With so many different types of onions, a full, comprehensive guide would be more than a little tedious, so we've put together a short, simple list of all the must-know points — from taste variation to shelf life to quick cooking tips. Not sure which onions to use in which dish? Learn these basics to boost your knowledge:
Onions come in a large variety of types, tastes, and colors, the most common being yellow, red, white, and green. They can also be bred to create hybrids with different levels of maturity. Depending on the size and intended purpose, these are generally referred to as either pearl, boiler, or pickler onions. On top of all these different types are several forms, too, including fresh, frozen, canned, caramelized, chopped, or dehydrated, as in onion powder.
The most common is the yellow onion, which has brown skin, white flesh, and a strong, pungent taste that gives French onion soup its unique flavor. Red onions, on the other hand, tend to be best either fresh or grilled to maintain their sweet and spicy taste. The traditional onion of Mexican cuisine, the white onion, is generally mild but becomes sweet when sautéed. Green onions are a small, less mature version that's harvested while the shoots are still green, and since their taste is rather light, they tend to be used as a topping.
As a general rule, all fresh onions should be stored away from other produce so that they don't soak up the odors. Green onions need to be refrigerated, while the other types can usually be kept at room temperature in a cool, dark space for two to three weeks. Since sweet onions contain more sugar and water, it's smart to leave them in the refrigerator, too.
If you tend to get teary while cutting onions, check out this video and learn how to chop an onion correctly. Looking for a tasty onion-based dish? Try this caramelized vidalia onion dip recipe, or make some butter-braised onions to toss on your favorite dishes.