Can you use yellow onion in salad?

Onions are a versatile vegetable that can add flavor and crunch to many dishes. While red and white onions are commonly used raw in salads, many people wonder if yellow onions can also be used this way. The answer is yes – yellow onions can absolutely be enjoyed raw in salads. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between onion varieties, the benefits of using yellow onions, and tips for preparing them to enjoy their full flavor, crunch and health benefits.

The Difference Between Onion Varieties

There are a few main types of onions commonly used:

  • Yellow onions – Also called brown onions, these have a light brown, papery outer skin and a bright white interior. They have a strong, pungent flavor when raw.
  • White onions – These have a thin, white, papery outer skin and a white interior. They tend to be milder in flavor than yellow onions.
  • Red onions – These have a vivid purple outer skin and white interior streaked with purple. They have a mildly sweet flavor when raw.
  • Green onions – Also called scallions or spring onions. The small white bulb has long green stalks.

The main difference comes down to flavor intensity and pungency. When raw, yellow onions have the strongest, spiciest flavor, while white and red onions tend to be milder. Green onions are very mild with a fresh, herbaceous flavor.

Benefits of Using Yellow Onions

Here are some of the benefits that yellow onions can bring to salads:

  • Flavor – The potent flavor of yellow onions gives salads a spicy kick.
  • Crunch – Yellow onions add great textural contrast to the other soft, tender ingredients in the salad.
  • Nutrients – Onions contain vitamin C, folate, fiber and quercetin, a potent antioxidant with health benefits.

Additionally, raw yellow onions contain a compound called allicin, which is released when the onion’s cells are damaged while chopping or chewing. Allicin provides many therapeutic effects including antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Preparing Yellow Onions for Salad

To enjoy raw yellow onions in salad while taming their pungency, here are some tips:

  • Use milder onion varieties like Vidalia, Walla Walla or Maui. They tend to be less intensely flavored.
  • Soak the chopped onions in cold water for 5-10 minutes, then drain well. This mellows their flavor.
  • Mix the raw onions with a dressing or vinaigrette to soften their bite.
  • Pair raw onions with sweet fruits like apples, pears or dried cranberries to balance the flavor.
  • Refrigerate the chopped raw onions for a few hours before adding to salad.
  • Rinse the onion and remove the outer layer if the flavor is very pungent.

Yellow Onion Salad Recipes

Here are a few tasty salad recipes that benefit from the addition of yellow onions:

Greek Salad

This classic salad pairs crisp raw yellow onions with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives and feta cheese. The onion, herbs and lemon dressing provide most of the flavor.

Apple Cheddar Salad

Thinly sliced yellow onions are softened by a sweet cider vinaigrette in this fall salad with apples and cheddar cheese.

Chopped Cobb Salad

In this protein-packed chopped salad, yellow onions provide crunch alongside chicken, bacon, eggs, avocado and Roquefort cheese.

German Potato Salad

Yellow onions feature prominently in this tangy vinegar-based potato salad loaded with crispy bacon.

Fajita Salad

This Tex-Mex salad layers spicy seared steak or chicken over onions, peppers, lettuce, beans, corn and cheese.

Nutrition Information

Here is the nutrition information for 1 cup of raw chopped yellow onion (approx. 150g):

Nutrient Amount
Calories 64
Fat 0.1g
Sodium 4mg
Potassium 180mg
Carbs 15g
Fiber 2g
Sugar 9g
Protein 1g

Yellow onions provide vitamin C, folate, fiber, quercetin and organosulfur compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

Selecting and Storing Yellow Onions

Here are some tips for choosing and storing yellow onions:

  • Select dry, firm onions without mold, spots or sprouting.
  • Avoid onions with green shoots as they will have a bitter taste.
  • Choose smaller onions for maximum flavor and fewer tears when chopping.
  • Store whole, unpeeled onions in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area.
  • Cut onions can be refrigerated in a sealed container for 5-7 days.


Most people can enjoy yellow onions raw or cooked. However, there are a few precautions to keep in mind:

  • Some people experience gas or bloating from raw onion. Cooking onions reduces these effects.
  • Onions contain fructans, which can trigger reactions in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Eating large amounts of raw onions may cause heartburn or gastric reflux in some individuals.
  • Check with your healthcare provider about consuming raw onion if you have digestive issues.


Yellow onions can absolutely be used raw in salads in place of other onion varieties. Their spicy flavor profile, great crunch and nutritional value make them a tasty choice. Prepare yellow onions properly by soaking, pairing with sweet ingredients, or chilling to enjoy their full benefits and flavor in salad recipes. With a few precautions for digestion, most people can reap the rewards of adding fresh, crisp yellow onions to their salads.

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