Egyptian Walking Onions
Updated: Jun 27, 2022
Egyptian Walking Onions (aka Egyptian onions, walking onions, tree onions, or topset onions) are a unique aromatic that looks like a leek but is one of the spiciest onions you'll encounter. Originally from West Asia and introduced to Europe by the Romans, they are an unlikely find in grocery stores. These onions are instead a gardener's favorite because of their unusual growing behavior, which makes them easy to propagate.
Why are they called walking onions?
Walking Onions are so named because onion bulbs grow at the top of the stalk (aka topsets) rather than the standard pretty little onion flowers. As the bulbs grow, the stalks become top heavy and fall over, and bulbs take root in the ground. The following year the new plant will bulb at the top of the stalk again, become heavy, fall over, and over the years, the plants will "walk" across a field.
How do you store them?
Store them as you would leeks or scallions, wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator. Be sure to fully seal them. They give off a strong odor that will fill your refrigerator. Stored this way they can last 2 weeks or more.
What do you do with them?
Well, this is trickier than you might think. Everywhere I turned referred to them as "spicy" when raw, and my own taste test confirmed it. Most articles I found out there (and there weren't many) said to avoid eating them raw, and I am inclined to agree unless you like raw onions. A lot. That said, any attempt to roast or caramelize them to sweeten their flavor will result in weirdly tough onions. These onions are actually closer to shallots in texture, and I encourage you to try the cherished crispy shallot technique (Bon Appetit's Crispy Fried Shallots recipe is a great resource.) Sprinkle them over almost anything you would fried shallots or crispy onion rings (I didn't try it but I bet they're great over string beans). It makes an excellent condiment, and the leftover oil is also a delicious base for a hearty vinaigrette.