Cooking Onions: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’re just starting to cook, onions might be a bit intimidating at first. They’re a staple ingredient in many recipes, but knowing how to properly chop and cook them can make all the difference when it comes to enhancing the flavors of your dishes. Whether you’re looking to caramelize, sauté, or cook them down for a soup or stew, this beginner’s guide will give you all the tips you need to get started on your onion-cooking journey.

Cooking Onions: A Beginner's Guide | Eat Urban Garden
Cooking Onions: A Beginner’s Guide

What Are the Different Types of Onions?

If you’re a beginner in cooking, you may not realize that there are different types of onions. Each unique variety can add its own flavor, aroma, and color to your dishes. Let’s take a closer look:

The Sweet Vidalia Onion

Named after Vidalia, Georgia, where it is grown, this onion is known for its sweetness. It has high water content, which gives it a milder taste than other onions. Vidalias are among the largest and heaviest onions, with a thin skin that is golden-brown in color.

The Spicy Red Onion

The red onion has a distinct bright purple color on the outside, and is milder and sweeter than other varieties of onions. It’s commonly used raw, sliced thin in salads, sandwiches, or garnishes. It’s also frequently used in Mexican cuisine, where its color and crunch are utilized in pico de gallo and guacamole.

  • The Yellow Onion
  • This onion variety has a brown or golden skin, and is known for its strong, pungent taste. It’s typically used as a cooking onion, but can also be eaten raw.

  • The White Onion
  • As one might expect, white onions have a creamy white color and have a sweet flavor. They have a papery skin, similar to yellow onions. While they are also great for cooking, white onions are often used raw because of their mild flavor.

  • The Shallot Onion
  • The shallot is a small, oblong onion, with a thin brown skin that is typically removed before use. They have a sweeter and milder flavor than onions, and their unique taste makes them a favorite among chefs. They can be used raw or cooked and are used in French cuisine for its rich taste.

Now you know the different types of onions, you can pick the onions that best fit the recipe to achieve your desired results. Always remember to store onions in a cool, dry place to keep them fresh.

How Do You Choose the Right Onion?

Onions are a staple in almost any kitchen. They add depth and flavor to a wide variety of dishes, from soups to stir-fries. However, not all onions are created equal. There are several factors to consider when selecting the right onion for your dish, including flavor, texture, and cooking method. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to choose the right onion for your next meal.

Factors to Consider

The first thing to consider when choosing an onion is the flavor. Onions can vary widely in taste, from sweet to pungent. Different varieties are also suited to different types of cuisine. For example, Vidalia onions from Georgia are well-regarded for their sweetness and are often used in salads, while red onions are popular in Mexican cuisine due to their mild flavor.

Another factor to consider is the texture. Some onions are better suited to being cooked or served raw. For example, shallots have a delicate texture and are ideal for use in dressings and sauces. On the other hand, white onions are firm and hold up well to being sautéed or caramelized.

The cooking method is also important to consider when selecting onions. If you plan to cook your onions for an extended period, such as in a soup or stew, you’ll want to choose an onion that will hold up well, such as a yellow onion. However, if you plan to use your onions raw, such as in a salad, you may prefer a sweeter onion, such as a Vidalia.

Types of Onions

  • Yellow Onions: These are the most common onions and are great for almost any recipe that includes onions.
  • Red Onions: These have a slightly milder flavor than yellow onions and are often used in salads and sandwiches.
  • White Onions: These are firm and have a slightly sweet flavor. They’re great for grilling or adding to salsas and chutneys.
  • Green Onions: These are also known as scallions and are perfect for garnishing dishes or using in stir-fries and salads.
  • Shallots: These are small, oblong onions that have a delicate, sweet flavor. They’re great for dressings and sauces.
  • Vidalia Onions: These onions are known for their exceptional sweetness and are great for use in salads or sandwiches.

Choosing the right onion can make a big difference in the flavor and texture of your dish. Consider the factors of flavor, texture, and cooking method when selecting your onions, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different varieties to find the perfect fit for your recipe.

What Are the Health Benefits of Onions?

If you’re looking for a healthy and versatile ingredient to add to your meals, onions are the perfect choice. Not only do they add flavor and depth to your dishes, but they also come with a variety of health benefits. Here are some of the top benefits of cooking with onions:

1. Anti-inflammatory Properties

Onions are packed with antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases. These antioxidants can help reduce oxidative stress in the body, which is a major driver of chronic inflammation.

