The Inside Scoop on Melons: Types, Varieties, and Tips for Serving

There are a number of melon varieties, but most people are only familiar with a few. Get all the juicy details on this delicious fruit with our guide to 10 melon varieties, including their similarities and differences, plus where and when to shop for them, and how to serve them.

Different types of melons
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When melons are at the height of their season in late summer, you can find them at local farm stands and markets in a delightful variety and abundance. Whether sliced for snacking, blended into a refreshing melon drink, added to salads, or even grilled, they’re versatile and full of flavor. 

Having grown up on supermarket foods in the ‘90s, I didn’t see much by way of melon diversity. I had tasted the standard cantaloupes and honeydews, but even as a child, I turned my nose at super-sweet fruits and insisted I didn’t like melons. Give me crisp. Give me tart—I’m a sucker for a little pucker. Later, while traveling in Asia and Europe, I was romanced by melons that looked nothing like the ones at home. Some resembled pumpkins, some were colorfully striped, and many were absolutely bursting with the various flavor nuances I craved in fruit, from bittersweet to green and earthy. Today, I’m game to try any new melon I meet.

Given how many varieties of melons there are, do yourself a favor the next time you're at the market and pick one up, even (or perhaps especially) if it looks different from what you’re used to seeing. “Don’t limit yourself to what’s available at the grocery store,” says chef Thomas Trainor, a lecturing instructor at the Culinary Institute of America. “Check out your local farmers market for fresh, seasonal options. And visit an Asian grocery store in your area for great options beyond the watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew.”

Trainor adds that melons stand out in sweet and savory applications, "can be added as a fresh bite to elevate many dishes," and "have a unique ability to cross into many different cuisines and styles." Plus, they can be used at or before peak ripeness with equally delicious results. To help you make the most of the summer fruit, we’ve put together this guide to some popular (and lesser-known) melon varieties and how to best use them.

What Is a Melon?

Melons are a sun-loving fruit that grow on trailing vines. “They love to grow in places that have warm temperatures and lots of sun, so photosynthesis sends sugars to the fruit,” says Penelope Perkins-Veazie, PhD, a professor of horticultural science and specialist in postharvest produce at North Carolina State University. She notes that cool nights are also essential to help keep the sugars in the fruit.

All melons belong to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae—that means they share much in common with cucumbers and both summer and winter squash. What differentiates them is sugar and soft flesh. “The sugar content in these sweet melons is between 8% and 16% as opposed to the 3% to 4% in squash,” says Perkins-Veazie. “Melons also have a lot more free water content.” Meaning, they’re refreshingly juicy!

The Cucurbitaceae family splits into four genera, two of which are the sweet melons: citrullus lanatus and cucumis melo

The citrullus genera includes fruit with seeds spread throughout, like watermelon. The more commonly grown cucumis melo have a central seed cavity, like cantaloupes and honeydew, and are actually more closely related to cucumbers than to watermelons. Watermelons were originally cultivated in Africa and came to the Americas via European colonists and the slave trade, while melons came from Southwest Asia and spread through Europe before making their way to the colonies in the late 16th century.

Types of Melons

“There’s an enormous number of melons, and most people are not familiar with the extraordinary diversity,” says Amy Goldman, an heirloom seed preservationist and author of The Melon. “Farmers and amateur breeders have developed hundreds of varieties over hundreds of years, and I think there's a melon for everybody, for every inclination.”

Goldman explains that melons have 16 horticulture groups. The melons we’re most familiar with in the US generally settle into one of two groups. 

  • The inodorous group, a.k.a. winter melons or casabas, is known for being extremely sweet but not so fragrant until sliced open. The thick rinds that allow them to be stored well for several months also make them lack aroma. These melons are generally larger and take longer to grow, so you’ll see them later in the summer or in early fall.
  • The reticulatus group, a.k.a. muskmelons, is very aromatic but has a short shelf life. 
  • Watermelons don’t have any horticultural groups, but Goldman says there's a lot of diversity there, too, which is typically missing at the supermarket.

Regarding sweetness levels, the industry measures melons in degrees of Brix using a refractometer device. Goldman says a reading of 11 degrees or more will put a smile on your face. Below is an overview of 10 melon varieties—a few standards you’ll find at any supermarket, as well as several specialties that you may see at local markets, farm stands, or Asian grocers.

