These stuffed onions are a popular and simple dish in Greece called Salantourmasi. Whole onions are filled with a warming spiced rice mixture with cumin, cinnamon, fresh herbs, and crunchy pine nuts and baked in the oven until golden. These gluten free and vegan delights make for a comforting and elegant entree, appetizer, or side dish. 

a close up of stuffed onions in a serving bowl.
Photo Credits: Mariam Hamdy

Stuffed onions, like the many stuffed vegetables in Greek cuisine, are no new phenomenon. You probably know the vegetarian or meat variety of stuffed tomatoes, eggplants, and zucchinis eaten in the heart of summer; or the stuffed cabbage leaves and grape leaves or silver beet leaves in the winter, and the list can go on. 

The humble onion stuffed with an herb and rice mixture will introduce you to a new experience with Greek stuffed vegetables! These stuffed onions are typically served as an appetizer, but you could double the recipe and serve as an entree. The individual onions also make for a beautiful side dish for a dinner party, alongside a portion of roast lamb and a traditional Greek salad

Preparing the onions is a little tedious but worth the effort. The good news is that you can prepare the onion skins ahead of time (see tip below). And, though they take some tender love and care, these stuffed onions are well worth the time. Impressive to behold, and delicious to consume!

Table of Contents
  1. Origin of Salantourmasi
  2. Ingredients For Stuffed Onions 
  3. How to Make Stuffed Onions
    1. Soften the Onions and Make the Filling
    2. Stuff and Bake the Onions
  4. Getting Ahead and Variations
  5. What to Serve with Stuffed Onions
  6. You’ll Also Love: More Stuffed Vegetable Recipes
  7. Stuffed Onions with Fragrant Rice and Pine Nuts Recipe


Origin of Salantourmasi

This stuffed onion recipe hails from Kastelorizo, a small and remote Treasure island in the Aegean Sea found at the southernmost part of the Dodecanese. Both its name and use of cumin and pine nuts are influenced by its proximity to Turkey's southern coast. 

ingredients for stuffed onions including onions, rice, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil tomato puree, salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon, pine nuts, parsley, mint, and white vinegar.


Ingredients For Stuffed Onions 

These stuffed onions may look fancy, but they’re made with humble ingredients that are easy to source. Here’s what you need: 

  • Onions: I use medium white onions as they are milder in flavor, allowing the spices to shine. 
  • Extra virgin olive oil: Adds flavor and intensity. I like a peppery Greek olive oil, like our Early Harvest from Christianoupolis.
  • Garlic: Sautéed garlic and onions are just part and parcel when it comes to adding flavor to a dish. Here it complements the rice filling without overpowering.
  • Salt and pepper: Enhance flavors.
  • Tomato puree: Adds moisture to the filling. 
  • Arborio rice: I use Arborio, a short-grain variety. Feel free to use long-grain rice if you prefer the texture. Do not use jasmine or basmati as they are too aromatic and will distract from the flavor of the dish. 
  • Spices: The characteristic of the warming spices is paramount to this dish. Ground cumin has a warm, aromatic quality and cinnamon adds a sweet-meets-savory note. Do not be tempted to reduce the amounts or omit either spice or the dish will be bland. 
  • Pine nuts: Added for crunch and flavor. Be sure to use roasted pine nuts, as they have a toasty and nutty flavor and a sweet undertone. Do not add other nuts or substitute, as they will be too hard for the delicate onions and rice.
  • Fresh herbs: These stuffed vegetables would not be called Greek if it were not for the amount and the variety of herbs. In this instance the mint gives freshness and the parsley a savory flavor. 
  • White vinegar: Gives any roast vegetable an added kick. The harsh acidity from the vinegar is completely cooked out, leaving a delicious savory yet sweet note, which is a great complement to the nuttiness and spices in this dish. 
overhead photo of stuffed onions in a white serving bowl.


How to Make Stuffed Onions

The most important part of this stuffed onions recipe is that the onions are softened well. Soft onions ensure that once the filling is added they can be easily wrapped and the filling does not leak out. From there, everything cooks in unison easily—there is no need to precook the rice. Add raw rice to the filling and it will cook just fine.


Soften the Onions and Make the Filling

  • Get ready: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Rinse the rice and let it soak for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • Trim and peel the onions. Slice the top and bottom ends off 8 medium white onions. Remove their outer skin. Use a sharp knife to gently cut halfway down the center from top to bottom (this will make separating the layers easier later). Be careful not to cut all the way through or the onions will fall apart. Set aside.
  • Simmer the onions: Add the onions and allow to simmer until they’re soft but still hold their shape, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Drain the onions. When they’re cool enough to handle, carefully remove the outer layers of each onion, about 4-5 layers per onion, and set aside. Chop the inner remaining layers and set aside.
  • Saute the chopped onions and garlic. In a sauté pan on medium-high, heat ¼ cup of olive oil. Add the chopped onions and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Sauté stirring frequently, to soften the onion for about 3 minutes, then stir in 1 cup of tomato purée. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes more, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  • Make the rice mixture. Drain the rice and add it to the bowl with the tomato, onion and garlic mixture. Then and ½ cup each of chopped parsley, mint, and water. Season with 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 1 ½ teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Add ¼ cup of toasted pine nuts and mix well to combine.


Stuff and Bake the Onions

  • Stuff the onions. Take one onion skin at a time and carefully fill with one tablespoon of the mixture. Wrap the onion layer tightly around the rice stuffing to seal.
  • Transfer to the baking dish. Place the filled onions tightly side by side in a medium shallow baking dish, Dutch oven, or oven-safe pan with the cut side down. Pour over ½ cup of water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and remaining ¼ cup of olive oil. 
  • Bake the onions. Cover with a lid or foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until the onions are golden and rice cooked through, about 30 minutes more. For even more color, broil for 1 to 2 additional minutes before serving.
  • Serve. Garnish with scattered chopped parsley and toasted pine nuts over the top and serve immediately.
overhead photo of stuffed onions in a white serving bowl.


