Several of these cuts are made to form the petals of the bloom, sometimes as few as two cuts to make four thick petals; other times, as many as 14 cuts make thin petals. Machines or cutting guides are sometimes used to make the task easier and to prevent the onion from coming apart when cut.
The sliced onion is sometimes soaked in ice water, causing the layers to spread and separate. After this, the onion is dipped into a flour-based batter and may be sprinkled with breadcrumbs and spices. The whole onion is then lowered into hot oil and deep fried so the expanding batter forces the individual petals to spread farther apart, creating its distinctive blooming appearance.