An onion is an onion, right?
Not exactly. It turns out that these pungent roots present all sorts of different characteristics that can impact the flavor of your dish. When you start exploring the many varieties of onions, you’ll discover layer upon layer of flavors, colors and textures that can have a real influence on the taste of your meal. Use our handy onion identification guide to make sure you have just the right bulb!
Sweet These are, as their name indicates, sweet, flavorful and most often used lightly cooked, or served raw on top of burgers and sandwiches. Look for firm, slightly flattened and yellowish bulbs.
White Mince and add to salsas and salads for a strong onion punch, or sauté for a delicately sweet addition to casseroles and sauces. White onions are slightly sweeter than yellow.
Pearl The more, the merrier with these little gems. Eat them whole in stews and braises, boil them and drench them in sauce, or try pickling them for an easy cocktail garnish and relish tray crowd-pleaser.
Shallots The golden skin of these garlic-like bulbs contains individual lobes of shallot with a pungent aroma when used raw, and a mellow, mild flavor when cooked, making it ideal for stews or fried as a garnish.
Yellow By far the most common kind of onion, with a sharp, strong flavor and aroma that can make your eyes water when slicing. Best for any recipe that simply calls for “onion,” their flavor mellows when cooked.
Scallions Also known as green onions, the white bulb of the plant is firmer and stronger in flavor, while the green stalks make gorgeous garnishes with a flavorful bite. Overall less intense in flavor than a yellow or white onion.
Chives The small,green tubes that make up the herb’s stalk add bright color and a burst of light oniony flavor on salads, creamy soups, and potato or egg dishes, or mixed into your favorite salad dressing.
Red Milder than yellow and slightly sweet, raw red onions are great on sandwiches, wraps, salsas and salads, or grilled on kabobs. The purple and white flesh adds a burst of color to any meal.
Cipollini Round, small, and slightly flattened with a mild and light sweetness, these little beauties are perfect for caramelizing whole, skewering with fresh veggies, or roasted until deep brown.
The way you cook an onion can have a profound influence on its flavor in your dish. Here are a few of our favorite ways to prep the ubiquitous root.
Sautéed: Cooking onions in a little oil at high heat browns them quickly, bringing out some sweetness while retaining the bite.
Caramelized: As the name implies, cooking sliced onion low and slow helps break down their natural sugar, resulting in silky-soft, brown and sweet onions.
Roasted: Toss with a little oil and roast in a hot oven to soften the onions and give them a smooth texture with sweet, mellow flavor.
Boiled: Boiling onions softens and sweetens them without browning, making them perfect for saucing. Try boiling pearl onions and tossing with brown butter and fresh herbs.
Pickled: Pickling onions with vinegar and herbs accents their natural zesty flavor and adds some tang. Great as a salad garnish or sandwich topper.