While a staple in every kitchen, onions are often an overlooked star of many dishes. Versatile, delicious, and essential there are many different types of onions that can give your dishes that savory punch.
Although onions aren’t as nutritious as other vegetables their sweet and pungent flavor can transform the dullest recipe into a flavorful dish. From soups and salads to roasts and salsas, onions provide a foundation to many dishes and there are many different types you should know about.
In this article, we’ll list 20 popular and common types of onions and tell you the best way to use them in recipes.
Different and Common Types of Onions
Onions are a staple in kitchens all around the world and will add flavor to any dish. But with so many different types of onions, you might have trouble deciding which one to use in recipes.
Here are 20 different types of onions and the best ways you can use them.
1. Bermuda Onion
Bermuda onions are a type of sweet onions known for their mild flavor and high water content. While this variety used to come only in white color, you can now find red, purple, and yellow Bermuda onions.
Flat-topped and sweet, Bermuda onions are ideal for grilling, stuffing, and will add flavor to any ingredient.
Chives belong to the allium family and are closely related to garlic and onions. Known for their long green stems and small white bulbs, chives have a sweet and mild flavor with a hint of pungent taste.
Their hollow green leaves are great for summer salads, soups, omelets, and any other recipe that needs a flavorful kick.
3. Cipollini Onion
Cipollini onion is a small, flattened, and sweet onion variety from Italy. They have round flattened bulbs and thin skin, which can sometimes be tricky to peel.
Due to their extremely sweet taste, Cipollini onions can be caramelized, but are also great roasted or fried with oil or butter.
4. Cocktail Onion
Cocktail onions are in fact pickled onions, with small amounts of paprika and turmeric, in a brine. Pearl onions are generally used for the pickling process due to their sweet flavor however, other onion varieties can be used for pickling as well.
Cocktail onions have a crunchy texture and sweet flavor, but aren’t as pungent as raw onions.
5. Egyptian Onion
Also known as tree onion, the Egyptian onion is similar to common onions. The only difference is that this variety grows bulbs on top of their foliage, where a normal onion would have flowers.
Egyptian onions have a strong and spicy flavor, but some varieties have a sweeter taste. The hollow greens can be chopped and eaten like green onions, and the bulbs can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in soups.
6. Green Onion
Often called scallions, green onions have hollow and long green stalks and small white bulbs. Green onions have a milder flavor than most other onions and can be eaten raw.
Slightly sweet and flavorful, scallions can be cooked in soups, used as a garnish in a sandwich, or as a topping.
Leeks are part of the allium family and have a crunchy and firm leaves and a mild, onion-like flavor. The white base and the light green parts of the leeks can be eaten raw, but the dark green parts are tough and must be cooked.
8. Maui Onion
Maui onions are grown on the slopes of Mount Haleakala, a dormant volcano on the island of Maui. These spring onions look a lot like regular sweet onions and are best known for their sweet mild flavor and juicy texture.
Maui onions have a slightly elongated shape and paler skin and are great baked, boiled, or stuffed, but can also be eaten raw.
9. Pearl Onion
Also known as button or baby onions in the UK, or creamers in the US, pearl onions are small and have a round shape. Sweet tasting and delicious, pearl onions are commonly used for pickling but are also great roasted or cooked.
10. Pickling Onion
Pickled onions are made of sweet onions that are pickled in a mixture of salt and vinegar, spice mix, and chili pepper. You can make pickled onions from red, yellow, white onions, or silverskin onions depending on the ingredients you have available.
Pickled onions can be eaten alongside fish and chips, served as a side dish, or used as a garnish for seafood.
11. Red Onion
Both the interior flesh and the exterior skin of red onions have a reddish-purple color which makes this variety ideal if you want to add a pop of color to any dish. Mild and sweet-tasting, red onions are great eaten raw in salads and sandwiches.
If you don’t like to eat raw onions, you can grill red onions or use them for roasts, stir-fries, and stews.
12. Redwing Onion
Redwing onion is the most common variety of red onions grown by commercial growers. It has a bright maroon color, large and round bulbs, and a very mild flavor.
Due to its slightly sweet and mild taste, the Redwing onion can be eaten raw and used in salads and sandwiches.
13. Shallots Onion
Shallots are a part of the onion family and their skin color can vary from golden brown to a rose red. They have an intense and pungent garlicky flavor which can trigger tears while you’re chopping them.
Ideal for salad dressings and sauces, shallots are also great roasted, deep-fried, or pickled.
14. Spanish Onion
Spanish onions have large bulbs, light brown skin, and mild flavor. Juicy and sweet, Spanish onions can be eaten raw and sliced for salads, sandwiches, or used to make onion rings.
15. Texas Supersweet Onion
Texas Supersweet onion has large bulbs, off-white flesh, and is one of the sweetest onions you’re going to try. Mild and flavorful, this variety is great for salads, slicing, grilling, and cooking.
16. Vidalia Onion
Vidalia onions are one of several varieties of sweet onions with a unique flat shape. Due to its super-sweet taste, this variety can be eaten raw and is ideal for slicing as a topping.
If you aren’t a fan of raw onion flavor, Vidalia onions can also be cooked and will provide great flavor to any dish without overpowering other ingredients.
17. Walla Walla Sweet Onion
Named for Walla Walla County in Washington where they are grown, Walla Wallas are heirloom onions. Round and large in size, the Walla Walla onion bulb can weigh up to two pounds.
Sweet, mild, and juicy, this variety is ideal for slicing and can be used in sandwiches, tacos, or hamburgers.
18. Welsh Onion
Often called long green onion or spring onion, the Welsh onion doesn’t develop bulbs and has hollow leaves. Despite its name, this onion variety isn’t indigenous to Wales and is a common ingredient in Asian cuisine.
Mild enough to eat raw, Welsh onions can be used in stir fry, soups, meat dishes, stews, and salads.
19. White Onion
White onions have a papery white skin, white flesh, and a sweet flavor due to high sugar content. They are milder and crunchier than yellow onions which makes them ideal for slicing.
Mild and sweet, white onions are great for salads, stews, salsas, or casseroles.
20. Yellow Onion
Yellow onion has a pale golden papery skin and a light yellow or white flesh. They have higher sulfur content which gives them a stronger and more complex flavor.
Yellow onions become sweeter the longer you cook them and are great for stews, roasts, braises, or soups.
What Is the Most Common Onion?
The medium sized yellow onion is the most common type of onion. Highly versatile and a kitchen staple, yellow onions can be prepared in many different ways and used in just about any recipe.
With its white flesh and strong pungent flavor, the yellow onion will add aroma to any dish and will get sweeter when caramelized.
Which Onions Are Best for Cooking?
If a recipe doesn’t call for a special type of onion to use, your best choice is a yellow onion. Often called the all-purpose onion, yellow onions are suitable for all recipes, and are exceptionally tasty when caramelized.
Their strong and pungent flavor will enhance the aroma of any other ingredient and add a kick to your recipes.
Onions are a staple in every kitchen and are one of those ingredients you simply can’t live without. Versatile and flavorful, onions provide a foundation for many different dishes.
Whether they are caramelized, roasted with meat, or sliced fresh for a salad, different types of onions will enhance the flavor of any dish.