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe
Getty Images / bergamont

Origin: Persia and western Asia
Group:
Reticulatus
Color:
Beige-yellow rind, orange flesh
Flavor:
Strong musky aroma and sweet like honey
Texture:
Dense
Sugar Content:
10-11° Brix
Best Uses:
Pair with cured meats, black pepper, celery, or mint.

The melon Americans call cantaloupe is technically a muskmelon—a melon group characterized by a robust musky aroma and a raised netting pattern or deep grooves on their skin. 

The orange flesh that’s subtly sweet like honey is often used in fruit salads and desserts, but Trainor says cantaloupe pairs exceptionally well with salty items and benefits from a bright, fresh herb like mint or basil. “An acidic vinaigrette can also help enhance the flavor of the melon,” he says. “A great example of this is the classic Italian melon and prosciutto salad.” Or step it up by pairing melon with with jamón serrano

An example of a true cantaloupe is the highly fragrant charentais, which is common in Europe. “This melon has beautiful flesh and a prominent level of sweetness,” says Trainor. “Just eat it as is or with a pinch of salt to bring it to the next level.”

Honeydew

Honeydew melon
Getty Images / RahulDsilva

Origin: Western Africa and western Asia
Group:
Inodorous
Color:
Creamy yellow rind, pale green flesh
Flavor:
Sweet like honey and vegetal
Texture:
Smooth and tender
Sugar Content:
11-12° Brix
Best Uses:
Pair with cilantro, cucumbers, fish, mint, or salty ham. Great in fruit salads and as a base for chilled soups and drinks, like a Pimm’s cup.

Honeydew is one of the sweetest melons around. It’s an inodorus wintermelon, which is less aromatic than cantaloupe but offers a sweet, refreshing flavor. Similar to cantaloupe, the seeds are located in the center channel. These seeds are edible, like pumpkin seeds, so you can roast and salt them for snacking.

“Honeydew pairs amazingly with citrus and spice,” says Trainor. “The classic Mexican fruta con chile would be a fantastic way to use honeydew. Just top the melon with a spiced chile mixture, like Tajín, and lime juice.”

Watermelon

Watermleon
Getty Images / v777999

Origin: Northeastern Africa
Color:
Green rind, red or yellow flesh
Flavor:
Juicy and sweet
Texture:
Crisp, grainy, watery structure that compresses when you eat it
Sugar Content:
10-11° Brix
Best Uses:
Grill, pair with salty cheese, purée to make a beverage, pickle the rind.

Watermelons vary in size and appearance but tend to be oblong with a smooth, dark green rind and light green stripes. They’re a more distant relative to the other melons on this list. Heirloom varieties may feature different rind color patterns and flesh that ranges from white and yellow to red and pink. The typical supermarket watermelons feature stripes on the rind and a bright red seedless interior.

Seedless versions of the fruit are created by treating young plants with a chemical that causes the plant to produce fruits with nonviable seeds that don’t develop a fibrous black coating. Perkins-Veazie says 97 to 98% of watermelons are seedless now. “It’s funny, now it’s the seeded ones that fetch a premium price.” That’s because seeded melons are typically sweeter.

If you don’t mind some seed spitting, buy your watermelons at a farm stand. They will almost always be sweeter. “My customers tell me our melons are the best they've ever tasted,” says Ashley Armstrong, a fourth-generation farmer and owner of Armstrong Farms in Bastrop, Louisiana. “The Summer Flavor 720 we grow is hard to beat,” she says of a variety that can be both seeded or seedless. “I can't go in the store and buy melons anymore because they don't taste the same, and I don't want to disappoint myself.”

“Watermelons taste great with salty cheese,” says Trainor, like in this watermelon and feta salad. “You could also compress it with a food saver or vacuum sealer with high-end olive oil and some soy and make a nice faux tuna dish.” Or keep it simple and purée it into watermelon margaritas or limeade. “I love a good watermelon because it is so versatile,” says Trainor. “Every part of the watermelon is edible, so pickled watermelon rind is a nice bonus.”

Canary

Canary melon
Getty Images / Kuzmik_A

Origin: Persia
Group:
Inodorous
Color:
Bright yellow rind, white flesh
Flavor:
Sugary, tangy, and tropical tasting, with hints of coconut and passion fruit
Texture:
Tender and supple
Sugar Content:
12° Brix
Best Uses:
Cold soups or salads, and with herbs such as basil, mint, and cilantro.

