Hy-Vee Dietitian: All About Onions

Your new summer kebob or salad recipe calls for onions. What kind should you use? Sweet Vidalia or red onions? Yellow or white? Shallot or green-top? Judy Fitzgibbons, Johnson Avenue Hy-Vee dietitian, takes the guessing out of summer onion shopping. And, she'll share onion recipes for the grill. Not only tasty, onions, like other sulfur-containing vegetables, contain compounds with health-protecting benefits. An onion-a-day may keep the doctor away!

Onions in the produce department fall into three basic groups: green-top, dry or storage onions and sweet. Use these guidelines for choosing the right onion for your recipe:

Green-top or scallions:
Green tops are a type of scallion and they can be used inter-changeably although scallions, when available, have a slightly milder flavor. Usually eaten fresh in salads or as a garnish, they can be grilled.

Dry or storage onions:
Dry onions are the classic onions we buy year-round.

Shallots are milder-flavored than regular onions. They look more like garlic than onions. Peel like garlic. Use in recipes calling for a mild flavor, such as a cream sauce.
Yellow onions' pungent, full-flavor makes them the all-around cooking onion. They turn a rich dark-brown when cooked.
White onions turn golden and sweet-flavored when cooked. They're the traditional choice for Mexican cooking.
Red onions, being a little milder-flavored, lend themselves to salads, grilled on kebobs or in slices on the grill.

Sweet onions:
Vidalia and Walla Walla onions come into the store in late spring through summer—just in time for the grilling season. Their sweet, mild taste makes them a terrific addition to summer vegetable salads. Baked or grilled, they become very sweet and flavorful. Their thin, lighter colored skin makes them more delicate than dry onions. Treat them gently to avoid bruising.

Bothered by tears? Try freezing a whole onion for about an hour before slicing. That slows down the enzymes in the onion that trigger the tear-producing chemicals.

Use-'em Up Grilled Green Onions
Source: Kassie Lawrence. ISU Dietetic Intern
Ever had more green onions than you can use in a salad or for a garnish? Try this easy recipe for enjoying the rest of the bundle.

Serves 2
All you need:
1 bunch green-top onions (less what you've used in a recipe), washed and root end removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste or Mrs. Dash seasoning blend

All you do:
Put whole onions in a shallow pan. Drizzle olive oil over them and then use a basting brush or toss to coat. Place onions on grill over medium heat. Cook until lightly browned and white end is tender. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper or your favorite summer grilling seasoning.

Cheese-stuffed Grilled Sweet Onions
Serves 4
Source: Judy Fitzgibbon, Hy-Vee Dietitian

All you need:
4 sweet onions such as Vidalia or Walla Walla
Freshly ground black pepper
4 wedges Laughing Cow Light Garlic and Herb cheese spread
2 Tablespoons crumbled blue cheese, divided
Fresh herbs: thyme, oregano, rosemary, as desired
Mrs. Dash seasoning, optional


All you do:
Cut top and root end off of onion. Remove papery peel. Using an apple corer or vegetable peeler, hollow out center of each onion, leaving at least a quarter-inch edge. Set each onion in the center of a square of aluminum foil large enough to wrap around onion. Grind fresh pepper into each onion. Push one wedge of un-wrapped Laughing Cow cheese into each onion. Sprinkle ½ tablespoon of blue cheese over top. Add fresh herbs such as thyme, oregano or rosemary, if desired or sprinkle with Mrs. Dash seasoning.

Wrap foil loosely around each onion, leaving a gap for steam to escape. Place over medium heat on grill. Cook about 45 minutes or until onions are soft when gently squeezed. Alternate method: bake in 350°F oven for 45 to 60 minutes.

7-Minute Healthy Sautéed Onions
Healthy Sautéing brings out onions' sweet flavor and preserves the maximum amount of nutrients.
Serves 2
Source: Whole Foods

All you need:
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 Tablespoons low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, divided
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

All you do:
1. Slice onions and let them sit for at least 5 minutes to enhance their health-promoting benefits.
2. Heat 2 Tablespoons broth over medium heat in a stainless steel skillet.
3. When broth begins to steam, add onions and cover for 3 minutes. The onions will release a small amount of liquid. Uncover, add another 2 Tablespoons broth and continue to stir for 4 minutes, leaving the lid off.
4. Remove from heat when onions become translucent, about 7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the slices. If you would like your onions more tender, cook for 2 to 3 more minutes, uncovered, and stir frequently.
5. Transfer to a bowl. For the best flavor toss onions with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste while they are still hot.
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