Original Sonic Onion Ring Recipe – you can make this fast food favorite at home.

Sonic Onion rings are made fresh every single day. I worked at Sonic as a teenager and had to help make the Sonic onion rings EVERY DAY…the secret is using vanilla ice milk mix, but using melted vanilla ice milk works just as well.

Sonic Onion Rings

Sonic Onion Rings Recipe

You can make this wonderful fast food treat, you don’t have to be too exact in measuring anything out.  This can be a messy process, and I suggest trying to use one hand for dry ingredients, an another for once you begin to dip the onion rings into the milk.  It will go easier this way.  I would suggest making a really large batch of these up at one time, and inviting a lot of people.  These are messy, but they taste so good.

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Sonic Onion Rings

  • Author:
  • Recipe Type: Copycat Restaurant Recipes, CopyKat Recipes, Side Dish Recipes
  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Serves: 4
Sonic Onion Rings

You can make onion rings just like Sonic Drive in does.


  • Sliced and separated Spanish onions
  • Pan or bowl of water
  • Pan or bowl of all purpose flour
  • Pan or bowl of melted vanilla ice milk
  • Pan or bowl of ground corn meal
  • Cookie sheet for air drying


Place above items on counter in order listed. Dip onion in water, then flour (shake off excess), dip in melted ice milk, then corn meal. Gently shake off excess and place on cookie sheet to air dry for at least 20 minutes.

Fry until browned.

Sifting the flour and corn meal once in a while keeps lumps out and makes it easier to coat the rings When placing on cookie sheets to save room, lean on top of each other to allow entire ring to dry.

Print Recipe
  • Zandy’s Bride

    From the time I was 13-16, I used to work at the Campus Dairy Sweet at the corner of Grand and National in Springfield, Missouri.
    Famous for homemade banana ice cream.
    We used the vanilla stuff that you would pour into the soft serve ice cream machines to coat the onion rings.
    Come to find out, it was a front for a big gambling ring.
    My boss, A. Galloway was a big time bookie.
    All 400 pounds of him sat on a stool all day in front of an old fashioned pay phone installed behind the counter.
    I always wondered why he wouldn’t let anyone touch it…
    Then the place got busted.
    Then someone bombed his house right to the ground.
    Ah…the good ole days.

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  • Cindy Besher

    I use to work at sonic when I was younger and one of my jobs was to prepare the onions for the onion ring orders. They use to soak the onion slices in an ice water bath for a while before breading and frying them. I certainly don’t remember ice milk involved.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cody.richard.56 Cody Richard

    i worked at sonic as well. you dip the onions in ice cream then flour then ice cream then medium cracker meal

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  • http://profiles.google.com/tomaraa Tomara Armstrong

    I worked at sonic in highschool. They used the cream they put into the ice cream machine, some cornmeal and flour. I think these days they come pre-breaded…. we breaded our own in the 90s

    • Snatilley

      its still the same way

      • RoundPonda

        Yes, I personally saw a Sonic employee bring (3) 50 pound sacks of giant fresh onions into the restaurant from an outdoor storage shed recently…

  • Tamarapage36

    I worked at Sonic for 2 & a half yrs & it’s not ground corn meal but cracker meal but everything else is right :)

  • Thelma Webb

    Do you have recipe for vanilla ice milk ?

  • Tom

    OK, I tried four recipes (all original–just created by the knowledge gained here and other sites) based on things I already had in the house.

    1. Dip ring in 2% milk, then in flour, then in milk, then in crushed saltines crackers
    2. 2% milk, flour w/lots of black pepper, then back in the milk, then crushed saltines.
    3. 2% milk, Jiffy brand cornmeal muffin mix, then back in the milk, then crushed saltines.
    4. 2% milk with pure vanilla extract, flour with lots of black pepper and a small handful of brown sugar (I was afraid the sugar would be hard to dissolve in the milk so I used it in the flour), then dip back in the milk, then in the crushed saltines.

    I have to tell you–I liked all four recipes! #3 was my least favorite, #4 was my favorite.

    Also, I felt that having thicker milk would have been beneficial (the ice cream mix mentioned here would have been thicker, so probably better to use). I wonder if putting corn starch in the milk wouldn’t be a cheap alternative to melting a box of ice cream.

    Anyway, I also tried the #4 method on chicken breast strips (I did the flouring and crackering process twice for these–again, probably not necessary if I had thicker milk) and they turned out really good, too.