Canary melons, also known as amarillo, are football-shaped muskmelons with a smooth skin that’s a little wrinkled. “They turn bright yellow when ripe, so it’s easy to know when they’re ready,” says Perkins-Veazie. The white flesh is Asian pear–like in texture with an umami-rich depth of flavor. Closer to the rind, you’ll get a bit of tartness, with almost citrusy or passion fruit notes. Unlike many other muskmelons, the canary contains much less of an overpowering musky scent, so it can complement a wide variety of ingredients. Trainor says it’s a terrific addition to a fruit salad. Look for the canary melon in Asian grocers, farmers markets, or specialty stores.

Galia

Galia melon
Getty Images / PicturePartners

Origin: Israel
Group:
Hybrid
Color:
Beige-yellow rind, pale green flesh
Flavor:
Like an extra-sweet honeydew
Texture:
Smooth and tender, like honeydew
Sugar Content:
14° Brix
Best Uses:
Chilled with a sprinkling of sea salt.

Galia melon is a hybrid of cantaloupe and honeydew melon, but slightly smaller and sweeter than both. It’s covered in a netted rind like a cantaloupe but with juicy green flesh like a honeydew. Like a cantaloupe, the rind will turn from green to golden when it's ripe. Enjoy it as you would cantaloupe or honeydew, or serve it chilled with sea salt.

Ivory Gaya

Ivory gaya melon
Getty Images / Stefan Tomic

Origin: Japan
Group:
Inodorous
Color:
Ivory rind with green spots and stripes, white flesh
Flavor:
Mildly sweet with green vegetal flavor, with notes of cucumber and under-ripe pear
Texture:
Firm, densely packed, and lusciously soft
Sugar Content:
11° Brix
Best Uses:
Sprinkled with lemon or lime juice or added to a fruit salad

The ivory gaya melon, also known as snow leopard, is a small muskmelon with an oblong shape, a smooth rind with variegated streaks and speckles, and firm white flesh. Its flesh has a crisp consistency closer to the skin and a softer, juicier flavor near the seeded core. This variety can be challenging to find, but look for it at farmers markets and Asian grocers.

The melon’s crisp consistency allows it to be eaten as-is, or sprinkled with lemon or lime juice to enhance the flavor. You can also wrap it in salty cured meats as an appetizer or blend it into smoothies, juices, and cocktails. 

Since the melon is small, you can slice it and use the melon halves as individual serving bowls filled with cottage cheese or yogurt and granola. Ivory Gaya melons also pair well with other fruits, such as berries, citrus, and kiwi, making it a great addition to a fruit salad.

Hami

Hami melons
Getty Images / kolesnikovserg

Origin: Northwestern China
Group:
Ameri
Color:
Yellow rind, light orange flesh
Flavor:
Mild floral sweetness, subtle Asian pear 
Texture:
Crisp and watery, like a watermelon
Sugar Content:
11° Brix
Best Uses:
Slice and eat or use in place of cantaloupe.

The Hami is a larger melon that’s also known as the Asian muskmelon. It's golden yellow with subtle netting, oblong in shape, and known for its pleasant floral sweetness. It tastes like a cantaloupe but with the texture of an Asian pear or jicama. The flavor is very mild and subtle but aromatic and blossomy. Find this melon at Asian grocers.

The Hami melon is excellent simply sliced and eaten as-is, or try using it to make a melon liqueur or syrup. “Melon syrup works great in addition to, or instead of, Midori and is usually not as sweet,” says Trainor. “I’ve also used it as a dessert sauce or flavoring for sparkling water.” 

Crenshaw

Crenshaw melon
Getty Images / ivanastar

Origin: Turkey
Group:
Inodorous
Color:
Yellow-green rind, pale orange flesh
Flavor:
Sweet and slightly peppery with slight cucumber notes
Texture:
Dense and chewy, almost gummy
Sugar Content:
10° Brix
Best Uses:
Grilled, sprinkled with chili flakes.

Crenshaw melons, a.k.a. Crane melons, are a type of large cantaloupe. They bear a sweet, vegetal, and floral aroma. The flesh is dense and slightly spicy. Their rind is thick and dark green when young but turns golden yellow or yellowish green when ripe and has a waxy feel. They’re oval-shaped but taper to a point at the stem end. Find crenshaw melons in late summer at farmers markets or specialty stores.

Trainor wants people to see melons more as a cooking fruit versus something you'd just eat raw, and the crenshaw is an example of a melon that is sturdy enough to stand up to light cooking, like kissed on the grill for a savory-sweet flavor. “A big reason to cook melons is to intensify or add flavor,” he says. “I feel we will see cooked melons start to take off in the culinary scene the same way we have seen a surge in cooked stone fruits, like grilled peaches, mango salsa, and poached plums.”

