10 Most Popular Types of Onions & Their Uses
Onions are nothing to cry about; in fact, they’re delicious! Learn all about the different types of onions and how to cook with them like a pro.
There’s nothing like onions to flavor stir-fries, stews, soups and even burgers! The root veggie might be unpopular for its intense aroma, but it’s definitely loved and used by all. Learn all about the different types of onions and how to cook them. This is your ultimate guide to onions.
What Are The Types of Onions?
1. White Onions
White onions are the most popular type of onions, and they’re prized for their mild flavor. These are not the sweetest onion variety out there, but it isn’t the most sulfurous either, so they’re quite versatile.
White onions have a lovely crunch, and although you can enjoy them raw in salads, burgers or salsas, you can also sauté them — they caramelize beautifully. This is the perfect type of onion for Latin American cooking, and they’re also ideal for all types of salads.
2. Red Onions
Red onions are almost as popular as the white variety, and although they have a similar shape and size, red onions have a distinct flavor profile. Red onions are a bit more sulfurous, so they’ll make you cry more than white onions — they’re more flavorful as well.
Red onions are also used in raw cooking, not only for their crunchy bite and flavor but for their beautiful red color. Use red onions for salads and sandwiches. These are also spectacular in tomato sauces.
3. Yellow Onions
You might mistake the yellow or brown onion with a white onion gone bad, but this variety is naturally tanned. The onion’s golden color is instantly recognizable, and it has a unique personality.
Yellow onions are commonly used in European cooking, think onion soup. They’re more flavorful than white onions, and they’re also sweeter. Yellow onions are not widely consumed raw, so use them in soups, stews and sautéed dishes instead. Yellow onions caramelize nicely without losing their flavor or integrity.
4. Spanish Onions
Spanish onions are a variety of yellow onions, but they’re a unique varietal in their own right. Yes, these were developed in Spain some time ago, but they’re now cultivated worldwide for their mild and sweet flavor, especially compatible with rice dishes and other starchy food.
Beautifully fragrant when caramelized, Spanish onions are prized in the most demanding kitchens, and professional chefs love them. These give flavor and color to stews, broths and brown sauces, mainly of European inspiration.
5. Cipollini Onions
Cipolla is the Italian name for onions, so Cipollini literally means small onions. However, Cipollini is a term reserved for a few onion varieties from Italy, including the Cipolla di Giarratana, flat-shaped onions grown in Sicily.
Cipollini is often smaller than your average white onion, but it’s fragrant and sweet. And although not sulfurous at all, it’s rarely used raw — instead, it becomes many specialty dishes from southern Italy. Try this one in caponata, ratatouille, stuffed veggies and hearty casseroles.
6. Spring Onions
Also known as scallions, green onions are a unique onion variety with a small bulb and a long stem. The plant’s leaves are tube-shaped and hollow and have a characteristic oniony taste. It is the leaves that you use for cooking, and less so the bulb, unless the growers allow the bulb to grow to a considerable size.
Since spring onions display a beautiful bright green color and a mild flavor, they’re often used to garnish food. Still, if the bulb is developed enough, these are fantastic one-biters for the grill.
Shallots are a type of onion, but they’re also related to garlic, leeks and chives. Originally from Asia, this small, football-shaped onion is now immensely popular worldwide, especially in Europe.
Shallots are tender and sweet, and they’re commonly caramelized in butter as a base for creamy sauces. Shallots show almost no sulfur aromas, making them quite friendly and easy to use. Shallots are more expensive than regular onions, though, so you’ll find them often in fine restaurant menus.
8. Pearl Onions
Pearl onions are also known as creamers or silverskin onions. They’re related to leeks more than white onions, but they kinda look like baby white onions. These pearly delights are native to Germany and other parts of Northern Europe, and they’re often preserved in brine to extend their shelf life.
Pearl onions are attractively sweet and crunchy, so, although you can add them to casseroles and stews, they shine best as a garnish in cocktails.
Leeks are not proper onions, but they’re close relatives. The stemmy root veggie is part of the Allium family, after all. Leeks, though, are quite different in shape but not as much in flavor.
Leeks have a unique sweet taste and crispy texture, and flavor reminiscent of spring onions. You can eat leek leaves, but the long bulb is much more flavorful. You want to use this one in stir-fries, noodles, fried rice and other Asian specialties.
Chives are thin, delicate green leaves closely related to onions, garlic, leeks and shallots. They’re the mildest flavored in the family, but they’re perhaps the prettiest.
Yes, chives have bulbs, too, but you rarely see them. They’re more prized for their colorful green leaves that add the nicest onion flavor to dishes. These are also used as a garnish for a wide variety of foods, from sushi to sticky pork ribs. Just chop the chives finely and sprinkle them over your food!
All Onions Are Awesome, And You Don’t Even Have to Choose!
As you see, there’s a type of onion for your every need. And you don’t even have to choose — in fact; your best bet is using the right kind of onions for every recipe; that makes onions more exciting than you thought!
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