Editor's note: updated 20.11.20
How many types of onions can you name? How many types of onions are there? Four? Six? What about 21? That's right, the infographic below lists 21 different kinds of onions, and you'll be surprised just how many you never consider.
You probably named red onions, yellow onions, Spanish onions, maybe even pearl onions in your list, but we're pretty sure there are some you missed. Part of the allium family, which also includes garlic and chives, onions are versatile and provide the backbone to thousands of different dishes, there are also many different kinds. Despite playing a significant role in many recipes across many different cuisines, they're still one of the most underrated ingredients on the shopping list, always there, often overlooked.
Onions have important medicinal and nutritional benefits and were even used in ancient times during cholera epidemics and to ward off the plague. Onions contain natural sugar, vitamins A, B6, C and E, sodium, potassium, iron, dietary fibre and folic acid. Some of these health benefits are destroyed by heat, however, so if you’re looking to get all the goodness out of your onion, you’ll have to eat it raw. The main differences between onions depend on the time of year at which they’re grown and where, something that can have an impact on their flavour. Spring onion are grown in warmer climates, for example, and usually have a milder, sweeter taste.
The infographic, produced by She Knows, covers a range of different onion types with some useful tips on how they taste, what they look like and what they should be used for when cooking in the kitchen. After getting to know the onion ingredient from a to z, this is a great resource for anyone wanting to quickly learn more about different onions and how to use them when cooking.
If you want to know how to cook onions, knowing the difference for every kind of onion is just one of the skills you should have. We've all stood at the supermarket shelf and gone for a trusty white onion when we could be making much better choices, this is a great place to start learning more about what is a wonderful family of ingredients.
Below are just eight types of onions that stand out for us, for their flavour, for a specific use, or just because we enjoy them, however, the infographic lists 21 kinds of onion in total, a collection that will have you knowing the difference between your boiled onion and pickled onion in no time at all.
21 Types of Onions
1. Sweet onions: Bermuda Onions
These onions are great for stuffing and baking, they're also delicately sweet which means they won't overpower the ingredients you combine them with. Their size makes them the go-to choice for stuffing.
Everyone forgets chives, but they are a perfect seasoning for numerous dishes. They provide a sharp kick to any recipe and they're particularly great for spicing up soups and salads. Stop underestimating the chive.
Rebecca Siegel / Flickr
3. Red onions: Red Wing
This is a mild onion type, great for eating raw which make them the perfect choice for sandwiches and salads. You can cook with them but we suggest consuming raw.
Another type of onion that people often overlook, leeks are one of the most versatile onions - they make great soups and if you cook them slowly with meats in a stew, you're in for the real treat. Leeks also pair perfectly with bacon, and what's not to love about that combination? For the ultimate leak kick add them to a creamy turkey and bacon sauce and use as a pie filling - you could also try them in this pea and leek soup recipe.
Liz West / Flickr
5. Sweet onions: Vidalia Onions
Vidalia onions are super sweet. We're talking eat it raw and don't even blink. The Vidalia is the perfect choice in the family of sweet onions, you really don't need to cook them, for us they are the perfect onion to be sliced and served raw on top of a juicy burger. If you prefer your burger onions cooked, we suggest opting for the red or white onion.
Mike Mozart / Flickr
6. Welsh Onions
Perfect for making stir fry, they closely resemble green onions, though they're usually bigger, and, despite the name, they're mainly used in Asian cooking and have nothing to do with Wales. They're actually native to China.
7. Sweet onions: Spanish Onions
Often confused with yellow onions, Spanish Onions are sweet and have a lower water content than many onions, making them the perfect choice when wanting to cook onion rings - see, we told you a little onion knowledge goes a long way. You can stuff them, with great results, but we'd always choose Bermuda onions for that job.
8. Pearl Onions AKA Button or Baby Onions
Pearl Onions are mild, small and sweet - good for pickling in a jar and also great to roast with the juices left in the pan after cooking meat, they'll really up your gravy game. Best thing? You don't even need to chop them, just peel and use whole.
These are just a few of our favourite onions, there's also the cipollini, green onions, red onions, white onions, shallots, walla walla onions and Maui onions - the list is endless. There's Egyptian onions, Texas super sweet onions and, of course, Spanish onions - it's a whole world of ingredients that, once understood, will offer up all manner of new characteristics to add to your cooking. Find out how to caramelise onions or discover more onion recipes.
Take a look at more onion types of onion in the infographic below:
Types of Onions listed
- Bermuda onions – sweet flavour, great for salads or when stuffed and baked.
- Boiling onions – mild flavour, perfect for boiling in soups, stews or casseroles.
- Chives – very mild flavour, use to add tang to potatoes, salads, cream soups and eggs.
- Cipollini onions – rich and sweet, ideal for roasting or caramelising in salads or tarts.
- Cocktail onions – sweet, usually pickled. A garnish for cocktails or appetisers.
- Egyptian onions – very mild, great with potatoes and salads.
- Green onions – mild and slightly peppery. Try them in salads, sandwiches or dips.
- Leeks – mild flavour. Great in soups or when frying.
- Maui onions – sweet and juicy. At their best in onion rings, grilled, marinated or caramelised.
- Pearl onions – sweet and mild. Pickled or sautéed with roasted meats.
- Pickling onions – strong and pungent. For pickling or in casseroles.
- Red onions – sweet and mild. Ideal in salads or on antipasto trays.
- Red wing onions – very mild. Sandwiches or salads.
- Shallots – mild & delicate flavour. Not actually an onion. Use in sauces or dressings.
- Spanish onions – mild and sweet. Salads, stuffed and baked, onion rings.
- Texas supersweet onions – very mild. A perfect salsa ingredient.
- Vidalia onions – unusually sweet. Salads, dips and relishes.
- Walla Walla Sweet onions – complex and sweet. Perfect in salads, sandwiches and quiches.
- Welsh onions – moderate, green onion flavour. Ideal in stir fries.
- White onions – strong and pungent flavour. Used in general cooking.
- Yellow onions – pungent but not as strong as white onions. Also used in general cooking.
As you can see from the info above, there's a lot more diversity to onions than you might first expect. To add to your onion knowledge we've also got a great selection of recipes from Michelin chefs cooking with onion in many different ways.
Like this video of the famous chef Michel Roux teaching you how to make a classic onion soup.
We've also added a bonus video teaching you how to chop all the new onion varieties you'll be buying in the store, courtesy of Gordon Ramsay.