Korean

Korean melon
Getty Images / Pichest

Origin: Korea
Group:
Makuwa
Color:
Striped yellow rind, white flesh
Flavor:
Delicately sweet and aromatic with a slightly bitter rind
Texture:
Crisp
Sugar Content:
12° Brix
Best Uses:
Chilled and sliced.

Korean melons are smallish fruits with an oblong shape. They are known as Chamoe in Korea, but they are sometimes labeled as Oriental melons in Western markets. They have a thin, edible rind and intense aroma. Like cucumber seeds, the seeds of the Chamoe have an aqueous membrane around them. “The flesh is bright white with a wonderful crispness,” says Goldman. Korean melons have a delicate floral, sweet, and subtly vegetal flavor that’s well suited for chilled, fresh preparations. Some consumers discard the skin due to its bitter nature, but others enjoy how it balances the sweet flesh. 

Santa Claus

Santa Claus melon
Getty Images / Assja

Origin: Turkey
Group:
Inodorous
Color:
Yellow-green rind, white to yellowish-green flesh
Flavor:
Clean and mildly sweet, with an earthy quality
Texture:
Soft, tender, and spongy
Sugar Content:
9° Brix
Best Uses:
Paired with salumi, blue cheese, and Marcona almonds or puréed into chilled soups, like gazpacho.

The Santa Claus melon, also known as the Christmas melon, is harvested around the end of summer to early fall. It has a longer shelf life, about two months, so it can still be on the store shelves during the holiday season, hence its festive name.

The melon’s rind is thick, hard, wrinkled, and rough, covered in textured striping and mottling. When the melons are young, the rind is green, and as the fruit ripens, the rind transforms into a bright yellow hue. The flesh ranges in color from white to pale green and is smooth, soft, and tender with a succulent consistency. It tastes refreshing and sweet with a subtly earthy nuance. Santa Claus melons will not emit a strong aroma when whole due to their thick rind, but once sliced, they release a fragrant scent.  

This is a good melon for making a cold soup. In La Mancha, a region in Spain, a similar melon called piel de sapo (translation: toad skin) is used in a twist on gazpacho. Trainor says he loves to tweak cooking methods to create distinct melon-based gazpachos—smoking, grilling, salting, and dehydrating are all processes that will change the flavor and texture of a melon and yield a unique soup every time.

Heirloom Varieties

There are hundreds more heirloom varieties of melons—some sweet and some not—that people like Goldman propagate. Seek them out at specialty markets and farms or grow them yourself. Goldman recommends perusing seeds at the Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit seed-saving organization.

The Difference Between Field Corn and Sweet Corn, According to a Chef and Corn Expert

Sweet corn and field corn may seem similar, but there are key differences in their uses, flavor profiles, and growing practices. We examined the differences between the two and how to use each of them.

Graphic of sweet corn and field corn
Serious Eats / Getty Images

When most people think of corn, sweet corn comes to mind—the fresh corn on the cob we like to boil or grill and slather with butter. However, of the over 90 million acres of corn planted in the US, sweet corn makes up less than 1% of the total crop. The rest is starchy and dry field corn, which is mostly used to feed cows.

Indigenous peoples originally cultivated corn's wild ancestor, teosinte, over 9,000 years ago in what is now Mexico. That corn, called maize, was more similar to field corn, as sweet corn wasn’t cultivated until the mid-1700s.  The revered and versatile crop shaped the region’s culinary landscape and played a pivotal role in the history and development of North America.

Corn is a major agricultural commodity used extensively for livestock feed, biofuels, and food products. According to the Center for Food Safety, approximately 75% of processed foods on supermarket shelves contain some form of genetically engineered ingredients, and corn is a significant part of this statistic due to its widespread use in various forms such as high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and corn oil​.

Though sweet corn and field corn are related, they aren’t the same. Sweet corn and field corn are two distinct types of corn that differ in several aspects, including their purpose, flavor, texture, and cultivation practices. To learn more about the difference between the two, I spoke with Dave Smoke-McCluskey, a Mohawk chef and owner of Corn Mafia, a micro-milling project that explores native foodways. 

What Is Sweet Corn?

Photo of sweet corn
Getty Images / Everyday better to do everything you love

The fresh corn we enjoy grilled at cookouts and grab canned or frozen at the grocery store is sweet corn, which carries a gene that develops twice as much sugar as starchy types. “This corn has lots of natural sugars that make it delightful to eat straight off the cob or in a variety of dishes, like creamed corn,” says Smoke-McCluskey. Mexican and American cuisines (especially Southern) employ sweet corn in many dishes, including elote, corn chowder, and succotash.

