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Yellow Onion vs Sweet Onion

I am mostly a sweet onion person. Recently I made a jambalaya with two yellow bell peppers and a large sweet onion. The finished dish was delicious, but by the end of a bowl it was overwhelmingly sweet. I used a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and no added sugar so I felt most of the sweetness had come from the onion and the peppers. I have since made this again with a yellow onion and one small red bell pepper. Much better balance of flavors.

I have been using sweet onions almost exlcusively for years. This is the firsat time I've run into a difference like this. What dishes do you make where you purposefully choose a yellow onion over a sweet onion?


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  1. The few times I've tried sweet onions I was disappointed. I find their flavor lacking and overpowered by the onion's sweetness. Whenever I'm cooking anything that needs "onion" I use yellow or white onions, whatever is freshest in the market, but never sweet. I'm sure there are recipes where sweet onion may be appropriate, but most of the time if a recipe doesn't specify a sweet onion, or a red onion, yellow or white (non-sweet) is what should be used.

    1. I also use sweet almost exclusively. I also buy red often if I think sweet isn't the way to go or I plan to eat raw. SO can't eat the really biteyness of yellow or white unless really really well cooked.

      1. I don't find sweet onions to have enough onion-y flavor for my taste. Perhaps they would be good in dishes that aren't cooked, like salads, etc.

        1. The last time I used sweet onions (they were on sale), I stupidly used them in a French Onion soup, and it ruined that soup. I haven't bought them since. Yellow and white are always cheap at my market, and I opt for those, but I actually prefer red onions, and get them when I can. The only dish I can think of where they'd be welcome here is, as funwithfood said, when they can be used raw, most likely as an addition to a spicy dish, or one that has a fair amount of acidity.

          1. Interesting that so far the responses have been about not liking sweet onions not so much about the different uses for each. While I think I'm leaning towards using yellow in savory soups I love sweet in spaghetti sauce.


            1 Reply
            1. re: JuniorBalloon

              Funny, my Italian gma's sauce called for yellow onion.

              I use sweet or red in my French Onion soup though.

              SO is very funny about things being too oniony or garlicky, he likes both but they can't be too bitely.

              Mom just made Ina Garten's onion rings with sweet and they were to die for!

            2. I never cook with sweet onion after using them a couple of times and finding the results too one-dimensional. Red onions can be mild and sweet but can also have a stronger, more bitter bite than a strong yellow onion....I've given up on the reds. Yellow is generally considered the standard cooking onion. They can vary, unpredictably (as far as I can tell), from mild to sharp, but overall they do the best job in savory preparations. If you want something a little milder, but not as mild as sweet varieties like Vidalia, try the large white onions or the Spanish onions.

              1. Vidalias are in season now and they're the only sweet onion I ever use but never as an ingredient in something else. I eat them raw (sliced or chopped). And I love to cut one in half crosswise, drizzle some oo, vinegar, s&p, wrap in foil pack and throw in the oven or on the grill. For cooking I use yellow and for lox I use red. If red is all I have, then I use it for cooking just to use it up.

                1. I use sweet onions for salads and sandwiches. I never cook with them unless I run out of every other kind of onion.

                  1. Very simple: sweet onions for raw or lightly cooked, yellow onions for long-cooked. Sweet onions lack the complexity for long-cooking, and yellow onions are unnecessarily sharp (unless less well-rinsed in cold water after being sliced, something most Americans don't know to do) for raw.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Karl S

                      Which I believe YOU taught me to do.

                      Had to chuckle. I need two chopped yellow onions for a dish tonight and don't want to go back to the store. I had a quarter of a yellow, a half a red and Vidalias. So a Vidalia is going in anyway. Funny timing.

                      1. re: Karl S

                        I think Karl S is exactly right. It's never even occured to me to cook with sweet onions--that's just not what they are for. And I'd never put raw sliced yellow onion in any kind of salad.

                      2. Camille Glenn's "The Heritage of Southern Cooking" has a recipe for a Vidalia onion pie (savoury; like a quiche) that is To. Die. For.

                        Other than that pie, I'm with the others -- I use sweet onion raw (usually on salads) or as onion rings (where I love them the most) -- but yellow onion for anything else.

                        1. I love, love love, French Onion Soup, but everytime I
                          make it my SO is "underwhelmed" because it is too
                          sweet. I have tried every onion, do not add any sugar and still I am hearing, "too sweet." Is It the tastebuds, or is
                          there something else I can do to give it a more savory edge?


                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Treemom

                            Try adding some shallots; also consider some leek. Don't use too fruity of a red wine.

                            1. re: Treemom

                              I agree with the shallot as Karl suggested, but leeks might add more sweetness. Try using white wine instead of red. You can add a dash of vinegar to help balance the sweetness. Or some Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce.

                              1. re: Springhaze2

                                Well, I don't think of leeks as amplifying sugar as adding more herbal notes, but it depends on the leek and the part you use, I guess.

                                Love the white wine suggestion.

                                And, speaking of Worcestershire sauce, while it would not be very French, dissolving an anchovy or two would amplifying the umami a lot, without adding a fishy note.

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  Anchovy paste, in a tube, is useful for these occasions. One can just add enough to provide that "something," but it wouldn't be apparent in the final product.

                                  Maybe your husband just has a unique palate, Treemom. My dad never liked anything sweet.

                              2. re: Treemom

                                Does SO like french onion soup at any restaurants? It could just be that the carmelized onion flavor is not something he likes (or that you can fix or change)

                              3. I use sweet onions almost exclusively. Others are WAY too blow-my-mouth-off strong.

                                I don't eat raw onions.

                                The only exception to both of these statements is that with Mexican food I enjoy (soaked & rinsed & minced) raw white onion along with plenty of cilantro.