Onions are part of the allium family, which includes garlic, leeks, chives, ramps, and hundreds of other species of aromatic plants. Even among onions, there is a boatload of varieties, each with its own distinct characteristics.
Even though they’re used in various dishes and cuisines, they’re still one of the most underappreciated ingredients on the grocery list, constantly present but sometimes forgotten.
How many different varieties of onions can you name? Is it four or six? Most of us are familiar with the everyday yellow onion found in supermarkets. You may have also eaten red or white onions, but there are many more onion kinds to pick from. Continue reading to learn about several onion varieties you may not have heard of or seen before.
Before we get into some of the rarer kinds of onions, let’s talk about the common varieties;
Yellow onions are one of the most popular onions found in supermarkets. They’re a must-have in any pantry. Raw, they’re abrasive, but sautéed, roasted, or caramelised, they’re sweet. Because of their high starch content, it doesn’t turn to mush even after long cooking times, making them an excellent all-purpose cooking onion.
White onions have a strong, pungent flavour and should only be used when you want a strong flavour. They come in white or somewhat brown tint and can be used in several different meals, including salads and general cooking. The skins of these onions are thinner and more papery. They are significantly more flavorful when cooked, but be aware that slicing them up is the most painful part!
Raw red onions are sharper and spicier than yellow onions. The skin of these onions is deep purple, and they have a mild flavour. Some people consider red onions to be spicy, whereas others consider them to be just right. Soak them in ice water while you prepare the rest of your ingredients to make them extra crisp and to remove some of their sharpness.
The peel of this onion is pale yellow. They are larger and have less translucent skin than yellow onions. They’re gentle, crisp, and refreshing because they have less sulphur and more water than yellows, reds, and whites. Sweet onions lack the harsh, intense flavour of ordinary onions, and they are actually rather sweet. The look of this onion is occasionally squished or flattened. Sweet onions should be kept in the refrigerator because they are a lot more perishable.
Sweet onions are the way to go if you’re seeking for onions to utilise in a recipe that showcases their flavour (like onion soup) or for caramelising.
Non-common varieties of Onions
Super Star Onion
Super Star onions are white onions that are mild and crunchy. They are the very first hybrid onion to be awarded an All-America Award! The globe-shaped white bulbs produced by this intermediate mid-day cultivar are quite appealing. The flavour is moderate and sweet, and storing them long-term is not advised.
Texas 1015 or ‘Million Dollar Baby’
Texas 1015 is a thick-skinned, round, softball-sized yellow onion with crisp, juicy, non-tearing white flesh and a pleasant, sweet scent. These sweet onions are known as the “million dollar baby” because it took ten years of intensive research, never-ending testing, and a million-dollar budget to develop an onion with luscious, crisp flesh and a mild, extraordinarily tasty sweet taste. It’s so sweet that you can eat it raw or cooked, and it’s delicious both ways.
If onions make your eyes tear up, the Million Dollar Baby is the answer. It contains a lot of water and sugar and produces fewer enzymes that cause your eyes to moisten.
Things might be about to change if slicing onions causes you to struggle to see through the tears.
Sunions claim that as time passes, the onion becomes milder and sweeter.
According to the creators, this gentler onion is the result of three decades of work, claiming it is not genetically modified but rather a natural cross-bred approach.
Vidalia onions are called after the town of Vidalia, Georgia, where they were once produced. Vidalia onions were first cultivated in the early 1930s. Vidalia onions are exceptionally sweet. The Vidalia is an excellent choice in the sweet onion family; you don’t even need to prepare them; in fact, they can be eaten sliced and raw. Vidalia onions are sweeter than other onions, and their exceptional sweetness is attributable to the low sulphur content of the soil in which they are grown.
Because it requires volcanic soil to grow, the Maui onion can only be found in Hawaii. These onions are incredibly sweet and lack the sulphuric acid that causes tears when chopped in regular onions. Due to their high water content, they are also highly juicy. They’re fantastic in salads and sandwiches, and they’re also delicious caramelised.
Spanish onions are a variety of yellow onion that is slightly sweeter and milder in flavour than regular yellow onions. Spanish onions, sometimes confused with yellow onions, are sweet and have a lower water content than most onions, making them an excellent choice for cooking onion rings.
Pearl onions, also known as Button or Baby onions, are little onions with a delicate, sweet flavour. They usually range in size from half an inch to 2 inches. The majority of pearl onions have white skins, although they can also have yellow or red skins. One of the best things about pearl onions is that they don’t require any chopping, which means no crying also!. Simply peel and eat whole. They are delicious to eat in many ways and can be roasted, braised, pickled, creamed, or glazed.
Shallots, like garlic, develop in clusters rather than creating a single bulb. Several bulbs are frequently linked to a base. They have an onion-like flavour that is deeper and sweeter without being overpowering, and they are well-known for their versatility. There is also a Thai shallot that is less pungent than European kinds and works well in spicy pastes.
Torpedo onions are an Italian heirloom onion variety renowned for their distinctive shape. They are one of the most well-known onion varieties from Italy. Tropea, a Calabrian town, is where the onion comes from. They have purple or scarlet skins and pale red meat and can grow to be 8 inches long and only 3 inches wide. Torpedo onions have a lot of sweetness, and they’re delicious when pickled or grilled till soft.
They’re similar to green onions, except they’re normally larger, and, despite their name, they’re primarily employed in Asian cuisine and have nothing to do with Wales. Welsh onions are a Chinese native. They don’t make bulbs; instead, they make long, hallow leaves and scapes.
These onions are gently sweet, meaning they won’t overshadow other ingredients in a dish. Because of their size, they’re ideal for stuffing. Bermuda onions come in all sorts of varieties. They’re a variety of sweet onions found on Bermuda’s island. Bermuda onions have a flat top with a pleasant taste, and their skin can be white or yellow. The skin of some newer kinds is sometimes crimson. These onions work well in grilled dishes and have a mild flavour.
Brown onions have a flavour that is a little too intense and spicy to eat raw, but they make an excellent cooking onion. In Australia, brown onions are one of the most commonly utilised forms of onion in cooking! Although several types of onions are advertised as brown onions, the true brown onion has crisp, white flesh encased in a papery brown skin.
Cipollini onions are little, flat-shaped spheres that really are adorable. Cipollini onions are often beige or brown and have a higher sugar content than other onions, making them suitable for roasting whole until caramelised. The Bianco di Maggio is a white cultivar of Cipollini onion with a sweet flavour.
Leeks are a variety of onion that is frequently overlooked, but they are one of the most adaptable onions. They make fantastic soups, and if cooked gently with meats in a stew, you’ll be in for a real treat. Both the long green stalks and the white bulb end of leeks are useful in cooking. They have a considerably more delicate and light flavour than an onion.
Walla Walla Onion
This popular variety from Washington State is famed for producing onions weighing up to 2 pounds each! Walla Walla onions have a rich flavour that is predominantly sweet. They’re really sweet and mild, and because they have a larger water content than some types, they can be cured but don’t have a long shelf life.
Candy Hybrid Onion
With light yellow flesh and thin, paper-like skin, this intermediate or day-neutral type is a lovely and reliable performer. With its long and narrow stalk that doesn’t contain much moisture, the’ Candy’ type is reputed to store well in storage if properly cured. These have a mild sharpness to them yet are crisp and acidic to the taste.
As you can see from the information above, onions have a lot more variety than you might think. They’re not only excellent for you, but they also provide a lot of onion flavour to our favourite foods. We can’t possibly cover all alliums in one post, but we hope that this much material has piqued your interest enough to make you want to learn more about onions!