Onions: Which Type Should You Use?

onionsDuring my cooking classes, I always joke that rarely does a class go by without me doing an onion cutting demonstration.  The demo almost always sparks the same question, “which type of onions should I use for what?” 

Onions come in MANY varieties, and can be divided into three categories:  spring/summer onions, fall/winter onions, and green onions.  Within those categories the most commonly used onions are yellow, white, red and green, which are the ones I’ll focus on today.

Yellow Onions: These are the ones usually sold in 2,3, or 5 lb mesh bags, but can also be purchased loose.  To me, this is the most versitile onion out there, and I use them frequently.  They tend to keep well in a dark, dry location (a pantry in a low-humidity location is perfect), and add excellent flavor to a wide variety of dishes.  Unless a specific kind of onion is called for in a recipe, I use these regular, yellow onions for just about everything.  Try to look for bags where the onions are all about the same, medium size.

White Onions:  White onions can sometimes be a bit larger than the yellow ones, but are just as versitile.  I tend  to buy these less often, mostly because they are often sold individually rather than in a bag (which is easier to grab and toss into my shopping cart).  However, you can use them interchangably with yellow onions.  Just be sure that if a recipe calls for “one medium onion” you select an appropriately sized white onion!

Red Onions:  I adore red onions, which are generally sweeter than their yellow and white counterparts.  I use red onions raw in salads, but also in stir-fries or other quick-cooking dishes.  They are delicious and colorful.

Green Onions:  Usually referred to as scallions, green onions have a more mild flavor than other bulb onions.  Both the white and green parts are edible and usable, with the green part being slightly more pungent than the white.  Like red onions, I tend to use green onions raw, as a garnish, or in quick cooking dishes like stir-fries so they retain their great green color and freshness.

Many of you might be wondering, “but what about shallots?”  Well, a shallot is more of a cross between an onion and a head of garlic.  It has onion flavor, but has lobes like garlic.  Shallots are much more mild in flavor that onions and can be used either raw or cooked.  Raw, I might add it minced to a homemade vinaigrette, or cooked, to a dish requiring only a hit of onion flavor, like risotto.  However, you may use shallots anywhere you’d use onions if you’re looking for a more mild flavor.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.


Tags: , , ,

One Response to “Onions: Which Type Should You Use?”

  1. frances Says:

    Well, this was a thorough course in
    Onions 101. Finally a complete overview.
    Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: