Before we knew better, we used all onions interchangeably. White, red, sweet: what’s the difference? The difference is in the taste and texture!
Whether you’re making a sauce, a grilled dish, or using onions as a topping, you’ll want to make the right choice for the right flavor. Here’s a quick picture guide to onions. And click here to watch how to properly dice one!
Spanish onions are workhorses. They’re mild and not very sweet and they’re the most common type of onion in the U.S. If your recipe calls for simply an “onion”, use this. Since they’re mild, they won’t add a ton of flavor in recipes that call for raw onions (like sauces). Try it in this bacon wrapped apple and onion pinto burger.
Shallots look like overgrown garlic but are a purple color. They usually come two bulbs in one “package” of onion-y paper. They have a milder flavor than onions but retain more of that flavor when uncooked. In contrast to the Spanish onion or a white onion, this makes them great for raw preparations. Try them in these crab and avocado cakes.
These are unmistakable: round, hefty, and gleaming white. White onions are tangy, almost vinegary, and not sweet. They have a pleasant crunch and bite and are most often used in Latin American dishes. Try them in these patacones with tomato and onion chutney.
These onions are quite the contrast to white onions. They’re bright red-purple with a very strong taste. Red onions are sharp and tangy and not often used raw. When roasted or grilled, they sweeten. If you want to use raw, soak onions in 20 minutes to dull the bite, then serve. Try them in cochinita pibil with pickled onions.
Sweet onions, also known as Vidalia onions, are sweet because they have less sulfur than other onions; that means the sugar can stand out. In some parts of the country, people even eat them raw. They’re great paired with grilled foods and in sauces. Try them in this Peruvian chicken with sweet onions.