White, Red, and Yellow Onions are the three that you need in your kitchen, indeed!
A friend of mine told me about this 7-onion soup that she had the other day. She said it was so good and so tasty that she wanted to figure out how she might make it at home. Then she paused and admitted, “I had no idea there were seven onions!”
There are a lot more than that and here are my top 11:
Ramps – also known as “wild onions” are really great for roasting and in soups. They add a sweet garlic flavor.
Cipollini onions are the little fat disc-shaped onions that are fabulous to caramelize or sauté with other veggies. They’re incredibly versatile and mild and will go with just about any dish.
Shallots are a member of the allium family (like garlic) and not really onions but are used like them in so many Asian noodle dishes. They’re great raw or cooked.
Scallions, also known as green onions, are especially popular in Asian dishes, but are also used as garnish and toppers for soup.
Leeks, the Japanese call them “Negi,” look like oversized scallions, but they’re not. You’ll find them in Asian soups and stir fry.
Vidalias, like white onions, are very sweet and ideal for making onion rings.
Maui, similar to white and Vidalias, are also sweet, but tend to be a bit more watery. And, yes, they originate from Hawaii.
Pearls – the tiny white onions – are very mild and sweet. We love pickled pearls in certain mixed drinks (like a perfect Gibson martini) but they’re also fabulous for stews, soups, and for roasting.
Some of these might be a tad obscure. If you love fine restaurant dining, likely as not, you’ve had most of them in or on your dish at one point or another. But, before these unusual varieties are the three most common onions that EVERYONE knows and uses:
White onions are the mildest of the common three varieties. As I mentioned, they’re similar to Vidalia and Maui, but they have a much higher sugar content than the other two and, in my opinion, wins the distinction as the true “Sweet Onion.” My friend, the historian, eats these raw with a dab of salt. If you’re going to eat a raw onion – this is the one to reach for. You can make it even sweeter by slicing them thin and soaking the slices in cold water for about an hour.
Red onions are relatively sweet as well, but they have a bit of that “oniony” sharpness in their flavor and a slightly more potent smell than the others. They also have a higher sugar content which makes them perfect for pickling or grilled and on your hamburger!
Yellow (or Spanish) onions are also known as “brown” onions. Like the red, they have a stronger flavor than the others, so we don’t usually eat these raw. In my opinion, yellows ought to be cooked 100% of the time for that beautiful onion flavor. When they’re cooked, the intense sharpness evolves into a delicious sweetness which makes them the perfect choice of onion to caramelize. A little tip: you’ll get much more flavor from yellows caramelized than you will from the white onion which won’t hold up as well.
So, the three most common onions may soon be your go-to ingredients: white onions are raw, red onions are grilled, and yellows are caramelized. See my video for more descriptions and cooking ideas.