    I also deep-fried a frozen Italian meatball after I battered it. And it was good, but not a favorite.

  • Alisha

    Those were terrible onion rings. There was barely any flavor at all. I had to add salt so there was a tad of flavor. Not recommended at all! :S

  • Rich45auto

    Worst onion rings I ever had. Tastes nothing like any Sonic onion ring I ever had, not even the same consistency.

  • Deana_167

    I used to work next door to a Sonic. One day I asked one of the car hops how the onion rings were made and she told me that it was ice cream milk and crushed graham crackers.

    • Seynard

      I am thinking you were mislead. I don’t believe graham crackers, those would fry up really, really dark.

      • RoundPonda

        Thanks Seynard… The coating IS obviously cornmeal…

  • Miles

    What is melted vanilla ice milk?

    • Miles

      What is cracker meal?

      • http://www.copykat.com Stephanie

        It is saltine cracker crumbs.

    • http://www.copykat.com Stephanie

      it is a type of melted vanilla ice cream.

  • JW

    Morning Prep at Sonic back in the day entailed shredding fresh lettuce, slicing fresh tomatoes, peeling onions…chopping of the ends…slicing them…the pushing out the centers to be used for diced onions and pushing out the rings into a bucket of ice water…it was a process that made everyone cry! lol Then you built trays of rings…usually seven or eight trays a day where I worked…

    The secret to Sonic back then…freshly prepped produce, those famous onion rings (not the same today) and the fryolators used animal fat!

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  • Scott B.

    Wasn’t it Borden’s Malted Milk? Maybe that was just my borther-in-law’s secret ingredient when he owned a Sonic…not sure.
    I have never heard of that suggestion before, malted milk, makes a malt, a malt. I don’t think that is the flavor that is in the onion rings. Maybe another viewer can shed some light on this.

  • Super Dave

    I also made thousands of Sonic onion rings. We used 50/50 milk/ice cream mix, then in the flour, then in 100% ice cream mix, then cracker meal. Works great with squash or green tomatoes, etc.

    • Yesterdays Carhop

      Yes, it was cracker meal. I remember that too. Fried pickles are made in the same fashion.

    • http://www.imaginarycolours.com Tom

      I worked for Sonic for one day in 1987. I needed some money til I got called to work at my “real” job so the manager agreed to let me work as little as one day or more. Turns out I got called for work that night, lol. My job at Sonic was to make onion rings. Yes. It was cracker meal, no way was it corn meal. But I don’t know what kind of cracker meal. It didn’t look like saltines but what else could it be? Graham crackers maybe? The unique things are that they dipped the ring in a milk solution (I don’t know what it was, but had the consistency of milkshake mix–so soft serve ice cream mix could very well be right), then into a flour mixture, then into the milk stuff again then into the cracker meal, then onto a big baking tray. Each ring leaned against the other to allow air between them. I remember they weren’t drippy wet and the rings didn’t really stick to each other as bad as you might imagine and the batter didn’t all run off. Everything held on nicely.

      I remember being impressed that if a ring broke, it wasn’t served. The manager of that store was highly particular about quality. I’ve eaten at other Sonic’s and not had the same quality at all.

      Once a tray was full of prepared rings, it would go in the freezer to be used later that day.

      I don’t remember what kind of onion they used–Vidalia, perhaps? It is a sweet onion, and a good five or six inches in diameter.

      Sonic literally makes their onion rings fresh every single day! Well they did in 1987 so I assume they do today as well. They had bags and bags of onions in the back room. Making rings for Sonic was one of the memorable pleasant experiences of my life.

      • Terri

        That’s how I remember it too back in 1984. The woman always made them by hand in the back room by the fridge/freezer. They are NOT prepackaged onion rings; they are made fresh every day in the AM before lunch. She always had a “wet” hand, and a “dry” hand to use so she didn’t get ingredients mixed. I ADORE Sonic Onion Rings! I made some this evening that was identical! I had a major craving–OMG! I have NEVER purchased store bought onion rings. :) Thanks Tom for sharing!

    • CuteBlackShortsCarhop

      This is true, I was a carhop in the early 90’s, but they used bisquick instead of flour, the rest sounds about right.

    • CuteBlackShortsCarhop

      This is true, I was a carhop in the early 90’s, but they used bisquick instead of flour, the rest sounds about right.

  • Pat

    What is “vanilla ice milk”?

  • anonymous

    Using milk with a bit of sugar works well also. I use sugar water.

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