Understanding the differences between white, yellow and red onions + their best uses

February 28, 2024

Onions are an indispensable kitchen staple, and their diverse flavours and uses are used to elevate any dish. If you’ve ever been to the grocery store and saw white, yellow, and red onions and maybe you’re not sure which ones to buy for which purpose? Or perhaps you’re following a recipe that calls for a yellow onion and you only have white onions but you’re not sure how it will affect the dish – we’re here to help!

Yellow vs White vs Red Onions: What is the difference?

Yellow Onions

yellow onions


With their golden-brown papery skin and robust white flesh. Known for their versatility, they are the go-to choice for cooking and imparting rich flavours to stews, soups, and meat dishes. Caramelising yellow onions unlock their natural sweetness, making them an essential ingredient in many savoury dishes.

However, their high sulfur content gives them a pungent aroma, making them less suitable for raw consumption unless balanced with other ingredients. From sautéed dishes to stocks, risotto, sauces, and stews. Yellow onions add a robust and distinctive flavour to dishes.

ALSO READ: Tips for cutting onions

White Onions



Identifiable by their all-white skin and flesh, offering a milder alternative to their yellow counterparts. Sweeter and less overpowering, white onions are perfect for dicing and serving raw on sandwiches and salads. With their subtle flavour, they make a delightful addition to fresh salsas and other uncooked recipes.

Commonly found in Mexican cuisines, white onions provide a gentle onion essence without dominating the overall taste, making them an excellent choice for those who prefer a more subdued onion flavour. White onions can be added to white sauces, pasta salads, raw in salads, and added to chilli, and potato salads.

Red Onions



Characterised by their vibrant purplish-red skin and layered white flesh, red onions bring colour and a mild, sweet flavour to the table. While their hue tends to fade with cooking, red onions remain delicious when sautéed or incorporated into various cooked dishes.

However, their true potential shines in non-cooked recipes such as salads and sandwiches, where their crispy texture and appealing colour enhance the visual appeal of the dish. The red onion’s mildness makes it less suitable for imparting a strong onion flavour to cooked dishes. Red onions are best used for salads, sandwiches, burgers, pickling, and salsas.

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How to remove onion smell from your hands after cooking

Feature image: Pexels

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