Learn what types of onions will enhance your recipe (and yes, it makes a difference!)

Today’s post is a little unconventional but completely necessary. If you’ve ever spent time in the produce aisle at your local grocery store, you know that there’s a pretty big array of onions. But how do you know the difference between a white and yellow onion, let alone which one to use in your next recipe? There used to be a time when I thought all onions shared the same basic characteristics (i.e. they all make you cry, right?). Well today, I’m here to tell you that different types of onions are in fact different, and that specific types can actually enhance your cooking. So, if you’ve been blindly picking onions at the store when shopping for your groceries, keep scrolling for a little onion 101…

Yes, there is more than one type of onion... In fact, there are ten (or more!). Learn which ones to use for your recipe.

1. Red onion

First up on the list is red onion. This bold beauty is spicier when eaten raw, but still has a bit of sweetness to it. Since red onion is delicious when it’s uncooked, you’ve most likely eaten it in salads, guacamole, sandwiches and hamburgers.

2. Yellow onion

If you’re looking for an all-purpose onion, look no further. Yellow onions have been deemed the best cooking onion because they are the most versatile of the bunch. They are available year-round and are known for becoming sweet and delicious when cooked. Try adding yellow onion into your roasts, meat dishes, soups and stews.

3. White onion

White onions are known to add a bold crunch to whatever they’re added to. These onions tend to be milder in flavor than yellow onions, but will still add a zing of oniony flavor. The next time you’re cooking up some stir-fry or whipping up some homemade salsa, add some white onions into the mix.

 4. Sweet onion

If you’ve ever enjoyed an onion ring, then you’re probably already familiar with sweet onions. Sweet onions are sweet and crisp, making them a perfect addition to roasted vegetables, salads and sandwiches. If you’re like me and prefer sweet over spicy then you’ll love these ones. Tip: always store your sweet onions in the refrigerator. They tend to perish more quickly when left out.

5. Green Onions

Green onions, also known as scallions, are a well-known garnish. From salads to soups to baked potatoes, scallions go great on just about anything. Use them as an accent as you would herbs, such as parsley or chives.

 6. Leeks

Leeks appear similar to scallions but are larger and meatier in size. Their flavor is a mix between garlic and onion, and they tend to be mild and a bit sweet. Leeks are usually found in soups, but are also great when sautéed or grilled.

 7. Shallots

Shallots and other onions can be used in recipes interchangeably, but shallots bring a rich and sweet flavor combination into the mix. Similar to leeks, shallots have a hint of garlic to their flavor. Try adding shallots into your fish and poultry recipes as well as soups and sauces.

8. Pearl onions

Pearl onions look like miniature versions of white onions but are milder and sweeter than their big sisters. These little guys taste best glazed, in creamy dishes or even pickled. Tip: to peel them more easily, blanch them in hot water beforehand.

9. Cipollini onions

This next onion is for those of you with a sweet tooth. Cipollini means little onion—they’re usually the size of a golf ball. Cipollini onions are extra sweet, making them the onion of choice for any of your roasts or sautéed dishes. When cooked with butter or olive oil they basically melt in your mouth!

 10. Spring onions

Spring onions are similar to green onions but with a larger bulb at the end. They have a spicier kick to them before they’re cooked. But once cooked, spring onions become tender and sweet. I recommend grilling them with your next dish.

Do you have a preference towards any of these onions? What are some of your favorite ways to incorporate onions into recipes?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

XO Lauren

Photos: Stephanie Todaro for LaurenConrad.com
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  • manuela

    Hi Lauren I always use onions in my recipes! They are healthy and make the food more delicious!
    I usuali use red and Yellow onions!
    The first for the salad and the Yellow for other recipes!
    Xoxo M.

  • In our Italian family olive oil, garlic & onions are the start to every recipe! This is so informative! Thanks Lauren!

    xo, Britney
    britneytermale.com

  • I’m a big fan of all onions actually, but this post was super helpful! 😀 Haha I never actually paid attention to all of the different options, so this guide is super helpful! <3

    XO, Elizabeth
    http://clothestoyouuu.com/

  • Cherilyn

    I love them all! Thanks for the information. Now I know which ones to use when I cook.

  • Ummm, yes! Such a necessary post! Pinning right now!! I never know which kind of onion to pick out! Thank you for this guide!

    Xox Dana Ivy // http://www.iadorewhatilove.com

  • Lindsay Jill Cox

    Great post 😊 On a completely different note, what colour are you wearing on your nails? Beautiful! 😍 X

  • Denise Rico

    Thanks I love this information to get better at cooking and making dishes.

    -Denise
    http://www.activehabitat.blogspot.com

  • Imraan Khan

    A very interesting post! I always use onions in my cooking and this post has made me think of using the right onions. Saved and shared with my friends who love cooking!

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  • Mary

    I love roasting my cipollini onions whole and adding them on top of a filet mignion – usually with a red wine glaze 🙂