2. Boost Immunity

Onions are also high in vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant that can boost your immune system. This can help protect your body against infections, colds, and flu.

3. Reduce Blood Sugar Levels

Onions contain fiber and a variety of beneficial compounds that can help regulate blood sugar levels. This makes them a great ingredient for diabetics or anyone looking to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

  • The fiber in onions slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which can prevent spikes in blood sugar levels.
  • Sulfur compounds in onions can stimulate insulin production and improve insulin sensitivity, which can also help regulate blood sugar levels.

How Do You Prepare Onions for Cooking?

If you’re a beginner in cooking, the first thing you need to master is the basic process of preparing ingredients for your desired recipe. One of the most commonly used ingredients in a variety of dishes are onions. Here, we’ll give you tips on how to properly prepare onions for cooking.

How to Peel Onions

Peeling onions may seem like a mundane task, but it is the most essential step in preparing onions. Follow these simple steps:

  • Cut off the top part of the onion, opposite the root end.
  • Cut off the bottom of the onion, leaving the root end intact. This will make it easier to peel off the skin.
  • Peel off the dry, papery skin of the onion.

How to Chop Onions

Chopping onions finely or coarsely depends on the recipe you’re preparing. Here are the steps on how to chop onions:

  1. Cut the onion in half from the root end to the top.
  2. Cut off the root end and discard it.
  3. Remove the papery skin and the first layer of the onion with a knife or your fingers.
  4. Place the onion cut-side down on the cutting board. Hold the top of the onion with one hand and make vertical cuts, parallel to the cutting board, to the desired thickness.
  5. Turn the onion 90-degrees and make horizontal cuts to the desired size.

How to Slice Onions

Sliced onions are usually used in stir-fries or as a topping in salads or burgers. Slicing onions requires fewer steps than chopping. Here are the steps:

  1. Cut off the top and bottom of the onion, leaving the root end intact.
  2. Peel off the skin and the first layer.
  3. Place the onion on the cutting board with the root end facing the knife.
  4. Cut the onion into slices with the desired thickness, from the root end to the top.

How to Store Onions

One thing you need to remember when storing onions is to keep them dry. Moisture can cause onions to spoil quickly. Here are some tips on how to store onions:

Storage Method Duration
In a cool, dry, and well-ventilated place 2-3 months
In the fridge in a breathable container 4-6 weeks
In the freezer 6-8 months

Always keep in mind the proper way of preparing onions for your desired recipe. With these tips, you’re now ready to tackle any recipe that requires onions.

What Cooking Techniques Work Best for Onions?

If you’re a beginner cook, you might be intimidated by the onion. After all, this humble vegetable can make your eyes water and is often associated with complex, multi-layered flavors. But fear not! Once you master a few simple cooking techniques, you’ll be able to enjoy onions in all their glory.


Sautéing is a quick and easy way to cook onions. All you need is a pan and some oil, butter or another fat. Start by slicing your onion into thin, even pieces. Heat your fat in the pan over medium-high heat and add the onions. Stir the onions frequently until they’re golden brown and tender. This should take about 5 to 7 minutes. Sautéed onions can be used in a variety of dishes, from omelets to stir-fries.


Caramelized onions are sweet, flavorful and a great addition to sandwiches, burgers and salads. To caramelize onions, start by slicing them thin. Heat a pan over medium heat and add your oil or butter. Once heated, add the onions and stir frequently for several minutes. Reduce the heat and continue cooking for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are deep brown and caramelized. This slow-cooking method brings out the natural sweetness of onions, making them a perfect topping for meats, pizzas or as a garnish to soups and stews.


Baking onions is another technique that works well for beginners. Start by peeling the onions and cutting off the tops and bottoms. Slice off a small piece from the bottom of each onion, so that it can stand upright. Grease a baking dish and place the onions upright in the dish. Drizzle olive oil or butter over the top of each onion. Cover the dish with foil and bake in an oven (at around 400 degrees) for about an hour. Once you remove them from the oven, let them sit for a few minutes to cool and enjoy your soft, sweet onions!