Getting Ahead and Variations

Here are some tips for how to make this recipe fit your schedule and your taste:

  • The onions can be prepared the day before. Boil and separate the layers, then cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to fill and bake them.
  • Add ¼ cup of black currants to the filling for a sweet note, which works wonderfully with the nuts and spices.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste to the filling in addition to the puree for more color and depth of flavor. 
close up of stuffed onions on a plate with a side salad.


What to Serve with Stuffed Onions

While simple basmati rice is all the side dish you need on a weeknight, these rice-stuffed onions are ideal for a dinner party when you want something a bit special. Serve this elevated rice dish alongside roast meat or fish, perhaps with plenty of ouzo to go around. Or, serve as a comforting vegan dinner with a crunchy salad, like traditional Greek salad or Maroulosalata (Greek lettuce salad).

You’ll Also Love: More Stuffed Vegetable Recipes

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Stuffed Onions with Fragrant Rice and Pine Nuts

photograph of author Ruth Bardis.Ruth Bardis
overhead photo of stuffed onions in a white serving bowl.
Called Salantourmasi in Greece, these stuffed onions are filled with fragrant rice and fresh herbs. Using simple ingredients to create something beautiful and delicious, they take some patience but are well worth the effort. Double the recipe to serve as a vegan entree with a crisp Greek salad, or serve as an elegant side with roast meat or fish.
Prep – 30 minutes
Cook – 1 hour 30 minutes
Total – 2 hours
Cuisine:
Greek
Serves – 6 people, as a side
Course:
Sides

Ingredients
  

  • 1 ½ cups Arborio rice (uncooked)
  • 8 medium white onions
  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup tomato purée
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts, plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • ½ cup chopped mint
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Get ready. Preheat your oven to 400ºF. Rinse the rice and let it soak in water for 15 minutes. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Prep the onions. Cut off the top, bottom, and outer skin of the onions. Run a knife down the center from top to bottom stopping at the middle (be careful you do not cut all the way through).
  • Boil the onions. Add the onions to the boiling water and cook until they start to soften but still hold their shape, 10-15 minutes. Drain and set aside until they’re cool enough to handle.
  • Separate the layers. Use the cut side to carefully peel off 4-5 whole layers of each onion, taking care to keep them intact. Set the whole layers aside for stuffing. Chop the remaining inner layers of the onions.
  • Sauté. In a sauté pan on medium-high, heat ¼ cup of the olive oil. Add the chopped onion and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato purée and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a further 3 minutes, then remove from heat and transfer everything to a large bowl.
  • Make the stuffing. Drain the rice, and add it to the bowl, along with cumin, cinnamon, pine nuts, herbs, a pinch of salt and pepper, and ½ cup of water. Mix well to combine.
  • Stuff the onions. Fill each layer of onion with a spoonful of the mixture and roll up gently to encase the filling. Place tightly into a medium shallow baking dish, Dutch oven, or oven-safe pan. Pour ½ cup water, the vinegar, remaining ¼ cup of olive oil over the onions.
  • Bake. Cover with a lid or foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until the onions are slightly golden and caramelized, about 30 minutes more. If you want to add even more color, broil for 1 or 2 minutes just before serving.
  • Serve. Garnish with chopped parsley and toasted pine nuts and serve.

Notes

  • The onions can be prepared the day before. Boil and separate the layers, then cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to fill and bake them.
  • There is no need to precook the rice. It will cook perfectly with just the liq!
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 460.1kcalCarbohydrates: 59.7gProtein: 6.8gFat: 22.5gSaturated Fat: 2.9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 14.4gSodium: 23.9mgPotassium: 538.8mgFiber: 5.7gSugar: 8.6gVitamin A: 813.6IUVitamin C: 23.7mgCalcium: 70.3mgIron: 4.4mg
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Ruth Bardis is an international award-winning cookbook author, food stylist, publisher, and photographer passionate about all thing’s Greek food.  She was born in Australia to Greek parents. Her strong ethnic heritage and love of nourishing food facilitated her switch from fashion designing to cooking, photography, and writing. 
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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this recipe for Christmas dinner and it was big hit. I paired it with a pork loin roast and squash and brussels sprouts. I did cook the onions the day before as suggested and that was a helpful tip. It was a super yummy, special dish and it looked like I worked really hard when it was really pretty easy. I would recommend this dish and will definitely make again.

    1. Hi, Melyssa. The vinegar helps to balance all the flavors in the dish and can add a bit of brightness, as well. Hope you give this recipe a try! So good!

    1. Hi, Jasmine. We actually don't recommend using jasmine rice here as it's too aromatic and will distract from the flavor of the dish.

  2. 2 stars
    This smelt delicious but it was a bit of a disaster overall. After 40min, the rice was still completely uncooked, hardened, and the water in the mold evaporated… Would try again but could the rice in advance.

    1. Hi, Ela! I'm Summer and I work here at The Mediterranean Dish. The recipe should be baked in the oven for 1 hour, not 40 minutes. It bakes for 30 minutes covered, then another 30 minutes uncovered. When baked for the entire time it should work just fine without needing to pre-cook the rice. I hope you give it another shot.

      1. 5 stars
        I don’t think the rice could have cooked more successfully since the water had fully evaporated after 40min and the rice was hard and totally uncooked. I did try it with cooked rice though and it worked fine! 🙂

    1. Hi, Joseph. Yes, the would steam and get fully cooked during the baking process. I hope you give this a try. It is AMAZING!