Onions are one of the most important vegetables to have in the kitchen.
They are needed in many different types of dishes and cooking methods such as grilling, braising, roasting, sautéing, pickling, caramelizing, and even serving raw.
Flavors range from sweet and mild to extremely complex and pungent.
Yellow and white onions are the two most commonly used onions in dishes.
You might wonder which ones to use in particular dishes, but they are fairly interchangeable and their versatility is used in various recipes.
White onions are more delicate and tend to fall apart during long cooking durations, while yellow onions will hold together better.
Is yellow or white onion better?
Yellow onions are perfect for savory meals that require a long cook time, while white onions tend to fall apart after a long cooking period.
White onions are also commonly used in Mexican cuisine, you can add them raw or cooked in salsas, salads, and as a garnish on tacos, or grilling them for fajitas.
Yellow onions are the most commonly used onions for cooking.
They are versatile and can withstand long cooking periods in high heat without falling apart.
Because of its high sulfur content, this onion has yellow skin and a pungent flavor that turns your dishes into a sweet and flavorful dish during cooking.
Its heat resistance makes it ideal for caramelizing and roasting.
The yellow onion is an incredibly versatile vegetable that can be used in a vast range of dishes.
It is also edible raw, with a flavor that ranges from mild to pungent depending on age.
Can I substitute white onion for yellow?
The layers of a white onion are more delicate when raw, while the layers of a yellow onion are chunkier.
This difference isn’t noticeable when cooked and is negligible when eaten raw.
White onions are gentler and crisper than yellow onions, which is why they are ideal for raw recipes.
They have a less overpowering taste than yellow onions.
In addition, they also tend to fall apart when cooked for long periods.
Yellow onions are the go-to cooking onions. Relatively cheap, easily available and with the pleasant onion flavor without being overpowering, they often have a sweetness to them.
They caramelize well and will hold up to high heat cooking.
They are a versatile, delicious, and healthy addition to any dish.
Both white and yellow onions are healthy and nutritious. They have high levels of vitamins and antioxidants to help your body fight free radicals.
Which onion is best for cooking?
Raw onions are ideal for a certain type of dishes like guacamole, salsa, or sandwich.
Heating and cooking the onions will cause a slew of chemical reactions.
When these reactions occur at room temperature, they are not the same as when they occur at boiling water temperature.
Longer cooking times are required to convert the pungent aromas into a more savory and milder flavor.
Here are 8 types of onions that are commonly used and the best way to cook them:
Yellow Onion – They have a relatively high starch content, they will not dissolve to mush even after long cooking times, making them an excellent all-purpose cooking onion.
It is the best choice for caramelizing, sautéed, grilled, caramelized, baked, roasted, or even raw.
White onion – Commonly used in Mexican cuisine.
The best choice for raw, grilled, sautéed, or lightly cooked.
Both can almost be cooked in the same type of cooking method.
The difference is that yellow onions are the most appropriate for caramelizing due to their sweet flavor.
Red Onions – Red onions are mild and subtly sweet, making them suitable to be eaten raw.
Their skin is a vibrant magenta color that goes well with salads and salsas.
However, in some cases, they may discolor and turn light ingredients such as eggs, potatoes, and beans a blueish-gray color.
If the flavor is too strong when raw, soak them in cold water before using.
Red onion is the best option for grilling, serving as a side dish, or to top burgers and steaks.
They can also be your first choice for pickling to go with your pizza, tacos, and other pickled dishes.
Sweet Onions – Sweet onions have lighter skin and are larger than yellow onions.
Sweet onions, as the name implies, have a sweet flavor due to their high sugar content, making them ideal for sautéing and caramelizing.
They also have less sulfur and more water than yellows, reds, and whites, and are milder, crisper, and better for eating raw, frying into onion rings, and stuffing like a mushroom or tomato.
Walla Walla, Texas Sweets, Maui, and Vidalia are some sweet onion varieties. They are available seasonally.
Shallot – Shallots are small onions with brown skin and purplish flesh.
Their bulbs are divided into several lobes, similar to how garlic bulbs are cut into separate cloves.
Shallots are used to season dishes, providing either a soft onion taste or a burst of sharp acidity similar to garlic.
They are smaller and made up of thinner layers making them perfect to be minced very finely and used in salad dressings and sauces.
They’re deliciously roasted, though; peel and halve them before tossing them in the bottom of the pan when roasting a chicken or beef.
They can also be used to add color to vinaigrettes.
Their flavor is more delicate and lighter than regular onions.
They are frequently used as onion substitutes and garnishes.
Scallion – Also known as green onions, scallions are young, fresh onions distinguished by their long and lean shape and mellow flavor.
They belong to the same family as leeks, garlic, chives, and shallots.
The white stalk has the same sharp flavor as all alliums, but with less sharpness, whereas the dark green leaves have a fresher, crisp, grassy flavor.
When scallions are freshly harvested, they emit a noticeably strong onion aroma.
Green onions are commonly used in Asian dishes such as teriyaki meats, stir-fries, sandwiches, and dips.
In western cuisine, green onions are usually chopped and added to mashed potatoes, while in Mexican cuisine, they are grilled whole, sprinkled with salt, and eaten with rice and cheese.
Because of their bright green color, they are frequently used as garnishes.
Pearl onions – They are very small white onions, also known as button onions or baby onions.
They have a subtle, sweet flavor and are delicious when eaten raw.
The sweet, mild flavor is ideal for pickling.
They are primarily grown in Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands.
You can also cook it slowly in beef stew, roasted in the oven, or simply pickled and presented on a wine and cheese platter.
Leeks – Leeks belong to the same onion family as scallions, but they have a distinct flavor and size.
They are larger than scallions and have a mild onion-like flavor.
It also has a slightly garlicky flavor, but that flavor mellows out when cooked.
Leeks are rarely the star of a dish, but there are numerous ways to prepare this vegetable so that it shines brightly in the dish.
Remember that substituting scallions for leeks in a recipe will most likely result in a less-than-satisfactory result because, as you’ve just learned, they don’t taste the same.
Leeks have been discovered in huge quantities in Egypt, and samples from several ancient Egyptian sites have revealed that leeks were an important part of the Egyptian diet.
Surprisingly, the leek was Emperor Nero’s favorite vegetable, used in oils and soups.
Leeks are delicious in stew, soups, stir-fry, sauces, and baked.
Baking the leeks softens and mellows their flavor.
Onions are the oldest cultivated vegetables, second after tomatoes in terms of global usage, both of which are widely used not only for culinary purposes.
The onion is a versatile vegetable that is eaten fresh as a salad as well as in a variety of cooked or processed products.
Although each type of onion can have a different flavor and suitability for different types of cooking, you can always try to innovate and cook them according to your preference.
I’m Chris Watson & the Founder of EatForLonger.com. I’m a food and wellbeing enthusiast researching and sharing foodstuffs and simple food-based concepts, such as fasting and clean eating.
I hope it inspires you to make tiny changes to what you eat and when you eat while optimizing your healthspan and all-around well-being.
Read more About Me here.