ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Onions - the Differences in the Top Three Varieties.

Updated on March 30, 2021
Don Bobbitt profile image

Don and his wife love to cook. They enjoy new and different recipes and experimenting with interesting combinations of ingredients.

Lets Talk Onions

From the famous Chefs to the daily home cooks, they all use these three common Onions to enhance the flavors of their favorite dishes.

Of course there are hundreds of other varieties of Onions used around the world and these are also great special ingredients for many recipes. But I'm talking about the three most popular onions that are a staple of kitchens everywhere.

I just want to discuss the plain but familiar onions; the Red, the White and the Yellow varieties.

We should all know the important differences in these flavorful Onions that we eat almost every day, and that most of us try to keep in our pantry, all of the time.

These basic Onion types have certain advantages and disadvantages when compared with their counterparts.

A typical Yellow Onion

The popular Yellow Onion variety
The popular Yellow Onion variety | Source

Onions for everyday use.

As I said, the good old Red, Yellow and White Onions are the backbone of flavor for many popular recipes.

You know, the ones that you see listed as an ingredients for most of your day-to-day dishes. In fact, these three varieties of Onions account for the vast majority of the total onion consumption in the US.

Oh sure, there are; Shallots, Chives, Scallions, Spring Onions, Leeks, Ramps, and many, many other exotic and fantastic varieties of onions.

Each of these, found around the world, also has amazing flavors of their own, but these three common varieties are by far the most commonly used.

Onion flavor Varies widely

The actual flavors you may get at any time with any of each of the onion varieties can range from sweet to very pungent, usually dependent on their age and freshness as well as the ground they were grown in.

Some Love Onions, Some Hate Onions

I have talked to a lot of people who seem to have set opinions on these three staples of the Onion family and often they will tell me things about their favorite (and least favorite) onions such as;

I hate Red Onions, they are way too strong,

or I just love sweet White onions, when I use them, it tastes like I don’t even have onions in the dish,

or I think the Yellow Onion is far too harsh for my palate.

I even hear questions like;

Which onion should I use when I make a vegetable salad and which should I use in my Chicken Salad recipe?

Then there is the question; I have a recipe that used fried onions as a garnish on burgers. which onion should I use?

So, before I begin, if you are one of those people who turn their nose up at the mention of the word Onion, and refuse to even consider eating them, well, you should move on to an article that's more entertaining, and stop reading this one right now.

The information you'll find here is for those people who enjoy the flavor, aroma, and health aspects of Onions, and just need a little basic information on these varieties to make better decisions on which one to use.

Be aware that the actual flavors you may get at any time with one of each of these onion varieties can range from sweet to very pungent, often dependent on their freshness, but the flavors mentioned is the predominate one that you will find when you use a fresh variety of each.

A Taste Test?

It is always smart, when using onions, to make your first cut and then use your nose and then take a small bite of a piece of the onion to determine exactly what you are using.

Then you should adjust the quantity used according to what strength of flavors you have to work with.

Be creative when using onions because tying yourself down to a particular variety of onion that is called for in a recipe can really limit your flavor options.

If your recipe calls for a Red onion, you should take a good look at what else is in the dish itself, and you will probably be able to safely change over to a Yellow or even White onion without doing any harm to the flavor of the dish.

Ask yourself things like;

  • is the dish supposed to be sweet or does it have strong flavors in the other ingredients,
  • will my choice make a major change in the flavor of the finished dish,
  • what herbs and spices are used in the dish and will the onion choice fight or accent these flavors,
  • what sauces or dressing will be used with the dish,
  • and will the onion choice enhance or clash with their flavors?

Just remember that Intelligent questions will lead to intelligent choices, every time.

The top three Onion Varieties

You must understand the real differences in each of these popular Onion varieties before you use them


The Red Onion provides a great color contrast to almost any dish it is used in.

It has a stronger and more pungent flavor than yellow onions after it ages, but is very tasty when it is fresh. Red Onions are great when used raw, grilled or roasted and go well in fresh dishes such as vegetable Salads and on sandwiches.

And it is used often on and with foods that have strong flavors in the other ingredients of the dish, as a good contrast.


The Yellow Onion, which typically has a mellow sweet flavor with little aftertaste and is the most popularly used variety of the bulb onions, accounting for over 75% of the volume sold in the US.

They have a full flavor, and turn a dark brown in color when cooked.

They are often grilled, fried, caramelized, and are used in soups, etc.


The White Onions can have crisper flavors varying from Mild to very Sweet, and with very little aftertaste, depending on the variety used.

Because of their sweet flavor, they are favored in many Mexican dishes, fresh salads, as well as potato and pasta salads.

And they are used often in white sauces.

Plus, they turn a nice golden color when sautéed.

A book on facts about Onions

The Onion Book of Known Knowledge: A Definitive Encyclopaedia Of Existing Information
The Onion Book of Known Knowledge: A Definitive Encyclopaedia Of Existing Information
I really enjoyed this book. After reading it, I am a better cook just from some of the tips I picked up from reading this book.

Notes for using Onions

There are a number of things you should know about these common Onions that will dramatically affect how your food tastes.


Here are a couple of good tips to remember when you are preparing your Onions:

Onions can be grilled, roasted, sautéed or caramelized.

But, the calorie conscious should be aware that when you caramelize an onion, you will increase the sugar content of the onion used.

Onions should be used as soon as possible after cutting due to the fact that they lose their flavor as they sit.

It should be noted that sing high heat when preparing onions can add a bitterness to their flavor, so when cooking, specifically sautéing, use a low or medium heat to avoid this potential problem.


When selecting your onions for use, look for the following;

  • no discolorations of the onion body,
  • no blemishes or cuts in the onion.
  • no soft spots in the onion body,
  • no signs of roots appearing on the onion end.

When you inspect an onion, even with the outer paper-like layer in place, you should see that the outer layer, of the onion itself is not dry looking, but has good color and seems moist.


Onions can be kept for a relatively long time, if they are stored properly.

They need to be stored in a cool dry place where air can circulate around them.

Do Not store onions in bags, either paper or plastic.

This will contain the gases from the onion itself and will speed up the ripening process causing them to rot early.

Please note that White onions do not store as well as the Red and Yellow varieties.

Once you have cut an onion, it should be kept, in the fridge, in a sealed container. This will keep the odor from the onion contained and it will not not spread to your other refrigerated foods.

Hopefully the information is helpful to you.

The use of Onions enhances the smells and flavors of so many dishes that we eat, and nutritionally they are great for us.


Onions are free of Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium, while providing relatively high levels of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Fiber and Manganese among other critical nutrients, while being low in calories.

Onions provide numerous other health benefits, and historically, they have been used to help treat Colds, Coughs, Bronchitis, Asthma and other breathing problems.

They can be used to help suppress harmful bacteria in the Colon and reduce the instance of stomach cancer and can also aid as an anti-coagulant.

But remember, that the stronger and more pungent varieties of onions provide more aid in these areas than the milder and sweeter varieties.

Be aware though, that eating large quantities of onions over a long time, can lead to stomach and intestinal distress resulting in nausea and diarrhea.

Use these tasty onions as ingredients in your favorite recipes wisely, and Love the resulting flavors!

How to make Caramelized Onoins

How to Cut an Onion

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Don Bobbitt


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)