Not all onion dishes require cooked onions. Pickling is a simple and unique process that can transform a basic red onion into a tangy condiment. To pickle onions, thinly slice the onions and place them in a jar. In a separate bowl, mix a solution of 2 cups warm water, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup white vinegar. Add your preferred spices such as pepper, garlic or bay leaf to the vinegar mixture. Pour the vinegar mixture over the sliced onions and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before use. Pickled onions offer a tart, zesty taste for sandwiches, tacos or salads.


Braising involves slow-cooking onions in a liquid until they’re tender and flavorful. To braise onions, heat some oil in a pan and add your onions sliced thinly. Add a liquid such as broth, wine, or beer, to the pan and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and cover, allowing the onions to simmer for an hour or more. Braised onions are a delicious accompaniment to roasts, grilled meats, or stews.

What Are Some Popular Onion-Based Recipes for Beginners?

Onions are a staple ingredient in many kitchens, and for good reason. They add depth and flavor to a wide range of dishes and can be cooked in a variety of ways. If you’re a beginner cook, try some of these popular onion-based recipes to get the hang of cooking with this versatile vegetable.

French Onion Soup

This classic soup is a great place to start if you’re new to cooking with onions. It’s simple to make and requires only a handful of ingredients. French onion soup is traditionally made with beef broth, onions, and bread topped with melted cheese.

To make French onion soup, start by caramelizing your onions until they’re a rich, golden brown. This will bring out their natural sweetness and give the soup depth of flavor. Then, add your broth and let everything simmer for a while to allow the flavors to meld together. Finally, top your bread with cheese and broil until bubbly and golden brown.

Onion Rings

If you’re looking for a fun and easy appetizer, onion rings are a great choice. These crispy and delicious snacks are perfect for dipping in your favorite sauce or enjoying on their own.

To make onion rings, start by slicing your onions into rings. Then, dip each ring in a mixture of flour, egg, and milk, before coating them in breadcrumbs. Finally, fry them until they’re golden brown and crispy.

Roasted Onions

Roasting onions brings out their natural sweetness and gives them a deep, caramelized flavor. This simple side dish pairs well with roasted meats and vegetables, or can be enjoyed on its own.

To roast onions, start by peeling and cutting them into wedges. Place them in a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until they’re tender and golden brown.

Caramelized Onions

Caramelized onions are a delicious addition to sandwiches, burgers, and pizzas. The slow cooking process brings out their natural sweetness, resulting in a rich and flavorful topping.

To make caramelized onions, start by slicing them into thin strips. Heat some butter or olive oil in a pan over low heat, and add your sliced onions. Cook them slowly, stirring occasionally, until they’re golden brown and caramelized. This can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes, so be patient!

Onion Dip

If you’re looking for a tasty and easy-to-make dip, onion dip is a great choice. It’s perfect for parties or as a snack, and can be made ahead of time for convenience.

To make onion dip, start by caramelizing your onions (as described above). Then, combine them with sour cream, mayonnaise, and your favorite seasonings. Mix well and serve with chips or vegetables.

Onion Tart

If you’re feeling adventurous, try making an onion tart. This savory dish is perfect for brunch or as a light dinner, and can be made with a variety of different cheeses and herbs.

To make an onion tart, start by caramelizing your onions (as described above). Then, spread them over a pre-made pie crust and top with your favorite cheese and seasonings. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted.

Thanks for Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this beginner’s guide to cooking onions. We hope that you have found some useful information and tips to make your next onion-based dish delicious and easy to make. Remember, practice makes perfect! Don’t be afraid to experiment with different cooking techniques and seasonings. And if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. See you again soon!

Cooking Onions: A Beginner’s Guide

Learn how to cook onions like a pro with this beginner’s guide. We cover how to slice, dice, sauté, caramelize, and more!

  • Onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic
  • Optional: Herbs and Spices
  • Optional: Butter
  1. Peel the onion and cut off the root and stem ends. Slice the onion in half from root to stem, then lay each half flat on the cutting board and slice into thin half-moons.
  2. Peel the onion and cut off the root and stem ends. Slice the onion in half from root to stem, then lay each half flat on the cutting board and make vertical and horizontal cuts to create small cubes.
  3. Heat olive oil in a pan and add sliced or diced onions. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender and caramelized, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Heat butter in a pan and add sliced onions. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are dark brown and sweet, about 30-40 minutes.
  5. Once the onions are cooked to your liking, add minced garlic and any herbs or spices you like. Stir and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  6. Use your cooked onions in any recipe that calls for onion. They’re great in soups, stews, sauces, and more!
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