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A Home Cook’s Guide to 6 Different Onions (and How to Use Them)

Even though they make us cry in the kitchen, at One Green Planet we have a serious culinary love affair with the humble onion. Not only are onions an essential ingredient in a variety of cuisines and cooking styles, what would the French be without mirepoix? And can you imagine Cajun cuisine without its Holy Trinity? – but the pungent and versatile vegetable can be eaten raw, cooked, caramelized and more, depending on the variety you’re dealing with.

Below, we’ve listed six different onions that you’re likely to come across in your herbal kitchen, and detailed how to use them all. But before that…

How to buy a bulb onion

Here are some quick tips on how to shop for a bulb onion. When choosing your onion, make sure it is firm for its size, then sniff it – if your onion has little to no smell, that’s fine. Be sure to go over the bulbs with any bruises, blemishes, and cuts.

1. Yellow onions

Did you know that 87 percent of the bulbous onion crop in the United States is spent on yellow onion production? That’s because yellow onions are pretty much ubiquitous in American cuisine, due to their versatility and relatively long shelf life – in fact, if you’re following a recipe that calls for an onion, you can almost always assume that the recipe refers to a yellow onion (and if it doesn’t, it will specify it).

Yellow onions have a golden skin like paper and range from ivory to light yellow, and can be eaten raw, baked, roasted, caramelized, sautéed, or lightly cooked. They are available year round and should be stored in a cool, dark place with plenty of air for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Use yellow onions in this French onion soup recipe, or slice them into rings and enjoy this vegan beer onion rings recipe, pictured above. Do not miss this recipe for Focaccia with Roma Tomatoes and Onions.

2. Shallots

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Shallots are small, thin-fleshed onions that appear in a variety of different cuisines. Shallots behave similarly to garlic, in that their bulbs also consist of a group of lobes; however, western shallots have a pinkish-orange, papery skin and light purple flesh, while Asian shallots tend to be even smaller and a dark purple color.

Because shallots are so small, they’re easy to mince and then use in dressings and dressings, like in this recipe for Kale, Purple Cabbage, and Carrot Salad with Zesty Shallot Dressing. We love caramelizing them, as in this Open Sandwich recipe with caramelized shallot and portobello. Be sure to check out our Ode to Shallot: Five Great Ways to Use This Amazing Food in the Kitchen.

3. Shallots

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Although they may look the same, green onions and leeks are very different onions. Green onions are long, slender spring onions, dark green and hollow at the top, and have a white bulbous base. The green onions are extremely sweet but crunchy and almost juicy, especially the white part. Often used as a garnish in soups and salads, they can be eaten both raw and cooked, and are usually sold in large bunches.

Try scallions in this roasted carrot salad recipe with charred scallions, or toss them into a batter for a savory treat, like with these scallion pancakes with ginger soy sauce.

4. Leeks

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Leeks are essentially the wintery and overgrown counterparts of the green onion. You will find them year round, although they are in season from late fall to early spring. Tip: Be sure to wash your leeks before cooking them, as dirt and sand tend to cling to their stems.

Leeks are sweet and have a pronounced sweetness; While their woody, deeply green stems are ideal for soups and broths, their white roots are too sweet to eat raw but turn into a melting, sweet base when cooked. Try leeks in this vegan leek and cheese soup, or toss them with other veggies to make a leek and kale pie with a sweet potato crust.

5. Red onion

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Red onions are spicy, tangy, and crispy, and can be eaten raw, grilled, or roasted – which is why you see them so often used as a garnish for burgers, as a crunchy element for guacamole, or tossed in a salad for the. color and flavor. You can’t miss them at the grocery store – typically stocked next to yellow, sweet onions, red onions have dark red skin like vibrant paper and are a mixed shade of white-brown on the inside.

Bake red onions in a delicious and hot red onion focaccia, marinate your red onions to make them even more tangy and sweet and add them to this jackfruit carnitas recipe with marinated red onions, or treat yourself to a falafel with sweet potato and red onion.

6. Ramps

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The ramps are in season for a short time in the spring and have one or two delicate, smooth, wide, light green leaves and a dark purple color at the bottom of the stems. They look like green onions, smell of garlic, and taste like a cross between onions and garlic.

This spinach ramp and pesto is the perfect way to use the bold and unique flavor of the ramp and blend it seamlessly with more traditional pesto ingredients, while this poppy seed dressing recipe calls for ramps, your favorite oil, radishes for the crunch, cashews for a creamy consistency, balsamic vinegar for the punch and nutritional yeast. Maybe also make sure to read 5 Ways To Do Ramps Well This Year.

Check out these 6 crispy and flavorful onion ring recipes if you’re in the mood for more fried onion goodness.

We also strongly recommend that you download our Food Monster Application, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app offers over 8,000 herbal and allergy-free recipes, and subscribers have access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!

Main image source: ORLIO/ Shutterstock

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