Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
If there were ever an onion beauty pageant, red onions would take home the top prize. This pretty purple-tinged onion is as photogenic as it is pungent. It’s no wonder many chefs use raw red onions on salads to add a pop of color. But what happens when you cook with red onions? Do red onions always need to be eaten raw? If you’re curious about cooking with red onions, you have to check out the research we’ve done on this topic.
It’s perfectly alright to cook with red onions. In fact, it’s fairly common for chefs to grill red onions. It’s also not unheard of for cooks to sauté or roast red onions. As long as you enjoy the flavors associated with red onions, it’s okay to use them in your recipe.
While red onions are pretty versatile, there are a few applications where they’re a cut above the competition. If you’re new to cooking with red onions, you should read through the sweet info we’ve compiled below.
What Are Red Onions Best For?
Thanks to their bold color, crunchy texture, and slightly astringent flavor, red onions are most often eaten raw. You’ll commonly find chefs placing slices of red onions on salads, sandwiches, or burgers. Raw red onions are also a perfect addition to DIY guacamole or salsa.
But that doesn’t mean red onions don’t have other uses. Indeed, many professional chefs claim red onions are the best choice for pickling. You can put these pickled red onions to good use as a taco garnish or on top of ceviche. If you’re interested in pickling onions, you should grab a few jars designed for fermentation.
Lastly, many people claim grilled or roasted red onions make a fantastic side dish. To find out how to make classic balsamic roasted red onions, be sure to check out this YouTube tutorial:
What Does Cooked Red Onion Taste Like?
Compared with white onions, red onions are slightly sharper; however, that doesn’t mean red onions are as assertive as raw yellow onions. Indeed, most people describe raw red onions as having a pleasant balance of spice and sweetness.
When you cook red onions, you will take away that sharp edge, so all that’s left is a mild sweet taste. Indeed, the best word to describe cooked red onions is mild. You shouldn’t expect as intense a flavor profile with red onions compared with other cooked onions.
How Could You Reduce The “Sharp” Flavor In Raw Red Onions?
If you’re not a fan of the flavor associated with raw red onion, there is an easy way you could tame those astringent notes. After chopping your red onion, place it in a bowl of ice-cold water and let it sit for about 10 to 15 minutes. Once the time is up, drain your onions in a strainer, pat dry, and add to your dish.
This simple hack will help you enjoy the color and crunch of raw onions without the harsh sulphuric notes. Indeed, many people who use this strategy say their raw red onions taste delightfully sweet.
Some pro chefs even pre-cut their red onions, mix them with room temperature water, and keep them in the fridge until they need them. Don’t believe us? Check out this tutorial on YouTube:
Is Red Onion Healthier Than White?
While all onion varieties have loads of health benefits, red onions seem to be healthier than white onions. Indeed, recent data suggests red onions have higher concentrations of antioxidants versus white varieties.
Also, white onions have a higher sugar-to-sulfur ratio than red onions. While this makes white onions sweeter to eat raw, it also means you’re not enjoying the full nutritional potential of this veggie.
Please bear in mind that red onion loses its peak nutritional potential after you cook it. So, if you’re most concerned with getting the most antioxidants out of your red onion, you have to eat it raw.
Can You Substitute Red Onions For Shallots?
Since shallots and red onions are both in the Allium family and have reddish hues, many people assume they could use them interchangeably. While these two veggies share many features, they are separated for a good reason. Swapping out shallots for red onions will alter the intended flavor of your dish.
Most significantly, raw shallots are sweeter and milder than raw red onions. You won’t experience the sharp edge with raw shallots as you would with red onions. Whether cooked or raw, shallots will always play a more subtle role in your recipe’s flavor profile.
It’s also worth mentioning shallots have a growing pattern that resembles garlic. This may help explain why so many connoisseurs claim they detect subtle notes of garlic in raw or cooked shallots.
All that being said, red onions are an OK substitute if you don’t have shallots at home. Just remember that red onions don’t have the same sweet, mild, and slightly garlicky flavor associated with shallots. To better replicate a shallot’s taste, you may want to give your raw onion an ice water bath and add a clove of garlic to your recipe.
Do You Cook Red Onions For Burgers?
Choosing whether to cook your red onion for a burger is totally up to your preferences. Leaving your onions raw will add a sharper crunch to your patty, whereas cooking your red onions will bring out more sweetness.
If you’d like your red onion to taste sweeter and slightly smoky, then it’s recommended you grill them. Sliced red onions are easy to add to a standard grill and place on top of your burger.
Before prepping your onions for burger night, be sure to review our post on “The Best Way To Cut An Onion” for helpful techniques. Also, you may want to look into an onion comb to slice and dice onions in a flash.
Can You Use Red Onions For Caramelized Onions?
You can caramelize red onions, but they aren’t the preferred option. Yellow or white onions should always be your go-to choices for caramelizing. Once these onions are finished, they will have the distinctive sweet flavor and brown glaze people commonly associate with caramelized onions.
The reason red onions underwhelm in this category has to do with their comparatively low sugar content. Since you need sugars to break down for caramelization to occur, it’s no wonder red onions aren’t as sweet as other varieties.
To learn more about caramelizing onions like a pro, be sure to watch this YouTube demo:
Whether Raw Or Roasted, Red Onions Rock!
Although red onions are most often enjoyed raw, there are many ways you could cook this beautiful veggie. Indeed, two of the most popular ways to cook with red onions include adding them to the grill or roasting them with balsamic. Be sure to try both of these recipes the next time you’re looking for an uber-healthy side.
Now that you know how to cook red onions, you’re probably wondering how to store them properly. Don’t worry; KitchenSeer won’t leave you hanging! Please be sure to check out our previous post, “What’s the Best Way To Store Onions?”