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Onions Have a Long History

crispy oven fried onion rings on a red plate
Now that you know more about onions, why not try oven baked onion rings to go with that hamburger without the added calories and fat that comes from deep frying.


What other plant stores their food in a bulb, but an onion. They have been grown and used by humans for well over 4,000 years beyond the beginnings of written history. Egyptians believed onions had strength producing powers and therefore were fed to the individuals who built the pyramids.

Onions play an important part in our culinary experiences. They are really good in cooked dishes, especially those that need strong flavors. They are added to many common dishes, including casseroles, quiche, pasta sauces, soups, stews, and pizza. They are also baked, fried, caramelized, sautéed, and creamed.

Let’s explore seven of my favorites. Yellow onions are golden brown with a papery skin. They are best used in a recipe which calls for cooked onions. When sautéed, they turn a dark brown color, which makes them an excellent choice for caramelizing. They are considered by many to be the standard onion. They have a high sulfur content that makes them too strong (for many) to eat. The sulfur is also what makes you cry when chopping.

Red onions, sometimes called purple, has purple, red skin and white rings of flesh They range in medium to large in size. The flavor is mild and sweet. The texture is crisp. They are good to eat raw and add color to dishes. They can also be grilled or lightly cooked with other foods.

White onions are globe shaped with white flesh and white skin. They are sweeter than yellow onions. Yet, white onions can be used in place of yellow onions in a recipe. This variety has a clean, sharp flavor and firm texture. They can add a sweet flavor to other foods and can also be eaten raw. They are great as slices on a hamburger, chopped for hot dogs, or used for onion rings. White onions are good in heated dishes, sautéed or as a side dish.

Vidalia onions are not yellow onions. There is a difference. They are from Vidalia Georgia, and are mildly sweet in flavor. They are great in salad, relish or as a garnish. They have a yellow to tan outer skin and white flesh. They will be marketed as a Vidalia onion and are available fresh from April to June. If stored in a cool dry place, they can last up to 6 months.

Pearl onions are a mild, sweet flavored onion with a crisp texture. Pearl onions are actually young onions. They are available as white, red, or yellow onions. This variety of storage onion is often roasted with meat, or added to soups, stews and vegetable dishes. Sometimes due to their size, pearl onions are hard to peel. To make it easier, use a paring knife and cut off the tip of the onion opposite the root end. Cook in boiling water 2 minutes. Drain. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Gently squeeze each onion at root end. The onion will pop right out of its skin, then slice off any remaining roots.

Shallots are a lot like garlic except the bulbs are attached at the roots. They are pear-shaped bulbs that grow in a cluster. It has a light flesh with some purple or green and it has a mild flavor. Shallots should not be browned. Browning them causes them to become bitter. Grate shallots instead of mincing or finely dicing. If a recipe calls for minced shallot, grate only half the amount of minced shallot. If you have a recipe that calls for a shallot and you don’t have one, you can likely substitute another type of onion.

Garlic, yes garlic, belongs to the onion family. It can be found in white, pink or purple varieties. When used, raw, garlic is slightly bitter. But when sautéed or baked, it becomes mild and sweet. If you do not have fresh garlic, you can substitute garlic powder using one eighth teaspoon garlic powder to one medium fresh clove of garlic. Garlic salt should be used sparingly as it contains salt.

Now that you know more about onions, why not make onion rings to go with that hamburger you are making. I mean, who doesn’t love onion rings? Sometimes you don’t want all the calories and fat that come from deep frying so this easy recipe for Oven Baked Onion Rings is just what you need.

Oven Baked Onion Rings

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup bread crumbs

1/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 large onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices, separated

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line shallow baking sheet with foil. Brush foil with oil. Stir bread crumbs, flour and salt together and spread on large plate. In a bowl, beat the egg slightly. Dip onion slice in egg and press into bread crumb mixture, turning to coat both sides. Place breaded onion rings in a single layer on the pan and bake for 15 minutes. Turn over and bake for another 15 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

For more information, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at

By Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609

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