Onions – Cippolini, Red, Yellow

So delicious, they may bring a tear to your eye

Dating back to prehistoric times, the onion likely originated in Asia, but is now widely cultivated and used all around the world. There are hundreds of different varieties of onions, many of which are sold by general type, instead of specific variety.

Cippolini: These smaller, flat onions may look like a pancake version of their more rotund cousins, however they are far sweeter, lending themselves well to roasting and caramelization. Of Italian origin, different varieties will have skin ranging from yellow to light brown, but won’t be as sweet as shallots. Cippolini tend to be more perishable than other varieties, and should be used with some degree of immediacy.

Red: The relative mild taste of the red onion lends itself well to being used raw – which is why you see it in many salads, dressings, fresh salsas, and on your favorite grinder. Red onions can be cooked, but don’t hold up well when making a stew or roast. Instead, opt for the more robust yellow onion.

Yellow: Almost 3/4 of all onions used fall under the category of yellow onion. Those with the classic brown or yellow skin are a good all-purpose onion, and can be used interchangeably in a recipe. These onions hold up well under most cooking conditions, and can be used for stewing, frying, roasting – really anything except raw!

Onions that have started to sprout will begin to taste bitter, so look for those that are dry, firm, and have a thin skin. Looking to lessen the tears during cutting? The only thing the cooking community seems to agree on is using the sharpest knife you have (in order to damage the cells of the onion less), and to refrigerate onions for a few minutes before chopping.


Onions of all varieties can store well, but keeping them in a woven bag or metal basket in a cool, dark area with good ventilation will help ward off rot. Avoid storing onions with potato’s or in other places of high moisture, as this can cause the onions to spoil.