Even though lacking in actual nutritional value, onions have become a mainstay for many dishes worldwide. Belonging to the allium family, which includes garlic, they are perfect for use in different recipes, including stir-fries, stews, soups, or barbecued meats. But do you know how many types of onions there are?
Knowing the different types of onions can help you prepare to buy the right one the next time you visit a grocery store. This article explores different onions to inform you and help you make the right choices:
1. Red Onions
Red onions are the most colorful in the allium family of plants. You can use them to add color to an otherwise flat-looking platter. They are great when pickled in vinegar solution, lightly grilled to produce a veggie kabob, garnishing chili cheese dip, roasted meats, or making a salad and ceviche.
Therefore, they are great to use as uncooked onion. But remember, heating red onions makes them lose their characteristic purplish/red hue. Therefore, you can use red onions in place of white onions.
2. Yellow Onions
Yellow onions are the most widely used in cooking in the world. It is, therefore, the go-to spice when a recipe does not specify what you should use. They are the best caramelizing because they cook better in a long, slow heat. The other name for this onion is brown onions.
Apart from having a mild flavor, they are the cheapest types of onions on the market today. When eaten raw, yellow onions taste sweet yet sour. Therefore, the yellow onion is perfect for cooking soup, beef stew, or chicken curry.
The sharp flavor of the yellow onion mellows out as you boil them and are easy to caramelize. Cooking these onions for a long them makes them sweeter. Even though they are all-purpose onions, these vegetables are great for stews and other dishes that take a long to
3. White Onions
White onions have a relatively milder flavor and are great when served raw, producing a sweet, fruity flavor initially that morphs into something slightly bitter. Physically, they look like garlic but without cloves. Instead, inside are greenish peels. You can use them for cooking Mexican dishes such as rancheros, huevos, salsa, and guacamole.
You can have one white onion sliced thinly and added uncooked to burger sauces or prepare French onion soup if you find this onion hard to eat raw, dice or slice it and soak in cold water for up to 30 minutes.
White onions have a high-water content, making them crisp. They often have a green stalk attached when you buy them from the store. They are great substitutes for red and yellow onions.
4. Spanish Onions
Spanish onions are slightly larger than other onions and look like yellow onions. They have thick, golden-yellow skin with creamy-white and green flesh. Their flavor is milder and less spicy than their yellow counterparts. Spanish onions are the best if you’re looking for the perfect onions for food styling. They look nice and are photogenic.
5. Sweet Onions
The sweet onion has a yellow outer cover and white flesh. Their sweet flavor makes these onions the best for food styling, salads, or relishes. Turn them into onion rings and include them in your favorite dishes.
They have a mild taste that makes them great for watermelon salad or dipping into creamy hummus. Popular onion varieties like the Maui, Walla Walla, and Vidalia are sweet onions.
Apart from being great for caramelizing, they make the best onion soup. The onions also make perfect onion rings and are great when seared with other vegetables. You can use them as the perfect substitute for yellow onions when roasting meats or vegetables.
For some reason, shallots weren’t included in the Allium cepa family until 2010. Perhaps for its distinct slim shape, the vegetable wasn’t quite considered to be an onion. It is smaller than most other onion types and is stiff with a somewhat spicy flavor when consumed uncooked.
They are great for preparing a side dish like pea and bacon salad, vinaigrette sauce, or simmering coconut curry chicken. It’s also a great topping in numerous other recipes. Turning them into onion rings makes shallots the best for staffing.
Whenever you want to avoid an overwhelming onion taste, turn to shallots. They are similar to the multiplier or potato onions, only that the latter grows larger bulbs.
7. Green Onions
Green onions or scallions are a favorite for Asian and Latin American cuisine. They have a mild flavor, making them great for use in many recipes. Even though they have the same look like the spring onions, the green onion has smaller bulbs and a milder flavor.
The straight green leaves of these vegetables have a weaker flavor and do well for cooking or eating raw. Overall, green onions are great for preparing chili cheese fries, soups, salads, and food styling. You can use them in virtually any recipe requiring uncooked onions.
The green onion is perhaps the only one that allows you to use the whole plant without throwing away anything. The only thing you can cut off is half an inch from the roots. You can then grow the remaining parts in your kitchen garden.
