Any chef knows that to add flavor to a dish, adding an onion is just the thing, but in order to do this, you have to be able to identify the different varieties first. A kitchen’s most essential ingredient is arguably the onion. Used in every cuisine the world over, onions pack a flavor punch, but that flavor depends on the variety of onion.
Yellow onions are the most common type of onion and generally considered all-purpose. The skin outside is a golden color, with a lighter flesh inside. Yellow onions have a strong, pungent flavor and smell and can be cooked or used raw. Suitable for most cooking, yellow onions are great to have ready in the kitchen.
Red onions, sometimes referred to as purple onions, are deep purple in color and can stain your clothes and fingers. Red onions are fairly mild and a bit sweet, and have a flavor similar to yellow onions. Red onions are perfect for onion rings on a burger, diced raw into a salad, or cooked into a dish for depth of flavor.
Sweet onions, like vidalias and walla wallas, are mild and, true to their name, sweet. Light in color and more delicate than yellow onions, they are a ream white color inside. Their high sugar content makes sweet onions ideal for eating raw on sandwiches or in salsas.
White onions have a stronger and more pungent flavor than yellow onions and have a very thin, paper-like skin. White onions can be cooked just like yellow onions and be used for extra kick in salsas.
Shallots are small onions ranging from the size of a ping pong ball to roughly the size of a baseball. Shallots have a rich yet delicate flavor and are more concentrated than onions, so one shallot goes a long way.