Onions – What’s the Difference?

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What is the difference between types of onion? Bulb onions, like red, white, sweet, and yellow onions are similar, but with subtle differences. All onions can be eaten raw, or cooked, but some are better suited for specific culinary uses. For detailed onion information, visit this page on my website . For recipe ideas, check out the Chef Buck playlist:
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Yellow Onions:
Strongest flavor
Great for soups, stews, roasting, and sauces
Best for long cooking times.
Most popular onion (more than 80% of onions grown are yellow onions…so often economically the best buy)
High in sulphur and sugar content, so best for caramelizing
Also called brown onions

Sweet Onions:
Strong flavor
Great for roasting dishes, frying (onion rings!)
Are generally named for the region they are grown.
Examples include the Vidalia, the Walla Walla, and Bermuda onions.
They are high in sugar, but contain less sulphur than yellow onions.
Good for caramelizing and cooking.
They have a high water content and a relatively shorter shelf-life.
To extend the onion, wrap in a paper towel and store in the refrigerator

Red Onions:
Milder flavor
Best onion for raw applications
Excellent for slicing thin and adding to salads or sandwiches
Great for pickling
Best for Grilling
Lower sugar and sulphur makes them poor for caramelizing

White Onions:
Strong flavor
Great for cooking, and raw uses
Thinner onion layers, crisp
Favored onion for salsas, chutneys, guacamole, and most Latin recipes
Best pizza topping

When buying, choose onions that are firm, and heavy for their size. Avoid onions that are bruised or showing signs of mold. Store onions in a well ventilated, dry, cool area. Do not store onions with potatoes–this will reduce their shelf-life. Sweet onions are highest in water content and will spoil more quickly than dryer onions; to extend life, wrap a sweet onion in a paper towel and store in the fridge.

Cut onions when you are ready to use them. Onion flavor intensifies quickly after being cut, and once cut, can become overly strong over a short period (old onions!–blech!)

Nutritionally, onions are awesome. Onions provide vitamin C and valuable nutrients, are high in fiber, lower the risk of some cancers, promote heart health, and act as an anti-inflammatory. The greatest concentration of nutrition is in the outer layer of the onion, so peel away as little of the onion as possible when using–why waste it?


Written by The Chef's Circle

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