Difference between: white onions and red onions (and yellow)

We haven’t had a three-part difference between in awhile!

Let’s check out what differentiates white onions from red onions from yellow onions.

a red onion next to a yellow onion

White onions:

  • Have bright white, papery skin.
  • Can be eaten cooked or raw.
  • Have a nice crisp texture.
  • Are commonly used minced in salsas and Mexican dishes.
  • Can also be used raw in sandwiches or salads.

I’ve seen white onions described as both pungent and mild; I’d say they’re mild, but decide for yourself. (Of course, an onion is an onion and can only be so mild.)

Red onions:

  • Have bright, maroon-ish colored skin.
  • Can be cooked, but are often eaten raw.
  • Red color is dulled with cooking.
  • Have a pungent, almost spicy flavor.
  • Are used to bring color and crunch to salads.
  • Are the ideal onion for pickling or making onion jam.

Yellow onions:

  • Are by far the most popular and most grown onion in this country.
  • Have papery, yellow-brown skin.
  • Have a mild, sweet flavor, that becomes sweeter as they’re cooked.
  • Can be eaten raw or cooked.
  • Are considered an all-purpose onion.
  • Are great in soups – especially French onion.

I almost never use red onions because they’re too harsh for me. White onions usually do the trick for me. If you want an onion flavor without it being too onion-y, then I’d go with yellow.

Although sweet, yellow onions do differ from official sweet onions, such as Vidalia.