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kmvd 11-16-2006 11:25 AM

Differences among onions
What's the difference between yellow, white and red onions besides the color? When do you use on versus the other?


sparrowgrass 11-16-2006 11:36 AM

Yellow onions are stronger, more punguent. Use them in cooking and for carmelizing.

Red and white ones tend to be sweeter and good for raw use. (Not always, however. I was at a conference this week, and they used red onions on our salads--the entire dining room smelled like onions, and they were hot and unpleasant.)

kadesma 11-16-2006 11:39 AM


Originally Posted by kmvd
What's the difference between yellow, white and red onions besides the color? When do you use on versus the other?


Certain times of the year, onions are sweeter and not so hot. So I tend to go with them that way, but I do use them like this, If making a Mexican recipe, I use a white onion, for most other I use the yellow, the red I like in early spring and summer for salads and also in a tomato based dish that the red color of the onion blends together with. All this is just my way of cooking with them. You will find your favorite and tend to go with it in most things. Hope this helps you a little.

GB 11-16-2006 11:40 AM

I think it all depends on the type of onion as well. Most yellow onions I get are much sweeter than white onions. I find the white ones to be the most pungent.

kmvd 11-16-2006 11:53 AM

Seem GB and Sparrowgrass are opposite one another regarding the taste of onions, but that's ok with me. It sounds like for general onion use as an ingrediant in a larger dish, say a roast or chicken, then go with the yellow. Maybe use a white in dishes that aren't cooked, or where the onion flavor needs to be subtle, and red when color is more of an issue. Yes, no?

GB 11-16-2006 12:00 PM

I think those rules of thumb are not a bad guideline, but it really does depend on the actual onion itself a lot of the time. I have had yellow onions that are so sweet you would think they were dipped in sugar (think Vidallia onions) and others that are hot enough to make you run for a glass of water. Your best bet is to taste them and get to know the different type your market carries.

Of course you can't just bite into an onion at the market to see what it is like so your above rules will help you make an educated guess.

kmvd 11-16-2006 12:02 PM

Thanks for the guidance.

Andy M. 11-16-2006 01:07 PM

Regular yellow onions are strong flavored. Sweet yellows, such as Vidalias, are milder and sweeter. I believe white onions are stronger flavored than regular yellows. Reds are a standard for salads. I like their taste in a salad.

GB 11-16-2006 01:11 PM

I use yellow for most things.

I use red for color and eating raw. I love red in salsa for example.

I very rarely use white, but the two times I can think of when I use them is diced and raw on top of both hot dogs and chili.

Katie H 11-16-2006 01:22 PM

I also use yellow onions most of the time. But there's nothing like a baked Vidalia onion. And, as for Vidalias, the flatter they are, the sweeter they are. I learned this from the Vidalia Onion Council.

One of my favorite ways to prepare them is to plan on one smallish to medium onion per person. Peel the onions, on one side make a small "well" by removing some of the onion with a melon baller. Place the onions, well side up, in a baking dish. Add water to about 1/4 inch deep to the dish. Put a beef bouillon cube in each onion's well and a pat of butter, not margarine. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Pure heaven will await. These are super served with roast beef or roast pork.

Gretchen 11-16-2006 01:47 PM

I think Andy and GB have it about right. And I think white onions can be the most pungent--used in Mexican dishes a lot.

sparrowgrass 11-16-2006 02:54 PM

Sorry, guys--I never use white onions, just yellow.

Aren't the big Texas Sweets white?

Andy M. 11-16-2006 02:56 PM

Sweet, yellow and white onions all have white flesh. The color refers to the outer covering or skin.

kmvd 11-16-2006 02:58 PM

Thanks to everyone. I agree that the most common usage for white onions that I either see or do is when they're diced or sliced but not cooked, just applied to the top of something else. Otherwise use yellows for cooking.

Gretchen 11-17-2006 05:47 AM

Not to put too fine a point on it, white onions can be cooked/used just like any other. Vidalias (white) are often used uncooked because of their sweet quality--sliced or diced on top of a dish. In fact, I wouldn't use them in a cooked dish where "onions" are called for--they are not spicey/hot enough and when cooked, become even "sweeter", like in the baked onion dish.

Robo410 11-17-2006 09:36 AM

seems any onion can be strong...depends on drying and individual harvests. NY boasts of their strong robust onions (yellow) Whites are not necessarily milder, but often are, and sometimes just dull when cooked.

my rule of thumb has been: yellow with red meats, white with fish, reds for color-often thin sliced on salads or cold dishes (so pretty), sweets whenever I want that flavor texture. Of course, if what I'm looking for looks all banged up in the store, I'll go for something else. I don't like hard and fast rules that prohibit quality substitutions.

Chopstix 11-17-2006 10:57 AM

My mom always bought red onions because she said they keep longer than the yellow ones. And they pack more flavor too. I use both. I like red onions when cooking strong flavored food. The yellow onions I usually use when I want raw onions, say for topping pizza, hamburger or tuna sandwich. I use shallots when making delicate sauces. They make your food taste sophisticated I think...

SizzlininIN 11-17-2006 11:12 AM

I generally use yellow onion in most all my dishes. However, off the top of my head I know that I use Vadalia Onions when making onion rings and cucumbers and onions. I also always use red onion in my salsa and black bean salad or regular salads. I don't follow any rules with this I just go with my taste. Sometimes however I'll get a yellow onion that is really hot when I was hoping for a milder one......just luck of the draw in my opinion.

kitchenelf 11-17-2006 11:50 AM


Originally Posted by sparrowgrass
I was at a conference this week, and they used red onions on our salads--the entire dining room smelled like onions, and they were hot and unpleasant.)

I have noticed this same thing about red onions lately - what is it????? They are sooooooo strong and not pleasant at ALL to eat like they used to be.

Robo410 11-17-2006 01:05 PM

fruits and vegetables tell us a lot about the weather of a given year, as does a bottle of wine.

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