Sweet corn is harvested in the summer while the kernels are still tender and juicy, before the sugar turns into starch. Smoke-McCluskey explains that sweet corn of the past had unstable sugar levels that converted into starch rapidly after harvest. “You had to eat it right away, and it tasted pretty bad by the time it got to the supermarket,” he says. “Sweet corn breeders have genetically modified today’s corn to produce much higher sugar levels and make it so that the conversion of sugar to starch occurs much slower,” which is a practice that began in the late 1960s. This longer shelf life means super-sweet varieties stay sweet for up to 10 days after harvest.

Sweet corn is available in white, light yellow, and bicolored varieties, but Smoke-McCluskey says there isn’t much of a discernible difference in flavor. “They’re all sweet and delicious.”

When shopping for your sweet corn recipes at the grocery store or farmers market, he says to look for ears with fresh, green leaves but brown silks at the top—a sign that the corn was ripe when picked. The silk inside should still be soft and the kernels should be plump, not shriveled, though peeling back the husk to check the kernels understandably aggravates many corn vendors, so we don't recommend this. Ideally, you can trust your vendor and know that the corn was harvested at its peak, but you can also feel for the full kernels through the husk.

If you’re growing your own sweet corn and don't mind poking a hole in a kernel, you can tell it's ready if you puncture a kernel and milk comes out. If the juice is clear, it’s too early; if there’s no juice, it’s too late. Cut it when the time is right because corn doesn't continue to ripen off the stalk.

Pro tip: If your sweet corn is past its prime, Smoke-McCluskey says you can soak the cobs in sugar water (1/2 cup of white sugar per gallon of water) for a couple of hours to plump them back up.

What Is Field Corn?

Image of field corn
Getty Images / ithinksky

Field corn can refer to any starchy variety, but most field corn in the US is dent corn, which gets its name from the dimple at the end of each kernel that forms as it dries out. 

Although field corn kernels start out soft like sweet corn, this variety is left to dry on the stalks in the field before harvesting in the fall once much of its sugar content has converted into starch, meaning it’s no longer sweet and juicy. And you won’t see any field corn at the grocery store.

“If you grab an ear of field corn and take a bite, you'll probably chip a tooth,” says Smoke-McCluskey. About 40% of US dent corn is used as a feed grain for livestock, according to the USDA. Most of the rest is funneled into making ethanol fuel, while a small portion is milled to make foods and beverages, such as cereal, tortilla chips, whiskey, and grits

The kernels of commercial field corn are often a deep yellow-orange, referred to as “yellow gold.” However, heirloom varieties have kernels that span the colors of the rainbow. 

Smoke-McCluskey likes to nixtamalize many kinds of field corn to make hominy. Nixtamalization, a.k.a. lyeing and washing, is a process in which field corn is boiled in water and hardwood ash, says Smoke-McCluskey. “The alkaline quality of the mixture softens the kernels enough to peel off their tough outer hull, making the corn more digestible and its nutritional benefits more bioavailable.” 

Among the Mohawk people of the Northeast, lyed corn is used in soups, stews, grits, mush, and cornbread. Smoke-McCluskey works with seed savers and growers, such as The Congaree Milling Company, to nixtamalize and coarsely grind hominy grits for sale to chefs and specialty stores. In Mexican cuisine, the nixtamalized mixture is ground into masa for tamales and tortillas.

Other Varieties of Corn

Most of the United States grows the exact same variety of corn from one seed, from one company. We're not going to get into that here, but there are still many other flavors and nuances in different varieties of corn to be found, including indigenous field, flour, and flint varieties that are as delicious and nutrition-dense as they are beautiful. 

The Takeaway

Sweet corn is cultivated and harvested for its sweetness and tenderness, making it ideal for direct human consumption—such as boiling for corn on the cob or turning into chowder. Meanwhile, field corn is grown for its high starch content and versatility. Due to its tough texture and lower sugar content, it’s not typically consumed fresh but is commonly used as animal feed and in ethanol production. It is also nixtamalized and used to make masa, grits, mush, and cornbread.

The Difference Between Yellow and White Onions Is More Than Skin Deep

Yellow onions and white onions may seem similar, but each offers its own flavor and texture that can affect the dishes you make with them. We examined the differences between the two, and when it’s OK to swap one for the other.

