Colors, Flavors, Sizes & Seasons
Onions vary in color, size, the time of year harvested, and flavor. These differences make onions very versatile.
The Color of Onions
Bulb onions can be yellow, red, or white. Approximately 87 percent of the crop is devoted to yellow onion production, with about eight percent red onions, and five percent white onions.
Onion Color, Flavor, Usage Guide
This chart was created to serve as a guide for helping you choose what kind of onion to use in a recipe. Feel free to let your own tastes, preferences, and creativity along with this chart guide you to your own decision. The most important thing to remember is "bring on the onions" and enjoy!
Note: Crop size in the chart below is approximate. Remember, flavor and usage info are general guidelines for each color and type.
1. Cut onions as close to cooking or serving time as possible. Onion flavor deteriorates and its aroma intensifies over time.
2. High heat makes onions bitter. When sautéeing onions, always use low or medium heat.
3. Chopped or sliced onions can be refrigerated for up to 7 days in sealed containers.
*Crop size is approximate. Flavor and usage info are general guidelines for each color and type.
Onions range in size from less than one-inch in diameter to more than 4.5-inches in diameter. The most common sizes sold in the U.S. for retail are between 2 to 3-3/4 inches in diameter.
Yes. Onions are seasonal! Based on when they are harvested, onions grown in the U.S. can be divided into two categories.
Spring/Summer Onion Traits
- Available in yellow, red, and white from March through August
- Can be identified by their thin, lighter-colored skin
- Typically higher in water content, which reduces their shelf-life and makes them more susceptible to bruising
- Range in flavor from sweet to mild
- Best to use in salads, sandwiches, and fresh, lightly-cooked or grilled dishes
- Many specialty sweet onions are part of this category and are sold under a specific trade name or label
- Note: Some domestic and all imported onions with these traits are offered other times of the year.
Fall/Winter Onion Traits
- Available August through May in yellow, red, and white
- Easy to recognize by their multiple layers of thick, darker colored skin
- Commonly lower in water content, they have a longer shelf-life
- Range in flavor from mild to pungent
- Best for savory dishes that require longer cooking times or more flavor