When you come across a recipe that calls for red or yellow onions, you probably think that you can use whatever onions you have handy, but this is actually not the case. When a recipe calls for a particular kind of onion to be used, they actually mean that kind of onion!
Red, yellow, and white onions are all slightly different when it comes to their flavor and texture. Before delving into these differences, how do you know which onions to buy at the store?
Well, when purchasing onions, go for those that feel heavy and firm in your hand. Avoid soft onions or ones that have a sharp odor before peeling; these are clear signs that the onion is old. Except for sweet onions, since these onions can be stored for a number of weeks in a cool, dark pantry or cupboard.
Why are sweet onions stored differently? Well, read on to find out why, and what the crucial differences are between common onion varieties.
More often than not, yellow onions are our go-to onions - kind of like an all-purpose onion. They tend to have a nice balance of astringency and sweetness, becoming sweeter the longer that they are cooked.
They are usually fist-sized and have a fairly tough outer skin and meaty layers that can be tricky to cut. The only variety of yellow onion that we are most likely to find in the store are Spanish ones. This type is slightly sweeter and more delicate in flavor.
These onions have a sharper and more pungent flavor than yellow ones, and they also have a thinner and more paper-like skin. They can be cooked exactly like yellow onions, but they're best minced and added to chutneys and raw slaws.
With their deep purple outer skin and reddish flesh, these are the black sheep of the onion family. Despite the fact that they look so different, red onions are similar to yellow ones in flavor, though their layers are less tender and meatier. They tend to lean more towards the sour end of the flavor spectrum. Red onions are great for salsas, salads, and other raw preparations for their lovely color and mild flavor.
These onions are trickier because they look very similar to your average yellow onion. However, while they might look similar, they taste very different. They lack the sharp astringent taste of other onions, and taste really sweet.
These are usually what you'll find on top of sandwiches. They can range in color from white to yellow and often have a flattened or squashed appearance. These tend to be more perishable than other varieties, and so should be stored in the fridge.