Red, White, Green, Yellow? Cooking with Onion

cooking with onion varieties


This may seem like a weird topic, but it’s been on my mind all week. I recently learned that I have no idea what’s what when it comes to cooking with onion.  In a recent conversation with a neighbor, she mentioned needing to run out for an onion because the red onion she had at home wasn’t right for what she was cooking. I said, “What are you making?” She said, “Soup.” I said, “Why not just use the red onion?” She said, “Well it’s soup; a red onion doesn’t work for soup.”

It doesn’t! I would have used the red onion without a second thought, but then I realized I’ve never really considered my choice of onion in all the years I’ve been cooking.  If a recipe calls for onion, I just throw in whatever I have on hand; which is usually a red onion (because I think they are pretty) and sometimes yellow because, somehow, I am aware that a yellow onion is pretty multi-purpose. Truthfully, if I had scallions in, I’d toss those in there too.

I give no thought whatsoever to which kind of onion would be better for a dish. Well, my neighbor was indeed correct and she piqued my curiosity.

I did a quick google search for “what onions are best…” and wouldn’t you know; all sorts of results popped up. Here’s what I learned:

Cooking with Onion 101

Yellow Onion – A safe choice, the versatile yellow onion is used with roasts, soups, stews and sauces.

Red Onion – My favorite because of its pretty purple color, this popular choice is best used raw to maintain its color and benefit from its mild, slightly sweet taste. Great in salads and sandwiches.

Sweet Onion/Vidalia – Also versatile and commonly used to make onion rings, French onion soup, gratins and roasted vegetable dishes.

White Onion – While I have never actually bought a white onion, I now know it’s crunchy with a sharp bite. Good for salsas, Mexican dishes and stir-fries.

Green Onions/Scallions – Possibly the mildest of all onions, the green onion is used both in cooked and raw preparations. Great as a garnish for soups and salads.

Shallot – Kind of a garlic/onion mutation, shallots are mild and sweet. They are good for vinaigrettes, garnishes or quiche.

Here are the three sites I viewed to help educate me on cooking with onion.

There you have it – all about onions! Who knew?

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5 years ago

Great post. I read your posts fairly often and you always do a good job explaining the
whatever topic you’re writing about. Btw, I shared this
on Twitter and my followers loved it. Keep up the great work!

5 years ago

I learned a really near trick with red onions somewhere along the years. If you use them raw, you can cut their pungency quite a bit and still maintain crispness, perhaps even bring out a touch of sweetness, if you plunge them in ice water for 5-10 minutes after slicing. After draining, I patted them dry in some paper towels after adding them to salads or sandwiches and it made a delightful difference!

5 years ago

I never gave it a thought, learned something new today, thanks

5 years ago

Good cooking blog entry!

Jen K
5 years ago

I am particular on what onions I use too although I’m partial to Vidalias because they are sweet. My husband grew scallions this summer in his garden and about three weeks ago brought them all in, they are huge! I cleaned them and put them in a bowl and haven’t used them yet because I’m not sure what to do with them. I am tempted to just toss them but he keeps asking me when I’m going to use them. I have cooked with onions over the past few weeks and I’m not motivated to use his onions because they… Read more »