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An Overview of Onions 05:34

Bryon Freeze

Onions are the flavor foundation for many soups, sauces, and other dishes. Each variety has a slightly different flavor and use.

An Overview of Onions 05:34

Bryon Freeze

Onions are the flavor foundation for many soups, sauces, and other dishes. Each variety has a slightly different flavor and use.

Prep Time Cook Time Total Time Serving Size

The Steps

  1. 1. The Spanish onion, sometimes referred as the yellow onion, is a popular choice in savory cooking and is a great all-purpose onion. Spanish onions are often used for stocks, sauces, and braises. The Spanish onion is the most commonly used onion for making French Onion Soup. 01:34

  2. 2. The red onion has a sharp, aggressive flavor, but not more than the Spanish onion. Red onions are often served raw on burgers or in salads. Their bright purple-red color makes them great for garnishing and adding color to a plate. Red onions also make great marmalades, compotes, and are a good choice for pickling. 02:03

  3. 3. The white onion has a similar flavor profile to the red onion, and is not as sharp or intense in flavor as the Spanish onion. White onions have a high water content, and are good on burgers and in Philly cheesesteaks. White onions are also often used in raw cuisine. 02:44

  4. 4. The vidalia onion has a sweeter flavor profile than other onions. Its high sugar content makes it great for caramelizing. Vidalia onions are often used in tarts and quiches. Some chefs like to use vidalia onions in French Onion Soup. 03:02

  5. 5. Shallots are onions with a milder flavor. They are often paired with seafood, but are great in salads, can be used for pickling, and are good for mixing with garlic in sautés. Shallots are often used when building bases for sauces and are often served with vegetables, red meat, or poultry. 03:23

What You'll Need


- Spanish onion
- White onion
- Red Onion
- Vidalia onion
- Shallot

Chef Notes

When onions get older they begin to turn green inside. It is especially common to find green pieces in older red onions. The older the onion, the more bitter the flavor. It is best to use onions before they begin to turn green. Store onions at room temperature and avoid stacking them on top of one other, or storing too many in a small space to avoid bruising.

Cutting onions breaks down their enzymes, releasing a sulfuric compound that reacts with moisture in the eye. This reaction creates a burning sensation and causes eyes to tear in an attempt to flush out the irritating sulfuric compound. To avoid tears while cutting onions, try refrigerating the onions for a few hours before cutting. Other effective methods include cutting onions under running water and wearing goggles or contacts.

Chef Bryon mentions onions being used in mirepoix. A traditional mirepoix is a mixture of chopped onions, carrots, and celery that is often used as a flavor base for a wide variety of traditional French dishes including soups, stocks, and sauces. The ratio for a mirepoix is usually two parts onion, one part carrot, and one part celery. The Spanish version is called soffritos, and is used as the base for paella. In New Orleans, a mirepoix is referred to as a trinity. This version omits the carrots, and is instead made up of equal amounts of onion, celery, and bell pepper.

When breaking down onions, cut off the root end to create a flat surface. This allows for easier cutting. To learn more about different techniques for cutting onions see Chef Patricio Sandoval’s “How to Break Down an Onion” tutorial located at the bottom of the page.


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Chef Bryon Freeze

Los Angeles

Bryon Freeze burst into the culinary spotlight when he won "Chef Wanted," a chef competition show on the Food Network. Aft... read more