Chives have the same appearance and flavor the same as green onions but are very distinct. It features dark green stalks and purple flowers and is great for preparing salads, soup, seafood, omelets, and more. Their flowers are also edible and can be used for purposes similar to the stems.
You can either buy them fresh or as dried chives from stores for making dips and salad dressings. They are easy to grow in your kitchen garden or pot and are great for cooking French and Mediterranean dishes. Chives and smaller than scallions and have no bulbs.
Regardless of the food, chive onions are a great substitute for green onions. For example, you can use chive onions to make fluffy scrambled eggs, Greek yogurt chive deep, roasted potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, green tea soup, loaded potato soup, and apple manchego salad.
Even though most people overlook, leeks are some of the most versatile onions. They are great for making soups and meat stews when slowly cooked. The result is a great-tasting dish with the power of transforming a normal meal into a feast.
Leeks also provide the perfect toppings for bacon. When not using the onions topping, you could add them to creamy bacon or turkey sauce. They are also great in any pea soup recipe.
They are native to the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean and closely resemble scallions. However, leeks are larger and have a mild flavor, perfect for white meat entrees, casseroles, and soups.
10. Vidalia Onions
Vidalia onions fall within sweet onions and have a super lovely flavor. Thanks to its mild flavor, this onion goes with just any recipe. It’s uniquely flat-shaped and contains relatively more sugar. In addition, it’s grown in Vidalia, Georgia, in soil with less sulfur, making it sweeter.
Eat raw Vidalia onions or them as salsas, sandwiches, or meats. They have to be grown in a designated part of Georgia to be considered Vidalia. The onions have a 12 percent sugar content compared to other onion types, which have only five percent sugar content.
Due to their high sugar content, caramelized onions are great additives to any food. There is no limit to what you can cook with these onions. Their substitutes are the other sweet onions, including Maui and Walla Walla.
11. Welsh Onions
The Welsh onion has a flavor that’s closer to that of chive onions. They are attractive plants which can serve ornamental purposes when grown in the garden. Even though closely resembling green onions or spring onions, welsh onions are bigger and great for Asian cooking.
Both the green hollow stems and leaves are used in cooking after getting rid of the root end of the plant. They are great for making soup, stews, and other dishes that require longer cooking times.
Like spring onions, you can also add welsh onions to vegetable stir-fries, combine them with bacon and cheese to quiches and bacon. If you can’t tolerate the bulbs, the welsh onion leaves are a great option.
12. Pearl Onions
Pearl onions, creamers, or baby onions are smaller bulb onions. They’re round-shaped like the yellow or white onion. With a ¼-inch or ½-inch diameter, the pearl onion can be white, red, or yellow.
They have a milder, sweeter flavor than shallots and other onion types. The closest rival is cipollini onions, which have a flatter shape when it comes to sweetness. They are easy to preserve all year round, either in a mesh bag, peeled, or frozen.
Pearl onions are so versatile that you can use them in gratins, sweet potatoes, seared with Brussel sprouts, soups, stews, green beans, and balsamic glaze. Or you could caramelize it by heating it in chicken broth.
13. Bermuda Onions
Bermuda onions are yellow, red, or white lovely and gentle-tasting onions. The onions were first grown in Bermuda Islands but mostly grown in Texas, the United States.
Thanks to the onions’ milder, sweeter flavor, they are great for eating uncooked, in salads and toasts. You can also use them for staffing and baking. It’s a great substitute for Spanish onion, mainly because they have a nearly similar flavor.
Bermuda onions have less sulfur, which is the reason behind the mild and lovable flavor. Its varieties include crystal wax, white Bermuda, and yellow Bermuda.
14. Cipollini Onions
The cipollini onion is a small disk-shaped onion suited for caramelizing in the oven. After removing the root end, put the onion bulbs on a baking dish into an oven, and start baking. Cipollini is slightly larger than the pearl onion but smaller than regular onions.
There is milder and sweeter than yellow onions. Due to their Italian origin, these are great marinating and are served whole in Italian sour or sweet sauce. Before preparing these onions, it’s always good to start peeling them.
Other recipes in which you can use these onions include bacon, braised chicken legs, white balsamic pork chops, pot-roasted chicken, and sake-braised short ribs.
