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Cooking with Onions | A Beginner's Guide

A world without onions is a world we don’t want to live in.

Onions are the flavor-enhancing, crunchy vegetables that we love to put on everything. Grilled, caramelized, pickled, or raw, onions take many shapes but are appreciated as one of the most versatile vegetables on the planet.

There are nearly endless varieties of onions out there—do you know how best to use them? We’ve broken down the top six types of onions so you can become the master chef you truly are. Below, you’ll find our quick and easy beginner's guide to onions along with a few delicious meal kit suggestions so you can taste the differences for yourself.

Cooking with Onions | A Beginner's Guide

A Beginner’s Guide to Cooking with Onions + 6 Meal Kit Suggestions


White Onion

A Beginner’s Guide to Cooking with Onions | White Onions

White onions and yellow onions are commonly confused. They are similar in shape and size, but their color is just a few shades different.

White onions possess a cleaner, crisper flavor than the sweet yellow onions. They have less of a bite than yellow onions and are typically enjoyed in all varieties—raw, sautéed, or grilled.

You can typically find white onions in a wide variety of cuisine, some of the most popular being Asian and Latin American.

Our Ginger Garlic Chicken is a perfect example of the versatility of white onions. This Asian dish from P.F. Chang’s uses hearty slices of white onion, lightly sautéed with tamari sauce, giving this sweet sauce a salty crunch. The mild flavor of the onion isn’t overbearing, but also not shadowed by the other strong flavors in the dish.

Try it: Ginger Garlic Chicken



Leeks

A Beginner’s Guide to Cooking with Onions | Leeks

Leeks have the same look and feel as scallions, but possess a much different flavor. Leeks have a mild flavor that is best brought out when sautéed or boiled. Because of their large, leafy stems, you’ll really never use leeks raw.

The Blackened Mahi Mahi with Melted Leeks is a perfect example of how to best cook with this leafy onion. Sautéed with fingerling potatoes in a thyme-infused butter, leeks become soft and flavorful, creating the perfect bed for the spicy Mahi filets to sit atop of.

Try this meal kit by Ben Vaughn to create the best-tasting leeks tonight.

Try it: Blackened Mahi-Mahi with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes & Melted Leeks

Scallions

A Beginner’s Guide to Cooking with Onions | Scallions

Like leeks, scallions are tall, leafy onions. Scallions possess a more peppery, crisp flavor than leeks that is often enjoyed raw.

As you’re chopping a scallion, it’s important to note that the further you go up the stem, the lighter the flavor gets. At the white root, the scallion holds a heavier flavor with a sharp bite. As you make your way up its green stem, the flavor gets milder.

In most dishes, the entire stem is finely chopped and used to add a pinch of flavor to the dish. Our Korean Bibimbap is the perfect example of this. Korean food, in general, is known for packing a lot of flavors in each dish. The chicken is cooked in a fiery gochujang paste, which is complemented and cooled by buttery avocado and creamy egg yolk. All of these rich flavors are perfectly cut with the addition of crisp scallions, balancing out the dish and lightening it up a bit.

Try it: Korean Bibimbap

Yellow Onion

A Beginner’s Guide to Cooking with Onions | Yellow Onion

Out of all the onion varieties, yellow onions are by far the most popular. Available year round, yellow onions are the perfect addition to just about any cuisine.

Blended in sauces, caramelized and tossed in a burger, sliced raw and added to salads—the versatility of the yellow onion is virtually endless.

One dish that we love that features the yellow onion is the Quick Chicken Pho by Andrea Nguyen. Thinly sliced yellow onions are added to the piping hot bone broth to give this savory soup the slightest kick.

Accompanied by cilantro, jalapañeos, and lime juice, the mild flavor isn’t lost, but also isn’t the star of the dish, creating a perfectly balanced soup that you’ll crave time and time again—especially during the winter.

Try it: Quick Chicken Pho with Rice Noodles‚ Pea Shoots & Jalapeños

Red Onion

A Beginner’s Guide to Cooking with Onions | Red Onion

Red onions are one of the most flavorful onion varieties. They possess a pungent and spicy flavor that is commonly seen in Mexican cuisine. You’ll commonly find red onions atop tacos, blended in salsas, chopped in salads, or even mixed in with ceviche.

In our kitchen, we love to sneak red onions into as many dishes as possible. One of our most popular meal kits features these vibrant onions. Our 4-Hour Pulled Pork Tacos feature a pickled version of red onions. Pickling red onions is very common—it dilutes their immense flavor and injects a more vinegary taste that can brighten up an already flavorful dish.

In this meal kit, you’ll have the opportunity to pickle these onions yourself. Using a high-end, red wine vinegar, you’ll create a generous amount of tart, pickled onions that will perfectly compliment the juicy, tender braised pork tacos.

Try It: 4-Hour Pulled Pork Tacos with Pickled Onions and Guacamole

 

Shallots

A Beginner's Guide to Cooking with Onions | Arugula Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette

Shallots possess a mild, almost sweet flavor, rather than crisp or sharp. Their subtle flavor gives just the right amount of crunch and vibrancy to salads or hearty curry dishes.

One of our most in-demand meal kits features this mild onion, but in a unique way—creating a vinaigrette.

This subtle onion is added to a creamy vinaigrette, giving it just the right amount of bite it needs. Combined with sweet cherry tomatoes and pungent gorgonzola cheese, this salad is packed with a myriad of flavors that will give you a new appreciation for salads.

Try it: Arugula Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette


1 comment

  • This is a really helpful guide—thank you! I’ve been using red onions as my go to, and they do have a bit of a kick. I usually need to use less than called for in recipes so as not to over-onion. I will have to give yellow onions a try to see if they are a better all-rounder!

    I did want to note: When the author says that “Leeks have the same look and feel as scallions” I think that could be confusing if someone is unfamiliar with the two plants. They are both long green and white onion-y things, but they are so different in size—leeks are giants compared with scallions. It may be worth a mention, to help people know what they’re looking for.

    Katie Oliver

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