Ever wondered why some recipes call for a particular kind of onion and whether another can be substituted in its place? We certainly have at BC Farm Fresh. After some taste tasting, cooking, and research, we found that all onions vary slightly in flavor, texture, and color, but can usually be substituted for one another. When cooking, they all behave the same in the pan.
Here are the four main types of onions:
These are considered the all-purpose onion, it’s the one most often used in cooking. Yellow onions have a nice balance of astringency and sweet in their flavor, becoming sweeter the longer they cook. They are usually fist-sized with fairly a fairly tough outer skin and meaty layers. Spanish onions are a particular kind of yellow onion and they have a slightly sweeter and more delicate flavor.
These onions tend to have a sharper and more pungent flavor than yellow onions. They also tend to be tenderer and have a thinner, more papery skin. They can be cooked just like yellow onions. These ones are particularly good when minced and added to raw salsas and chutneys.
Walla Walla and Vidalia are the most common kinds of sweet onions. These onions lack the sharp, astringent taste of other onions and really do taste sweet. They are fantastic thinly sliced and served in salads or on top of sandwiches. They can range in color from white to yellow and often have a flattened or squashed appearance. Sweet onions tend to be more perishable and should be store in the refrigerator.
With their deep purple outer skin and reddish flesh, these are really the odd-guys out in the onion family. They are fairly similar to yellow onions in flavor, though their layers are slightly less tender and meaty. Red onions are most often used raw in salads, salsas, and other raw preparations for their color and relatively mild flavor. The lovely red color becomes washed out during cooking. If they have too much bite for you, try soaking them in cold water for ten minutes before using them.
The Farm Fresh Reference Guide is produced by the Fraser Valley Farm Direct Marketing Association in cooperation with the BC Ministry of Agriculture.
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