Graphic of white vs yellow onions
Serious Eats / Getty images

The onion is the surest kitchen partner I know. It’s arguably the most hardworking allium and the beginning of nearly every savory dish I can think of. Onions kick off your cooking by igniting your senses with a sting in the eyes as you slice them, then perhaps perfuming the kitchen with a mouthwatering aroma as they quietly sizzle in a pan.

With very little coaxing, onions provide a wide range of flavor—from sharp and spicy when raw to mellow and sweet when cooked. But what if you’re seeking to stay at one end of that spectrum? It’s valuable to know when to use yellow onions over white onions and vice versa, and when it’s perfectly fine to swap the two. I spoke with René Hardwick, director of public and industry relations for the National Onion Association, to learn all about the differences between these two varieties of onions. 

What Is the Difference Between Yellow and White Onions?

For one, it’s no popularity contest, because if it were, yellow onions would win in the United States by a landslide. Yellow onions make up 87% of the US onion crop, according to the National Onion Association, while white onions make up approximately 5%. And while yellow onions take up more space in the produce section, you’ll almost always see some white onions nestled alongside them— and the culinary powers of white onions should not be overlooked. 

While they look similar, these two types of onions have distinct differences in flavor and texture.

White onions have a sharper, more distinct onion flavor than yellow onions. They tend to have a cleaner, crisper, and firmer texture, with a slightly brighter taste when raw and little to no aftertaste. When cooked, white onions break down more easily than their yellow counterparts—almost melting into long-cooked dishes like soups and stews.

Side view of white onion
Getty Images / fastudio4

Yellow onions have a more complex flavor profile, with a balance of sweetness and pungency. They have a more tender and slightly denser texture when raw, and the kind of aftertaste that can wake up the dead. When cooked, they soften further and become sweeter and more caramelized, but retain their structural integrity. 

Shot of white onions on white
Getty Images / mariusFM77

Sweet onions, sold under trademarked names such as Vidalia, Maui, and Walla Walla, are a type of yellow onion that is milder and seasonal. You’ll see them at the store during the spring and summer months. The more generically labeled yellow, white, and red onions available year-round are called storage onions because they’ve been dried out after harvest to keep for months. If you find these varieties at farmers markets, you may see them with specific tags like Red Zeppelins or Australian Browns.

Sweet onions
Getty Images / jmsilva

What Are the Best Uses for Yellow vs. White Onions?

Generally speaking, Hardwick says to think of the yellow onion as your all-purpose onion for cooked dishes in which the onions are sautéed or roasted—anything that can benefit from their sweet, caramelized flavor. 

“The yellow onion offers a more savory taste that’s equally good in a fried onion blossom or caramelized atop your favorite meats,” says Hardwick. This type of onion really is the best option for many kinds of braises, like kabab halla (Egyptian braised beef with onions), as well as in fried applications like onion rings

When to use yellow onions:

  • Fried onions
  • Caramelized onions
  • Soups and stocks
  • Stews
  • Braises

White onions are preferable for fresh, raw applications and should be your go-to when cooking dishes from Mexican and Southwest cuisines. “The crunch and zing of raw white onions do the trick on top of tacos, chili, and salsas,” says Hardwick. It’s the top choice for making pico de gallo. White onions are also ideal for making white sauces, like soubise, when you want to maintain the colorlessness. 

When to use white onions:

  • Dips
  • Salsas
  • Salads
  • Sandwiches
  • Tacos
  • Burgers

Can You Substitute Yellow Onions for White Onions, and Vice Versa?

White and yellow onions are mostly interchangeable, especially when cooked. “The differences just help vary our menus,” says Hardwick. 

Using one for the other won’t alter your dish too much. Sometimes a mix of onions produces a welcomed complexity, like in Daniel Gritzer’s French onion soup recipe. And​ sometimes the best onion is the cheapest one, as in J. Kenji Lopez Alt’s Oklahoma-style onion burgers.

But now that you know the differences, you’ll know what to grab when you’ve got options and are going for a specific taste or texture. 

The Takeaway

White onions tend to be milder and crisper with less of an aftertaste, making them great in raw applications, such as in fresh salads, salsas, and sandwiches.

Yellow onions have a bold, sweet flavor, so they’re ideal when you want a more pungent onion flavor and silky texture, such as in soups, braises, and sautéed dishes.

There are differences between yellow and white onions, but don’t fret too much about using the right one; when you’re in need of an onion in a pinch, you can use what you have. It’ll still taste great in the end!