When you are a kid you might think that an onion is just a stinky vegetable that makes you cry. (Okay, grownups think that too sometimes.)
But when you start cooking you realize an onion isn’t just an onion: it’s one of the kitchen’s most basic and important seasonings.
When you get your own kitchen and you start making meals, you start to wonder: What is the best kind of onion for a hamburger?
What is the best kind of diced onion for that hot dog, in salsa or for stir fry? What variety of onion is best in Asian cuisine?
The truth is, picking out the right onion from the grocery store is important and that sweet flavor can make or break a dish.
There are a lot of varieties of onion but they are broken down into three primary categories.
The main onion types are
- white onions,
- yellow onions, (like RealSweet Vidalias)
- red onions (or purple onions).
For the sake of conversation, we will also discuss the green onion (also called scallions) and for good measure, we will throw in the shallot.
Ever heard of leeks? They’re in the onion family too. Chives? Also a type of onion.
So which onion do you choose? Which is your perfect onion?
The kind of onion with white flesh includes white granex, snow white hybrid, pearl onions, and of course white onion.
Bermuda onions, a member of the lily family, are known for their high sugar content with less sulfur, and as summer onions are popular choices for huevos rancheros, noodle dishes, tomato salads, and more.
White onions can be served raw (with a strong flavor and kind of a spicy taste) or cooked. Caramelized onions have a sweeter flavor. White raw onions are one of the popular onion varieties, especially in the United States.
Caramelized onions have a sweeter flavor.
They tend to be quite mild but you can get a strong one from time to time. White onions can also be helpful if you accidentally added too much garlic to your dish.
Pop the top of your favorite burger and you might see the versatile white onion as crisp raw rings, or finely chopped hidden under the cheese.
The succulent seared onion layered on your sizzling dish of fajitas are usually white onions.
A white onion can be quite pungent so make sure that you fully enclose them when storing them in the fridge.
The variety of red onion includes red delicious, red hamburger and giant red hamburger.
While this type of onion is not necessarily the most common for a hamburger, I believe it to be the best as a great choice for their natural sweetness.
These onions are fantastic to eat raw with bar-b-que or chopped up in a salad. Red onions are tasty in salsa and also grill well on a shish kabob.
The variety of yellow onion includes walla walla onions, Vidalia onions, Texas super sweet, yellow hybrid, sweet and early hybrid, yellow Ebenezer, Savanah sweet, sweet Spanish onions, and Texas Grano.
These are such versatile, all purpose onions that they can be used in just about any type of food, whether they are raw, sauteed, baked, or even used in French onion soup.
The yellow onion has an original sweet and tangy flavor. They are the most used in cooking of all types. We think you will LOVE our recipe for Grilled RealSweet Vidalia Onions (wrapped in bacon!)
Most onion rings are created out of the Vidalia onion because they are flat in shape and are a terrific flavor match for the batter.
👉 Check out this blooming onion maker 👈
The variety of green onions include scallions, white lisbon an evergreen long white with mild flavor.
Green onions are harvested before they are young shoots.
These are most often used in salads or diced up on baked potatoes.
They are a beautiful and tasty garnish on soups and a variety of meals.
Just dice up the greens and sprinkle them atop a finished meat dish for a fresh finish.
Green onion tends to be sweet and mild in taste but can be stronger depending on when they are harvested.
The green stalks and the white bulbs can both be eaten. If using the white bulbs, I advise that you sautee them first and mix them in with sauce.
The green stalks are best if diced and served raw.
Green onion is a bit more fibrous than the average onion, so it doesn’t cook down and flavor sauces the way yellow or white onion might.
They will wilt but retain their shape.
Leeks are also a type of green onion. The only part of a leek that we consume is the pale green portion.
It is important to separate and clean all of the leeks before you begin preparing them for meals—they hold dirt like crazy.
You also don’t want to boil leeks. Flash fry a leek so that they don’t become mushy. You can also eat the leek raw or simmer it into a soup.
Chives are often sold as herbs but they are members of the same family as onion and garlic.
Slender and dark green, they are easy to grow on a windowsill, and are sold whole and raw or dried.
They make a great potato topping.
Great for beginners or kids who want to try their hand at growing chives and other herbs at home
Shallots are tender and mild and taste like a combo of garlic and onion.
The bulbs are used in French recipes quite often to create sauces or top a steak.
They are a delight to cook with but are quite pricey.
If you run across a recipe that calls for shallots but you don’t want to pay that price, you can substitute yellow sweet onions.
Cooking with shallots is a real treat because they add such wonderful fragrance and mellow taste to a dish.
While I love to cook with shallots, I do find them a bit difficult to handle. They are small and I find them unwieldy. This is why I tend to use a slicer like this one.
The bottom line
When prepping a meal there are so many common types of onions to choose from.
The onions listed here are not an exhaustive list but they do give you a good feel for the varieties of onion and how they are used.
If I had to pick a favorite onion it would be the milder flavor of leeks, shallots and spring onions.
Finally, I wish that I could end this article with a terrific tip for cutting onions without crying over the pungent smell but I haven’t found one yet. If you have one, please let me know.
And of course the best onion listed here is YOUR favorite onion.
Maybe it’s just cocktail onions that are served with your cocktail! Bottoms up, and high five to the humble onion!
- 1 8-oz package of fresh cream cheese
- ½ lb of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
- 3 lengths of green onion/scallion
1 c of any ONE of the following:
- Raspberry chipotle sauce
- Pumpkin butter
- Apple butter
- Fig preserves (mix with 2 T of warm water or juice so it’s pourable)
- Cranberry compote or relish
- Sweet pepper relish
- Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels, cool, then crumble. Set aside.
- Wash, dry, then finely chop the green onions. Set aside.
- Unwrap the cream cheese and place on the serving plate, one that’s large enough to accommodate the block of cream cheese plus lots of spill-over.
- Assemble: Dump your choice of sweet topping, such as the raspberry chipotle sauce on top of the cream cheese. Dump the crumbled bacon on top of the sauce. Dump the chopped green onion on top of the bacon.
- Serve with a couple different kinds of sturdy unflavored/plain crackers, apple slices, and/or carrot sticks.
- While it’s rare to have leftovers, separate from crackers and cover the entire plate with cellophane wrap and refrigerate for up to three days in the refrigerator.
For a party with more than 10 people, double the recipe. It is impossible to use TOO much bacon.