What are the differences between yellow and white onions? 

In this brief guide, we’ll address the search query: “What are the differences between yellow and white onions?” Also, we’ll explain how onions grow, where onions are produced, what other types of onions there are, what the nutritional content of onions is, what the health benefits of onions are, and what are the contraindications of onions. 

What are the differences between yellow and white onions?

Yellow onions, also known as brown onions, are different varieties of onions. Notably, they differ in color, softness, and slightly flavor

Yellow onions are the most commonly found onions in the US, and in most cases, unless otherwise indicated, recipes that call for onions, allude to these. These onions can be covered in a thin, brown layer and are ideal for cooking methods such as roasting, sautéeing, and being varnished. They can withstand longer cooking times, as they contain more starch and are, therefore, quite versatile. 

White onions, on the other hand, are more popularly used in Latin American cuisine and are best enjoyed raw or slightly cooked, such as sautéed or served fresh with salsas. As their name indicates, they’re of a white shade and covered in a papery, translucent layer. 

Both have sulfuric compounds that when sliced, can cause a person’s eyes to water, though there are measures our readers can take to mitigate these effects, such as placing them in a freezer for their compounds to cool. 

How do onions grow? 

Onions are bulbs that are harvested from the ground, though contrary to popular belief, they are not the roots of onion plants. 

Onion bulbs are in fact, not a root, but a modified stem that accumulated nutrients such as starch, for the plant to survive harsher, wintering periods. 

Onions are biennial (their life cycle lasts two years). This means that the substances built up in the stems that have thickened at the base, help them survive into their second year of growth, where they will flower, be pollinated, and produce seeds. 

However for anthropocentric purposes, onions are often cultivated yearly and their bulbs are harvested, cleaned, and taken to farmer’s markets and other distribution centers. 

Where are onions produced? 

Onions are grown in temperate conditions. They can tolerate low temperatures, and require well-drained soil. Seedlings can be planted in the spring, and onion bulbs can be harvested in the midsummer, all through the fall. 

Globally, as of 2020, India was the world’s top producer of onions, followed by China, the United States, Egypt, Turkey. Pakistan, Iran Bangladesh, Sudan, and Indonesia.  

The world’s top exporters are China, the Netherlands, Spain, Mexico, India, the United States, Egypt, Argentina, France, and Peru. 

What types of onions are there? 

There are many types of onions that shoppers can purchase at farmer’s markets and convenience stores. 

These types include: 

  • Dry onions – these onions withstand prolonged storage periods in a pantry, and include brown (or yellow) onions, white onions, and red onions.
  • Soft onions – these require refrigeration to prolong their shelf life, as they have a slightly higher water content than dry onions – these include sweet  and green onions (scallions), spring onions
  • Smaller varieties – these include pearl onions, shallots, and cipollini onions. Their sugar content varies between varieties, and they can be used in many cooking methods such as roasting, sliced thinly and fried, pickled, braised, etc. 

Often, a recipe will outline which type of onion suits the dish best, so our readers should carefully revise the ingredients needed beforehand. 

What is the nutritional content of onions? 

The exact nutritional content of onions will depend on the variety and portion size. 

For reference, one medium-sized onion (94-gram) will supply: 

  • 41 calories – of which 1.6 are sourced from fat
  • 1.3 grams of protein
  • 0.2 grams of fat – of which 0.1 grams are polyunsaturated
  • 9.5 grams of carbohydrates (3% of the recommended daily intake) – 1.3 grams of dietary fiber (5% of the RDI), and 4.4 grams of sugars.
  • 2.8 milligrams of sodium
  • 156 milligrams of potassium (4% of the RDI)

Additionally, the same portion can provide 8.1% of the RDI of vitamin C, 1.6% of calcium, and1.3% of iron. 

*Recommended daily intake values are based on a diet of 2000 calories per day. 

What are the health benefits of onions? 

The health benefits of eating onions include that they are a source of bioactive molecules such as antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other plant compounds. 

Onions may contain anthocyanins, which have antioxidant activity and can help protect cells from oxidative stress. 

Other components such as sulfuric compounds, may also reduce the likelihood of cancer. 

Quercetin and Thiosulfinates can contribute to both heart and circulatory health. 

The vitamin C in onions can also help maintain optimal immune function, and stimulate the production of collagen–the glue between our cells, which makes it important for those recovering from injuries. 

Overall, onions have many positive effects that our readers can benefit from by incorporating them into their diet. 

What are the contraindications of onions? 

Despite their many benefits, onions may be contraindicated to individuals who have sensitivities and have been known to have allergic reactions. 

Onions can be mildly irritant, so they are best handled with proper caution, and most importantly, they’re noxious to many pets such as cats and dogs

We encourage our readers to be mindful and take the appropriate measures when cooking or otherwise preparing onions. 


In this brief guide, we’ve addressed the search query: “What are the differences between yellow and white onions?” Also, we’ve explained how onions grow, where onions are produced, what other types of onions there are, what the nutritional content of onions is, what the health benefits of onions are, and what are the contraindications of onions.