I’itoi Onion Spreads

Spring is when the I’itoi onions shine in the desert garden.   The underground parts are filling out into fat juicy onion bulbs, while above ground there are with lots of sprightly green leaves.

Southwest Adapted Onion

Putting on my “Gardening With Soule” hat for a moment, here’s a bit about growing these local favorites. The I’itoi onions are what is termed a “bunching onion,” much like shallots. Due to our Southwest climate, in Low and Middle Desert these distinctive little onions grow best in the winter months.  In Upper elevations, you can grow these onions that tolerate our alkaline soils once frost is gone.


I’itoi Onions & Goats Cheese

Now that my neighbor’s goats have “freshened” again, she has ample milk and is making cheese. That goat milk cheese is in bountiful supply, but can be a tad strong without some flavoring. My little “Soule Garden” can help! I’itoi onions pairs well with goats milk cheese in these two recipes.

The best way to make goat cheese is to use it at the same temperature that it comes out of the goat.


If you don’t grow I’itoi onions, you can use shallots from the supermarket in these two recipes.

Not a fan of goat cheese? Or just don’t have any? Store bought cream cheese will work.

Tip – For best flavor with these dips (indeed any dips) make them 24 to 48 hours ahead of time so the flavors develop.    Then bring them room temperature to serve.


Fresh I’itoi Onion and Goat Cheese Spread

4-8 I'itoi onion bulbs and tops
8 oz fresh mild goat cheese or cream cheese, warmed to room temperature
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
fresh ground pepper to taste
2-3 teaspoons olive oil

There are two ways to do this – by hand or with a food processor.
If by hand, both the onions and rosemary will need to be finely minced.

In a food processor
Place the onions, cheese, rosemary, and some ground pepper in a small food processor.


Drizzle in a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and blend the mixture in pulses, scraping the sides as necessary.

Add tiny amounts of oil at a time to achieve a spreadable consistency.

Refrigerate several hours before adjusting the seasoning.

Optionally just chop up a number of I’itoi onion tops and roll the cheese in it.

Roasted I’itoi Onion and Goat Cheese Dip

Roasting the I’itoi onions caramelizes them.    They become sweeter and milder flavored.    Good enough to eat with a spoon.    You make this ahead of time.    Since no-one is watching, go ahead and lick the spoon. And your fingers.

20 raw I'itoi onion bulbs
olive oil for baking

8 oz fresh mild goat cheese or cream cheese, warmed to room temperature
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
fresh ground pepper to taste
2-3 teaspoons olive oil may be needed to smooth for spreading

savor-the-southwest-olive-oilPreheat the oven to 450F.

Prepare the I’itoi onions by cutting off about 1 /4 inch of the root end.
Also cut off the tops.    Save the tops for salads.

Rub off the outer layer of skin but don’t peel completely.

Toss the onions in olive oil in a heatproof dish.

Spread them in a single layer for roasting.

Roast for 15 minutes. Stir once or twice while roasting.

Let cool.

Pick up each onion at one long end, and squish into your dish.    The roasted and softened roasted onion should shoot out the other end.

Mix in the cheese, herbs, and pepper to taste.

Looking Back in Time

I find myself wondering if Father Kino grew up with goat cheese.  Maybe so, he was from northern Italy.  Read more about his life here in the Southwest in this book:

soule-kino-southwestThe last few copies of this out-of-print award winning Southwestern book are now for sale. Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today   The review says:  “Award-winning garden writer Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule has pulled together a fascinating book on the life of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino and some of the plants that he brought to Southern Arizona and northwestern Sonora, and area called the Pimeria Alta.”


A steal at only $20!  This link is to our sales site. The profits from the sale go to the local Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute.  We hope you will help support this great Southwest non-profit.

We are pleased to announce that there is now an option to purchase this book and have it mailed to a international mailing address.

Legal Notes

© Article copyright Savor the Southwest // Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit. You must include a link back to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.


The authors of this website have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods, drinks, and herbs. Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction. In case of doubt please consult your medical practitioner.



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