The Health Benefits of Including Brown Onion in Your Diet

Brown onion is also known as yellow onion. It is a common ingredient in most kitchens around the world. The outside of brown onions has a golden brown skin, while their flesh is white and extremely flavorful.

There’s a lot to love about brown onions because they can be used in many ways. You can eat them raw or cooked, but either way, you’ll get a balance between sweetness and sourness that will make your mouth water.

In this guide, we’ll dive deep into the world of brown onion. You’ll learn about their distinctive characteristics, variety, culinary uses, what health benefits they bring to cooking uses to the table, and how they affect your diet in detail.

brown onion
Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

The Distinctive Characteristics of Brown Onion

Papery and brown skins surround the meaty flesh insides of the most common cooking onion here. That’s what these are made up of! If you look at any onion, you’ll notice that it has more sugar than other types, making it caramelize beautifully when cooked. Once caramelized, its natural sweet flavors will come out along with amazing depth.

Different Types of Onions

Green Onions

Some commonly refer to as scallions1 or spring onions and salads. Green onions aren’t too flavorful, but they pack a freshness with every bite from their crisp flesh and bright stem color.

Red Onions

They’re eaten raw, mostly thanks to their vibrant purple skin and meaty flesh that add zest and color wherever they can. Red onion varieties are the most common ingredients in French and Asian cooking.

red onion
Photo by See Kay on Unsplash

White Onions

Mexican and Southwestern cuisines often use white onions due to how sharp yet pungent their taste is compared to yellow ones. White onion keeps the balance of sweetness and savory flavors.

Sweet Onions

Their thin, papery skin with butter and lots of sugar makes for an ideal candidate where no onion flavor is wanted in many dishes.

Yellow Onions

If someone mentions yellow onion, this is what they mean! It goes well with any dish out there thanks to its rich flavor profile, which makes it widely used in cooking all over the world.

Spring Onions

A fully grown green onion with more development in the bulb creates this little guy. It has a stronger taste than the common green onion but is still milder than raw onions and others.

Shallots

Garlic, oil, and onion come together to make up a light yet complex flavor. It’s often used as a condiment or tossed into dressings and sauces. You have one sophisticated dish on your hands if you use these chopped shallots for anything!

Pearl Onions

Pearl onions are mild and sweet with crisp white flesh, also known as a button, baby onions, or silverskin onion2 varieties. They are quite famous in the European culinary circles.

Culinary Uses and Cooking Tips

Common Culinary Uses of Brown Onion

Brown onions add depth to your favorite dishes, soups, stews, and sauces. They become slightly translucent when sautéed at medium-high heat, releasing their sweet aroma that will leave you wanting more.

Mirepoix which is known as the foundation for many French dishes also uses these onions in so many recipes.

Tips for Cutting and Peeling Brown Onion

To start cutting, these guys grab a knife with a sharp blade. Once you do that slice off the root end, its stem end, and root end as well. Now, it’s time to peel away the skin and chop or slice it into the pieces you desire.

You won’t have to worry about tearing up once you start cutting it on a sharp knife or cutting board if you try chilling or running cold water over it first.

chopping board
Photo by Meagan Stone on Unsplash

Cooking Techniques for Brown Onion

Brown onions can be cooked in many ways. They can be slowly caramelized at low heat in a hot pan, roasted to bring out natural sweetness, or quickly sautéed to amplify flavor in stir-fries and other fast-cooking dishes.

Flavor Profile and Characteristics

When thinking of brown onions, think robust and slightly sweet with a smidge of bitterness. This versatile flavor allows the brown onion’s distinct side to blend well with other ingredients and vegetables while still standing out on its own when caramelized.

