Great Recipes Start with an Onion Onions: Here's How to Know Which One to Use

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 21, 2018 | Go to article overview

Great Recipes Start with an Onion Onions: Here's How to Know Which One to Use


Byline: Becky Krystal The Washington Post

Almost any onion will make you cry once you slice it open. So does it really matter which one you grab at the grocery store?

You probably think I'm going to tell you, "Yes, absolutely, and if you choose the wrong one, your recipe will be ruined!"

That's only sort of true.

They're more interchangeable than you might think, at least in a good number of situations.

Let's focus on the supermarket staples of yellow, white and red. Sweet onions -- Vidalia, Walla Walla, etc. -- are great, but they're much more perishable and less widely available during a short season. And pearl onions, shallots, scallions and leeks are distinctive enough from their globular cousins to not create substitution confusion.

The big three have a lot in common. They:

* Sport the characteristic papery skin that litters the bottom of every single one of your reusable shopping bags.

* Contain sulfur-based compounds that, when exposed to air, will at least make your eyes water if not downright weep.

* Store well, for at least a few weeks, and up to a month or two, when kept in a cool, dark place with good air circulation. Not the refrigerator. (I'm guilty.)

* Follow the same flavor progression of pungent when raw to progressively sweeter as they cook.

For the vast majority of us, the biggest difference may be their color. If you closed your eyes and tasted samples of each, would you be able to tell them apart? I don't think I could.

Still, if you're going to choose one type of onion to always have on hand, you're best going with the yellow onion. According to the National Onion Association (yes, this is a thing! …

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