Choosing the Right Onion

When cooking it’s important to use the correct onion depending on the type of dish you are making. This article should help you out.

Confused about which onion to use in a given recipe? I think most of us at one point did not realize that members of the allium family (aka onions) serve different purposes in cooking.

The list below contains some of the more common types of onions as well as choosing the right onion for whatever recipe you are making.

Choosing the Right Onion
Various Onions

Yellow Onions

Probably the most commonly used onion in cooking. They have the strongest flavor of the bunch. Best used in cooking. These onions go great in stews, soups and sauces. They are typically stored at room temperature away from direct sunlight.

Once cut they can be stored in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator. With so many recipes that call for Yellow Onions, it’s hard to choose a favorite but I would say my Dill Pickle Meatloaf recipe is in my top 3 meatloaf recipes.

yellow onion
Yellow Onion

White Onions

Compared to a Yellow Onion, they have a sweeter and milder flavor. Given their higher sugar content, they have a much shorter shelf life.

While they can be used in stews and stir-fries, they pair very well raw in coleslaws and salsas.

My Spicy Salsa is a perfect example of a great recipe that calls for White Onions.

white onion
White Onion

Red Onions (aka Purple Onion)

It has the mildest flavor, most often used raw. Great in guacamole, salsas or condiments.

Perfect for pickling as well just like my Homemade Pickled Red Onions which is a perfect example of how to use Red Onions.

red onion
Red Onion

Sweet Onions

Almost identical in appearance to Yellow Onions. They have a sweeter flavor and are great for frying or roasting with other vegetables.

If you are curious about how to use Sweet Onions in the kitchen, check out my Sweet Mango Baked Beans recipe.

sweet onion
Sweet Onion

Green Onions (aka Scallion)

Green Onions are typically used as a raw garnish and topping. They usually have a milder taste than regular onions.

Scallions are typically used in salsas, salads, pastas and many other dishes.

They also taste great grilled or roasted. One of my favorite dishes to make with Green Onions is my Confetti Mashed Potato Flautas recipe from celebrity Chef Guy Fieri.

fresh green onions
Fresh Green Onions


It has a delicate, subtle flavor. Great in dressings, sauces or as a garnish. My Easy Chimichurri Sauce recipe is a great example of a sauce that uses Shallots.



You may be surprised to know that Leeks come from the same family (allium) as onions. Once cooked, leeks have a milder and sweeter taste than regular onions.

If you’ve never cooked with Leeks before, you prepare them by simply trimming off the roots and the coarse dark green part of the tops (see picture below). Cut the leeks in half lengthways. Wash thoroughly and slice to the desired size.

One of my absolute favorite recipes to use Leeks in is my Celery Soup and my BLT Pasta Bake with Leeks. I know it sounds weird but you must give it a try. You won’t regret it.

how to cut a leek


Just like Green Onions, Chives are typically used as a garnish but they can be used in omelets, fish, potatoes, soups, and many other dishes. I especially like to use Chives in my Blue Cheese Herb Spread or my Homemade Ranch Dressing recipes.

fresh chives
Fresh Chives

Hopefully, this article was helpful in choosing the right onion for whatever recipe you are making.

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One Comment

  1. Betty says:

    For a long time, I never knew there was different kinds of onions. I always bought the same kind. But upon reading this I now have a better understanding of onions. I also did not know that leeks were part of the onion family. Now I use leeks and onions the way they should be used.

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