The Role of Brown Onions in Different Dishes

Although it may not seem like it, each type of onion has its unique purpose. For example, French cuisine incorporates brown onions in their ‘holy trinity’, including carrots and celery3. In Indian cooking, what types of onions? They’re often used as a base for curries and gravies. Adding depth to any dish is what they do best.

curry
Photo by Yubraj Timsina on Unsplash

Health Benefits and Nutritional Value

Nutritional Content of Brown Onions

Brown onions offer a healthy dosage of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They’re rich in vitamin C which helps boost your immune system, B6 which helps turn food into energy, and manganese which promotes bone health. Their flavonoid4 content helps reduce inflammation and promote heart health.

Health Benefits of Consuming Brown Onion

On top of being tasty on their own, they’re also loaded with benefits that boost your overall well-being.

  1. Anti-inflammatory properties: Chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer are helped reduced by the flavonoids found in brown onions due to their anti-inflammatory effects.
  2. Heart health: Antioxidants are present in large amounts throughout brown onions. Quercetin5 is one that’s linked to reducing the risk rate for heart disease by lowering blood pressure levels along with bad cholesterol6.
  3. Immune system support: To keep your immune system healthy, you must supply it with enough vitamin C — brown onions provide that. They also help fight off infections.
  1. Digestive health: Fiber in these onions helps prevent constipation while promoting regular bowel movements. This fiber also feeds good gut bacteria7, which is responsible for gut health.
  2. Blood sugar control: It’s low and slow here, meaning blood sugar levels won’t rise sharply after a meal.
blood sugar control
Photo by isens usa on Unsplash

Storage and Selection Tips

When buying brown onions fresh, make sure they’re firm, heavy for their size, and have dry papery skins. Stay away from any with soft spots, thinner skin, or signs of moisture, as this can indicate spoilage.

You want to keep brown onions somewhere cool, dry, and with good airflow to store them. They should do fine in a pantry or cellar for weeks at a time. If you cut an onion but don’t use the whole thing, put it in the fridge wrapped up or in a container that’ll trap any smell/air inside.

Overall, we’d say these onions are an essential ingredient and versatile. They add amazing depth of flavor to anything and offer tons of health benefits, so why not use something like this?  Along with a robust taste, they’re also sweet, so let it stand out when you cook or mix it with other ingredients.

brown onions
Image by Beverly Buckley from Pixabay

Some last thoughts

Eating these will help your overall health. It is delicious, but eating brown onions adds lots of nutrients to your system. You can include them in recipes as part of the sauce base, caramelize them to eat by themselves, or as a side dish to your main meal.

No matter how you eat them, be happy eating raw, knowing that they fight inflammation, help your blood flow better, and strengthen your immune system.

Sources:

  1. Chai, Yida, et al. “Dissipation and Residue of Metalaxyl-M and Azoxystrobin in Scallions and Cumulative Risk Assessment of Dietary Exposure to Hepatotoxicity.” Molecules 27.18 (2022): 5822. ↩︎
  2. Fenwick, G. R., & Hanley, A. B. (2020). Processing of alliums; use in food manufacture. In Onions and allied crops (pp. 73-91). CRC press. ↩︎
  3. Al Aboody, Mohammed Saleh. “Cytotoxic, antioxidant, and antimicrobial activities of Celery (Apium graveolens L.).” Bioinformation 17.1 (2021): 147. ↩︎
  4. Pei, Ruisong, Xiaocao Liu, and Bradley Bolling. “Flavonoids and gut health.” Current Opinion in Biotechnology 61 (2020): 153-159. ↩︎
  5. Aghababaei, F., & Hadidi, M. (2023). Recent advances in potential health benefits of quercetin. Pharmaceuticals16(7), 1020. ↩︎
  6. Janapala, Usha Sree, and Anil Kumar Reddy Reddivari. “Low cholesterol diet.” StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing, 2023. ↩︎
  7. Salami, M. (2021). Interplay of good bacteria and central nervous system: cognitive aspects and mechanistic considerations. Frontiers in Neuroscience15, 25. ↩︎

Last Updated on by Sathi Chakraborty, MSc Biology

Authors

Saket Kumar
Sathi Chakraborty, MSc Biology

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *