Onions Q&A

Before we learn how to peel, slice and chop onions it is important to know the different types of onions and some of their uses. My Little Chefs had so many questions we decided to find the answers to them.

If a recipe calls for an onion what type do they mean?

Since yellow onions are the most popular cooking onion and are used for almost all major cooking; roasting meats, flavor bases for soups, sauces, stews, carmelized onions, when a recipe calls for an onion a yellow onion is most likely what you should use.

What should I know about yellow onions?

Yellow onions have a sharp spicy flavor, but they also have a lot of sugar. When yellow onions are cooked they loose the sharp flavor and become sweet. Yellow onions have a yellow-brown papery skin on the outside and a white flesh on the inside. Their high sulfur content makes your eyes water.

What should I know about sweet onions?

Sweet onions (vidalia and walla walla) are best for frying, making onion rings, baked gratin, roasted vegetable dishes. A sweet onion has thick layers which makes it great for slicing into rings. It is sweet but not spicy. Great for a French Onion Soup because of its sweetness.

What should I know about white onions?

White onions are the crunchiest because of their high water content, sharpest, not very sweet, large, papery skin, mostly used in Mexican cooking.

What should I know about red onions?

Red onion is mild, best eaten raw, best on guacamole, salsa, pickling, sliced in salads, on burgers, in sandwiches, crisp a little sweet, adds a lot of color.

What should I know about shallots?

Shallots have the most subtle flavor, sweet with a little spiciness, great for an egg dish, vinaigrette, garnish.

How do I choose a good onion?

An onion should be firm, have a “crunchy’ dry outer skin, have a mild smell. If the onion has a very strong smell it is most likely starting to go bad. Onion should be heavy for its size. Onions store better in a cooler and darker well ventilated area.

What happens when an onion is cooked?

The flavor diminishes as it cooks. High heat makes onions bitter. When sauteing onions, always use low or medium heat.

Are scallions and green onions different?

No. They are the same vegetable. A while ago where you lived in the U.S. determined which name you used. Now that people have moved all over the name is not as regional.

What should I know about scallions/green onions?

Their flavor is more mild then an ordinary onions. They are eaten raw or cooked. Except for the hairy end you can eat the entire thing, white and green parts. Sometimes the tip of the green is biter so give it a taste before deciding to use it.

How do I cut an onion without crying?

Do not cut off the hairy root end because it has the highest concentration of sulfur which causes you to cry. You can also chill the onion for 30 minutes prior to cutting to reduce the sulfur effect.

What if I only need to use part of my onion. Can I store the rest? For how long?

Yes, onions that are chopped or sliced can be kept for 7-10 days in a sealed container.

Fun fact from Fannie Farmer: She writes in The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, “the onion belongs to the same family (Lily) as do shallot, garlic, leek, and chive.  Onions are cooked and served as a vegetable.  They are wholesome, and contain considerable nutrient, but are objectionable on account of the strong odor they impart to the breath, due to volatile substances absorbed by the blood, and by the blood carried to the lungs, where they are set free.”  Fannie teaches the reader how to boil onions, make onions in cream, as well as scallop, fry and stuff onions.

5 Types of Onions from fivelittlechefs.com #cookingschool #kidscooking #onions


I am a mom to Five Little Chefs who love to cook and create anything with their hands. Watching over 10 additional hands keeps me busy but is so much fun! We laugh and cry everyday, but then want to do it again the next day. That is how we know we are enjoying life!

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