6 Types Of Onion And How They Are Used In Cooking
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Onion is one such vegetable in the culinary traditions that is prevalently used in various dishes. Even though this root vegetable has a pungent and robust kick when consumed raw, the cooked or caramelised onions give it a slightly sweet taste. Belonging to the Allium family, this humble vegetable has grasped kitchens with its versatility and pivotal role.

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Each type of onion brings its own unique set of characteristics to the table, and their uses in cooking are as varied as the dishes they enhance. Mastering the selection and application of different onions can transform simple recipes into gourmet experiences, highlighting the intricate balance of flavours that onions contribute to the culinary arts.

Yellow Onion

Yellow onions are a versatile and widely used variety of onions, prized for their balanced flavour, which is both sweet and mildly pungent. They are characterised by their golden-brown, papery skin and creamy white flesh. In cooking, yellow onions are a staple, commonly used in soups, stews, sauces, and stir-fries. Their robust flavour holds up well to long cooking times, making them ideal for caramelising. They also form the base for many dishes, providing a flavourful foundation that enhances the taste of other ingredients.

Red Onion

Red onions, distinct for their vibrant purple skin and mild, slightly sweet flavour, are a versatile ingredient in various cuisines. They are often used raw in salads, salsas, and sandwiches due to their appealing colour and crisp texture. When cooked, red onions add a subtle sweetness to dishes, making them ideal for caramelising, grilling, or roasting. They are also popular in pickling recipes, where their colour and flavour enhance the overall appeal. 

White Onion

White onions are a versatile variety of onion characterised by their pure white skin and mild, slightly sweet flavour. They are commonly used in Mexican cuisine, adding a crisp texture and subtle sharpness to dishes like salsa, guacamole, and tacos. White onions are also excellent when used raw in salads and sandwiches due to their less pungent taste. When cooked, they blend seamlessly into soups, stews, and casseroles, enhancing the overall flavour without overpowering other ingredients. 

Green Onion

Green onions, also known as scallions or spring onions, are a type of onion characterised by their long, slender green stalks and small white bulbs. They have a mild, slightly sweet flavour, making them versatile in cooking. Green onions are commonly used as a garnish in soups, salads, and stir-fries, adding a fresh, crisp element. They can be cooked lightly to maintain their delicate flavour or used raw to provide a crunchy texture.


Shallots, with their delicate, elongated bulbs and coppery skin, are a nuanced member of the onion family. Their flavour is milder and sweeter than that of regular onions, with hints of garlic, making them a versatile addition to various dishes. Finely chopped shallots lend depth to sauces, dressings, and vinaigrettes, while their subtle bite enhances marinades and stir-fries. When caramelised, they add a rich sweetness to soups and stews. It is a main ingredient in the South Indian sambhar as well.


Leeks, a type of onion, boast a mild, sweet flavour that enhances many dishes. Unlike typical onions, their white and light green parts are primarily used. They are excellent in soups and stews, adding depth and aroma. Leeks can be sautéed with butter for a simple side dish or incorporated into quiches and tarts for a subtle oniony taste. They pair well with potatoes, as seen in the classic vichyssoise soup, and can be roasted, grilled, or even used raw in salads for a crunchy texture.