Whether onions are a staple ingredient in your household or you’re someone who likes to stay as far away from them as possible, you likely know of the different types of onions that are out there.
Red, white, yellow, and sometimes even green onions are what most of us think of when we think of this vegetable’s varieties, but did you know each of the colors has its own sub-types?
If this is news to you, keep reading to learn all about the different varieties of white onions, along with their characteristics, flavors, and the best ways to use them.
Types of White Onions
Walla Walla Onions
The Walla Walla is a globe-shaped onion that produces jumbo-sized bulbs. Their outer skin is light brown, and they have a pearly-white colored interior.
Many varieties of white onions are hybrid vegetables, but the Walla Walla is one of the few non-hybrid white onions. Walla Wallas are sweet onions that originate in the Walla Walla Valley, of Washington (hence their name).
While white onions are known for being sweeter, Walla Walla onions are different than most. What makes this onion unique is that rather than having a high sugar content to increase its sweetness, it actually has a low sugar and low sulfur content Low levels of sulfur allow this white onion to have less “bite”, while also causing fewer tears when you cut into them.
Walla Walla onions are great for growing in short-season climates. If you’re interested in getting started on growing your own, check the Walla Walla seed availability at Park Seed.
Cipollini onions are small, flat white onions that are only about one to two inches in diameter. Their skin color can range from a light shade of off-white to pale brown.
Similarly to Walla Walla onions, Cipollinis are another type of white onion favored for their sweeter flavors. However, unlike the Walla Walla, the Cipollini’s flavor is a result of high sugar content, which increases their sweetness and makes their taste far from mild.
The Cipollini onions are perfect for roasting whole because of their size and shape. They bring an incredible caramelized aroma to any dish they’re added to which makes them a fan-favorite amongst white onion lovers.
Looking to buy seeds and grow your own Cipollini Onions? Take a look at Hoss Tools for seeds.
White Grano Onions
White Grano onions are classic. They’re exactly what most people think of when it comes to the general category of “white onions”.
This type of white onion has a straw-colored exterior and white interior. They produce large that can be as heavy as a pound and have a diameter of three to four inches. They’re also known for their low pungency (a.k.a. bite or spiciness), making them a great choice for any home chef.
With a high amount of sugar and low sulfur content, White Grano onions are sweet and mild. However, their sugar content gives them a relatively short shelf life, so make sure to use them when you’ve got ‘em!
White Grano Onions are easy to grow at home and can be planted during the cool seasons. They thrive especially well in the southern regions of the U.S., as they favor longer daylight hours.
White Pearl Onions
White Pearl Onions may be known to you as baby onions, cocktail onions, or picklers. They’re a small and sweet variety of white onions that range from a half inch to 1.5 inches in diameter.
Because of their size, they pack a lot of flavor that can be enjoyed in a single bite, while not overpowering your dish. This makes them a perfect addition to pot pies, barbecue skewers, stews, and more.
Their small size is because of their early harvest age and planting strategies. They’re planted in dense clusters, which prevents these white onions from being able to grow to their full size potential.
Although prematurely harvested, these white onions have high contents of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and fiber, making them not only flavorful but also nutritious!
White Bermuda Onions
Bermuda Onions derive from both yellow and white onion varieties. The white variety, specifically, is a flat-topped onion with a stout shape. Their skin color is thin and papery, but their flesh is juicy and mild. White Bermuda Onions are typically loved by many because they don’t have that strong spicy bite when eaten raw.
Like many of the other white onion varieties, they have a low sulfur content, which makes them ideal for enjoying raw on salads, sandwiches, and more.
These onions are grown year-round, but peak in the spring and summer months. When grown in clusters, however, these white onions are often grown and harvested early to become the White Pearl Onions we all know and love.
When To Use
White onions can be used in a variety of dishes and are often interchangeable with yellow onions. Their sweet mild flavors make them ideal for enjoying raw in garden salads, pasta salads, potato salads, and my personal favorite – onion rings! Try this air fryer onion rings recipe for crispy onion rings without the mess of oil!
These onions also make a great garnish for Mexican dishes. Dice them up and place them on your finished guacamole, tacos, and salsas.
Lastly, because this variety of onion is so flavorful, it’s the perfect ingredient for flavoring soups, stir-fries, and stews. If you ever find yourself tasting a dish and know that it’s missing something, try adding white onions for that last kick of flavor.
When Not To Use White Onions
Because there are many types of onions, it’s reasonable to assume that certain varieties shouldn’t be used for certain dishes. While some onions are more favorable in recipes than others (for example red onions are best for pickling and grilling, and white onions are best for garnishing), most onions can be used interchangeably.
If you’re short on red or yellow onions, replacing them with white onions won’t drastically change the outcome of your recipe. It may slightly alter the flavor or appearance, but it’s more than okay to use what you’ve got on hand.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do all white onions have the same growing process/requirements?
Besides pearl onions, which we know are harvested early on in their growth process, most other white onions have the same growing requirements.
White onions do best when they’re started indoors. Once they’ve become established and are sturdy enough, they can be moved into a sunny spot with well-drained soil mixed with plenty of organic matter.
Most white onions will take about 100 to 175 days to reach full maturity.
Can all of these onions be used interchangeably when cooking?
In the same way that different colored onions can be used interchangeably, so can types of white onions! Luckily, the swapping of white onion varieties won’t change the appearance of your dish too much, it just may tweak the flavors a little bit.
Overall, however, using your white onions interchangeably is a safe bet.
A Complex Vegetable
Now you know about the many options that are out there when it comes to choosing a white onion. From small and sugary Pearl onions to large Walla Walla onions, finding the perfect variety for your cooking and home gardening needs can be a fun and exciting process of trial and error.
Want to learn more about different onion varieties, how to grow them, and ways to use them in the kitchen? Take a look at our Onions page for all you need to know!