Have you ever wondered, is onion a vegetable? We often think of fruit as sweet and vegetables as savory, but botanically speaking it’s not that simple.  So in this article, we’ll clarify a few things about onions, like are onions a vegetable? What are the different types of onions? How do you cut an onion without crying? How do you cook with them, and more.

Several red, brown and white onions are scattered on a counter with a knife sitting next to them.

Nothing makes a house smell more amazing than onions sautéing on the stove. Onion is one of the most popular ingredients used around the world to add flavor to just about any dish. But what are onions? Are they a fruit or a vegetable?

Several red, brown and white onions are scattered on a counter with a knife sitting next to them.

What Are Onions?

Onions are part of the Allium family of vegetables which include garlic, scallions, leeks and chives. There are many different types of onions such as red, yellow, white, sweet, brown and shallots.

Is Onion A Fruit Or Vegetable?

If you’re not sure if onion is a vegetable, you’re not alone. Even though onion is often thought of as a spice, botanically speaking onion is a vegetable, and since it is an actual root of the plant, onions are a root vegetable.

What’s The Difference Between Fruits And Vegetables?

Fruits are the seed bearing part of a flowering plant that requires pollination to grow. Vegetables are the edible stems, roots, leaves and bulbs of a plant. There are two types of classifications – botanical and culinary.Botanical classification is based on the function and structure of the plant, while culinary classification is based on flavor and how the plant is prepared for consumption. Culinary classification of fruits and vegetables are often based on flavor – fruit is often sweet, tart of tangy and used for smoothies, desserts, jams, etc. Vegetables are often bitter tasting and used for savory meals like soups, stews casseroles and salad.

What Are The Types of Onions?

1. Yellow Onions

Yellow onions are probably the most commonly used onion.  They’re great grilled or simmered in soups and stews.

2. White Onions

White onions have a slightly more sharp flavor than the yellow version.  They are a little more tender with a thinner skin.  They’re also great simmered in soups and stews and added to a salsa.

3. Sweet Onions

The two most common types of sweet onions are Walla Walla and  Vidalia. They have a little less of a bite to them than the yellow or white versions, and they taste a little on the sweet side.

4. Red Onions

Red onions are similar to the rustic yellow onion, and they’re great added to salads, sandwiches and salsas.

5. Green Onions

Green onions are also known as scallions and they are typically added to salads, salsas and stir-fried dishes.

6. Shallots

Shallots are often added to salads and vinaigrettes. They’re also delicious when roasted (whole in their skins like garlic), or caramelized or sautéed slowly on low heat.

How Do You Cut an Onion?

The part of the onion that contains the most nutrients is in the outer most layers, so try not to over peel.  

  1. Cut in half from root to root. 
  2. Cut about half an inch off the top discarding the root.
  3. Peel off the papery layers and discard.
  4. Slice vertically.
  5. Take one half and lay it flat on a cutting surface.
  6. Slice and chop horizontally.

How Do You Chop An Onion Without Crying?

When cutting an onion, certain compounds are released that irritate the nerves around the eyes, but t here are a few tricks you can try to help minimize this from happening

  1. Refrigerate the onion for 30 minutes before cutting it.
  2. Cut the onion in half and soak the halves in water for 10 minutes before chopping them.
  3. Slice the onion in half leaving the roots in tact. Peel the thin papery layers away and slice vertically in rounds until you near the end root. Discard the root and chop the rounds.

How Do You Mellow Onion Flavor? (Soaking Onions In Water)

Soaking onions in water is a simple trick to mellow the flavor of them. All you do is peel and slice the onion, then put the slices in a bowl of chilled water for up to 10 minutes. Drain well and pat dry before adding to your dish. 

How Do You Store Onions?

Onions are best stored in a pantry or another dark and dry room with some ventilation. If the temperature and/or humidity rises, they will start to sprout.

  • Peeled. Once it’s peeled, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up 1o 10-14 days.
  • Chopped. Once they are sliced or chopped, they can be wrapped in plastic wrap or a plastic ziplock baggie in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
  • Cooked. Once cooked they can be stored in an airtight container or plastic ziplock baggie in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Several red onions scattered on a counter top.

How Do You Cook With Onions?

Onions add tremendous flavor to so many dishes. They can be sautéed, roasted, grilled or caramelized.  They’re also great when added raw to sandwiches, salads and salsas. Mix chopped celery, carrot and onion to make a flavorful mirepoix as a base for soup (which is a staple in my house). And during the summer months, they’re a popular addition to grilled chicken burgers and kebabs. 

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