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Mary-Linh Tran

Junior Food Editor at Kitchen Stories

The best way to shop? With the seasons. So, every 2 weeks at Kitchen Stories, we'll be highlighting a different in-season ingredient along with 3 new recipes. To the market, we go!

Let’s face it, onions are ubiquitous. They’re a pantry staple found in kitchens from every corner of the globe. From the glossy, caramelized strings swimming in French onion soup to the zesty bits found in pico de gallo all throughout Mexico—can you think of any cuisine that doesn’t cook with onions?

Aren’t onions available year-round?

Look anywhere in the world and you’ll find there are dozens of onions readily available 365 days a year. They have an extensive shelf life and are edible at several stages of their growth, but are typically harvested two times a year: in summer, and in winter.

Summer onions are harvested during the warm months while they’re still small bulbs. They are sweeter and less “spicy” in flavor, while winter onions are left underground to develop into the plumper round bulbs we see more often in the supermarket (aka the ones we’re covering today). If you’ve ever wondered why green onions or scallions look so different from yellow or red onions, it’s because they were harvested before their bulbs matured!

When it comes to selecting onions at the market, always choose onions that are firm without any visible blemishes or discoloration of the peel.

How to store onions

When stored properly, an onion’s shelf life can be anywhere between 1 and 6 months. Because they absorb moisture like sponges, onions will last longer in the winter when it’s dry and cool. Always keep onions in a dark and well-ventilated place, with peeled and cut onions being the exception. These should go in the fridge where they’ll keep for about one week.

How to cook onions

There’s no end to all the ways you can cook onions. You can braise onions, fry onions, pickle onions, stuff onions, and toss them in the oven or on the grill—which makes them a great veg for beginner and advanced cooks to experiment with.

Depending on the recipe, you can usually sub one onion for another, but there are subtle nuances to how each variety tastes and cooks. To make your cooking life easier, here’s a brief guide to help you decide which onion to reach for in the kitchen.

White onions: These are the punchiest of the bulb alliums and their high water content gives them a crispiness that really brightens up the surrounding ingredients in a dish. This is why white onions are mostly found in salsas and chutneys or stir-fried with hearty vegetables.

Yellow and brown onions: Known as the “all-purpose onion,” these can withstand the longest cooking times, making them a fantastic base for most recipes. In fact, cooking yellow and brown onions brings out their natural sweetness, resulting in soft and pulpy ribbons, perfect for stews, soups, sauces, pot roasts, casseroles, and bakes.

Red onions: With their attractive wine-tinted rings, red onions are the mildest of the group, though they still pack a delicate, peppery bite. Toss them raw into salads, sandwiches, and burgers (an ice cold water bath will help remove that raw bite), or simmer them down into a jammy relish for your next cheese board. You can also pickle red onions to amplify their acidity and perk up any dish that needs a splash of color or zest.

Seasonal recipes with onions

All week long we’ll be featuring new recipes to highlight the all-star onion. Check back to see what’s new, but for now, jump right in and get started with these onion recipes:

Focaccia with onions

Focaccia with onions

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French onion soup

French onion soup

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Onion tart

Onion tart

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Caramelized onion tarte tatin

Caramelized onion tarte tatin

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More delicious ideas for you