Onions 101: Our Best Cooking Tips & Tricks
All you need to know about buying, storing, chopping and cooking onions!
Types of Onions
Raw, cooked or caramelized, these versatile tearjerkers have real appeal.
White onions turn sweet when sautéed. They are the traditional onion used in Mexican cooking.
Pearl onions liven up your side dishes. Pickled, this variety is an essential cocktail garnish.
Chives can be used in place of green onions if you triple the amount (they're mild).
Leeks and their mellow taste often win over those who dislike other onions.
Green onions, or scallions, are onions harvested before maturity. Chop some on packaged foods to add zip and zing.
Shallots' flavor gets harsher as they get larger. Look for small, young bulbs.
Yellow onions, with their sharp flavor, are the most common and versatile.
Red onions add great color to dishes. Use fresh or lightly grilled.
How to Chop an Onion
Watch this video for a quick onion chopping tutorial. It's easy!
Your Onion FAQs
Is there any way to store Vidalia onions? I would like to buy them in quantity when they're in season. —L.L., Brick, New Jersey
Vidalia and other sweet onions are mild-flavored onions that are high in sugar and water content and low in tear-inducing sulfur compounds. Because of these properties, they are not suited for long-term storage, so you should use them within several weeks of purchase. Fortunately, different varieties of sweet onions are available almost all year long, so while you may not find Vidalia, you should be able to find other types of sweet onions at your grocery store.
When storing sweet onions, it's important to keep them cool, dry and separate. Place in a single layer, wrapped separately in foil or paper towels, in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator. If it is not possible to store them in the refrigerator, store them in the coolest area of your home with good air circulation.
I like to chop and freeze onions in 1/4-cup amounts. How much does a medium or large onion yield? —M.B., New Glarus, Wisconsin
A medium onion, chopped, will equal about 1/2 cup; a large onion will yield about 1 cup.
What are shallots? —J.B., Nicholasville, Kentucky
Part of the onion family, shallots have a mild onion-garlic flavor. In place of 3 to 4 shallots, use 1 medium onion plus a pinch of garlic powder or, if you like the taste of garlic, 1 minced garlic clove.
I recently came across a recipe that calls for pickling onions. I have never heard of them and could not find them in the grocery store. What is the difference between pickling onions and regular onions? —R.R. Keene, Ohio
Pickling onions, sometimes called "boilers," are small, tender white or yellow onions with a mild flavor. They range in size from 1/2 inch to 1 inch in diameter. Their small size and mild flavor sets them apart from the typical yellow onion. Pickling onions can also be used in place of pearl onions or any small, mild-flavored onion called for in recipes.
Pickling onions can often be found during summer and fall in the produce department of grocery stores.
Recently, I enjoyed some caramelized onions at a restaurant. I'm wondering how I can make them at home. —B.C., Leetonia, Ohio
Saute sliced onions in 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter (or 1 tablespoon of each) and 1 teaspoon of sugar per onion. Cook and stir occasionally over low heat for 20-30 minutes or until onions are golden brown and tender. Find more about how to caramelize onions here.
My husband doesn't like onions or garlic. What else can I use to perk up his favorite dishes? —J.R., Phoenix, Arizona
Herbs are a great alternative to season foods usually flavored with garlic and onions. Try dried thyme in beef or pork dishes, oregano or basil in ground beef casseroles and rosemary with chicken. Go easy the first time—add 1/4 teaspoon at a time and taste before adding more.