It’s very common to begin a recipe by sautéing onions. But are there any recipes where you instead simmer them in a liquid, to get a different flavour profile? I am picturing sautéing some shallots in cream and I’d like to know where this could lead forward to.

  • It would likely be called ‘steeping’, as sauté is basically a western stir fry. (It means ‘jump’ in French, as you keep the food moving for a proper sauté)
    – Joe
    Nov 20, 2021 at 17:27
  • Also consider ‘sweating’, which is cooking over low heat so they give off liquid.
    – Joe
    Nov 20, 2021 at 17:28
  • 2
    Yes. A béchamel sauce begins by simmering milk with onions, spices and herbs. These are then removed, and the flavour infused milk is then thickened with a roux.
    – Billy Kerr
    Nov 20, 2021 at 17:34
  • 3
    @BillyKerr, there's no reason that comment can't be an answer here.
    – Carmi
    Nov 24, 2021 at 8:45
  • @Carmi - hmmm not sure I should answer it really, since the questions as it stands is more or less a recipe request, which is technically off-topic here.
    – Billy Kerr
    Nov 24, 2021 at 10:52

1 Answer 1


In some cases, you need to get the flavour to come out of its source and into the dish. Some flavours (flavour molecules) are soluble in water and others in fat, so different spices need different treatment.

Specifically with onions, they are a different case. We usually aren't only extracting the flavour from the onions but rather "releasing" and modifying it within the onions. The cooking changes the flavour.

An example of getting flavour out of products by cooking in water rather than oil is almost any soup. Onions in an onion soup, or any of the vegetables in a vegetable or chicken soup, and of course mushrooms in a mushroom or even miso soup are all examples of this.

  • A lot of soup recipes I know begin by sweating mirepoix. Could you provide an example of a soup recipe where the aromatics are not fried first, but placed directly in the water? Nov 24, 2021 at 10:32
  • @PeterElbert Miso soup is my go-to example. In the versions I know, the stock/base (tare) is made with seaweed in water. Then the mushrooms and other ingredients go into the water directly. You don't usually get onions in a miso soup, but I do know people who put leek in it.
    – Carmi
    Nov 25, 2021 at 11:17
  • @PeterElbert classic stock?
    – Stephie
    Nov 26, 2021 at 12:24
  • @PeterElbert although not placed in water, an onion cloute/pique is used for bechamel sauce.
    – Mr Shane
    Dec 19, 2021 at 22:57

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