15. Cocktail Onions
Cocktail onions don’t refer to a distinct onion type but peeled pearl onions pickled in a mixture of salt brine, turmeric, and paprika. Due to their naturally sweet flavor, pearl onions are great for pairing with all types of cocktails.
They are sold in the store as ready-made products so that you do not have to prepare them at home from scratch. However, making these onions at home is extremely easy. After making a brine, dip peeled onions and cook for a few minutes. After bringing them down to room temperature, keep the onions and brine in storage jars.
You can use cocktail onions as garnish whenever you prepare a cocktail at home. Due to their sweetness and the inclusion of other flavors, they can give you a great cocktail.
16. Egyptian Onions
The Egyptian onion or walking onion is a welsh onion hybrid that produces small bulbs on top of the stem. It is, therefore, one of the few perennials, winter, top-set, top, or tree onions. Egyptian onions produce more bulbs than other onion types.
The immature onions are suitable for eating uncooked or cooked. You can slice or pickle them into salads. Onion blades can be used the same way as chives, while the bulbs on parent plants are best saved for more tiny bulbs.
Parent bulbs have a strong, pungent flavor and are suitable for chopping, slicing, or mincing before with roasted meat, brown rice, or vegetables.
17. Maui Onions
The Maui onion is a midsized vegetable from the Allium lineage and features an elongated, rounded, and somewhat stout shape. Its outer cover is yellow-brownish, and the flesh white, crisp, firm, and juicy. They contain very little sulfur and have a milder flavor.
They are great for use in sandwiches and sauces. These onions are great for steaming, sauteing, frying, broiling, baking, and grilling for purposes. In addition, fresh onions are great for layering on salads, chopping in salads, sprinkling with salt, eating raw as a snack, or mixing with poke with spices, seaweed, and fresh fish.
Their mild flavor makes them great for use with parsley, mint, dill, cilantro, tomatoes, oranges, red pepper, lettuce, radishes, cloves, vanilla, toasted coconut, and pineapple. Storing them in a cool, dry place can preserve the onions for one to two months.
18. Texas Supa-Sweet Onions
The Supa-sweet is an onion type from Texas and has a mild, fresh flavor, making it great to eat uncooked. They are great for use in salads, sandwiches, and some types of salsa. But that doesn’t mean that you cannot it by sauteing, boiling, or baking.
It isn’t a distinct onion variety but the same as the Bermuda onion, first introduced in Texas in 1898. With time, Texas became a dominant producer of the Bermuda onion, thus christening the vegetable after the state.
19. Walla Walla Onions
Walla Walla onions are predominantly produced in Washington State, where the soils have a low sulfur content. They fall among the bigger sweet onion family and have a high-water content. Therefore, they tend to lose the water and part of their signature crunch when sauteed.
The Walla Walla raw onion is larger than most other onion types. It contains only a little sulfuric acid. Therefore, it is less spicy and doesn’t hurt as much when chopping it.
They have a somewhat complex flavor that mostly comes out as sweet. Therefore, the onions can either be eaten raw or slightly cooked. Some of the greatest recipes you can use include pasta, pizza, quiche, and other salads.
20. Red Wing Onions
The red-wing onion has a naturally red color, which is the source of its name. It has a mild flavor suitable for salads, sandwiches, and sauces. Even though you can boil or fry these onions, they are better eaten uncooked.
They have a close resemblance to the red onions, the biggest difference being their slightly mild taste. In addition, the onions usually have fleshy leaves and less dry outer skin. Due to the close resemblance, they can be replaced by the classic red onion as a food garnish.
21. Pickling Onions
These onions do not necessarily represent a distinct onion type but onions that have been pickled. They have a strong, pungent taste and are great for making casseroles. They can also be used to make any dish and substitute just about any onion type.
Since the onions already have an intense flavor, pickling them intensifies the flavor, making them savory. It is the best for those who like their onions intensely pungent.
Types of Onions – The Bottom Line
Clearly, there are several types of onions. While most of these add mild flavor, others have a complex flavor. Regardless of how harsh an onion is, it still makes your food taste great. Usually, the type of onion determines the food with which you can cook it. Therefore, you have to be careful when choosing the type of onion to use in your food preparation.