There is evidence that onions have been in use as far back as 5,000 BC. This vegetable has been found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs and because of its many layers was thought to be representative of eternal life. Most archaeologists believe that it originated in Central Asia. It is likely that it was simultaneously cultivated in many different cultures around the world.
Both the ancient Greeks and Romans had onions as a regular part of their diet. The Romans would carry onions with them on their journeys to their English provinces. Pliny the Elder documented the Roman belief in onions as a medicine. Onions were thought to treat conditions like poor vision and to heal dog bites.
Onion powder is made from onion bulbs that have been dried and ground to powder. The precise location of this spice’s origin is also lost to history, though it is most likely in the Middle East with Egypt possibly being among the first places to grind dried onions. Note that onions have been preserved by drying since very early on in their domestication. Today, the US is the largest producer of onion powder and India is the second largest.
Flavor profile of onion powder
Onions have a distinctive pungent flavor that includes sweetness, sulfur and hints of garlic. Onion powder has that flavor, but the pungency is reduced. That flavor is the result of a volatile oil that is rich in sulfur. It is that same compound that causes us to cry when we chop onions.
Health benefits of onion powder
- Low-fat and low-calorie: You can use onion powder in most recipes without adding significant amounts of fat or calories, which means that it can help you to lose weight. A teaspoon of onion powder contains a mere 8 calories and is almost fat-free. As a result, you can use as much as you want with no negative effects on health.
- Low sodium: Onion powder flavors food without adding any salt. There is just 2 mg of sodium in a 1 teaspoon serving of onion powder.
- Minerals: Onion powder is a good source of several important minerals including potassium, magnesium and calcium. Potassium helps with the regulation of blood pressure and a teaspoon serving of onion powder provides about 24 mg of it. That same serving size also provides you with 3 mg of magnesium, which is important for bone and immune system health. The 9 mg of calcium found in a teaspoon of onion powder can help to build strong bones and teeth; your body also needs it for muscle function.
- Fiber: Each tablespoon of onion powder contains about 1 g of dietary fiber, which is approximately the same amount of fiber found in a medium-sized tomato.
The nutrients from onion powder can also help with the treatment and prevention of health conditions such as:
- Heart problems: Onion powder’s low-fat and salt-free characteristics combined with its potassium content make it useful for treating a variety of heart ailments.
- Constipation: The high fiber content in onion powder can relieve constipation and can be helpful for preventing colorectal cancer.
- Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis affects one in two women and one in four men over the age of 50. It is characterized by a loss of bone mass. The calcium in onion powder can be beneficial for maintaining bone density, thus helping to stave off this condition.
Common uses of onion powder
Onion powder is ideal for dishes where the onion flavor is desired but not the bulk of the onion itself. It is popular for use in dry rubs for grilled meat, salad dressings and soups.