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Are You Cooking With the Best Type of Onion? Probably Not.

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Are You Cooking With the Best Type of Onion? Probably Not.


All onions are not created equal — which is why it’s frustrating when a recipe calls for “an onion.” Sure, it’s not the end of the world if you use a red onion when the recipe writer had a yellow one in mind, or vice versa, since pretty much every onion will cook the same way. But using the best onion for the job can really add a depth of flavor to your meals that using a subpar type just, well, won’t.

Earlier: Yes, You Can (And Should!) Reuse Pickle Juice


Red Onions


For most of the year, you’ll find red storage onions at the supermarket, which are pungent and spicy. In the summer months, you’ll often find fresh red onions, which are much more mild, and lack a bit of the “onion-y” flavor you’ll find in their yellow and white cousins. They do much better raw than cooked. If you find the taste of raw red onions (and really any other type of onion)  too sharp, you can soak red onions in water for 30 minutes-1 hour.

Best For: Salads, sandwiches, burgers, pickling, salsas.


Yellow Onions.

The gold standard onion and usually the cheapest one at the market. If you’re using a recipe that doesn’t specify what type of onion to use, a yellow onion is your best bet. Yellow onions are particularly hardy, and their flavor complex and spicy. They also have more sulfur than other onion varietals, so they’re much more pungent, difficult to eat raw, and more likely to make you tear up.

Yellow onions keep for a very long time.

Best For: Dishes that cook for a long time on low heat, like soups, including French onion soup, stocks, risotto, sauces and stews. Anything sautéed, too.

See Also: 15 Easy Lunch Recipes (Slideshow)

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Read more: All recipes, Appetizers & Snacks, Basics, Eating for Health, Food, Green Kitchen Tips, Raw, Vegan, Vegetarian, ,

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Katie Waldeck

Katie is a freelance writer focused on pets, food and women’s issues. A Chicago native and longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Katie now lives in Oakland, California.


+ add your own
11:24PM PDT on Apr 1, 2014

Thank you!!

3:12AM PDT on Mar 30, 2014

The way of cooking also counts

4:49AM PDT on Mar 27, 2014


7:35PM PDT on Mar 26, 2014

Red onions look so pretty in a salad, but other than that I never knew when to use any particular type of onion. Thanks!

7:22AM PDT on Mar 26, 2014

Onions are so nutritious and delicious! My favourites are the standard yellow cooking onions.

10:34AM PST on Feb 28, 2014

I love onions and grow my own every year - yellow, red, white, shalot, leek, chives. Lovely!

8:35AM PST on Jan 14, 2014


11:10AM PST on Jan 8, 2014

Thanx. I am confused. I was told no onions should be kept in the refrigerator, now they say, put sweet onions in the refrigerator. Someday they will get their act together and then we will know what to do.

5:56AM PST on Dec 12, 2013

I love onions, we tend to buy ours from the local farm, usually they are brown onions but sometimes red ones. Reducing the carbon footprint of our food is important to us.

11:37PM PST on Dec 9, 2013

I didn't know sweet onions should be kept in the refrigerator, and I can't imagine eating an onion, no matter how sweet, like an apple.

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