What is a Spanish Onion?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen
Spanish onions are large and round.
Spanish onions are large and round.

A Spanish onion is a type of onion that is typically about the size of a softball, has a fine grain, and a yellow or white skin. It's known for its very mild flavor, with many people finding it sweet enough to eat raw. Though Spanish onions don't keep very well, they are versatile enough to work in many different types of dishes. They are also popular with home gardeners, since they produce a lot of fruit but are pretty low maintenance.


Bring out the sweetness of Spanish onions by sauteing lightly in butter or oil for a few minutes.
Bring out the sweetness of Spanish onions by sauteing lightly in butter or oil for a few minutes.

These vegetables can be used both in bulb and green form in almost any dish that calls for onions, but they generally taste best when lightly cooked. This is because a Spanish onion has a relatively low sulfur content, which gives it a delicate taste that can be overwhelmed or destroyed through long cooking. Those who want to enhance the sweetness can grill or gently saute slices of onion for a few minutes, which will make them more aromatic and give them a dark caramel look. Additionally, they can be substituted for regular white or yellow onions or shallots, and can also be substituted for red onions, though they will make the dish a little sweeter.


Spanish onions can generally last a few weeks when stored properly, though they don't last as long as other varieties, since they have more water and sugar in them. The most important thing when storing them is to make sure that they're in a cool, dry place and have enough ventilation. An open paper bag or a clean pair of panty hose often works well for storage. Storing a Spanish onion in a plastic bag will cause it to go bad much more quickly, since it won't get enough air and the bag can trap moisture, which causes rot.


People can grow Spanish onion plants at home fairly quickly, with it taking about four months for a plant to produce edible fruit. These plants need lots of exposure to sun, and seeds should be planted about 4 in (10 cm) apart. Once the seeds are in the ground, the soil around them should be kept moist, but not too wet, since this could cause them to rot. To get stronger tasting onions, a sulfate-based fertilizer can be used, while a nitrate-rich fertilizer will make for a milder taste. The bulbs are ready to be harvested when their tops start turning brown and fall over. After harvesting, they should be set out to dry for about a week, and then the tops should be cut off before storage, leaving an inch (2.5 cm) or so of stem.

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Discussion Comments


If you keep the cut side down as long as possible while cutting, you will avoid the tears. Slicing, no problem; dicing, you'll start to tear up, but you will be done before it gets bad. If you have to cut more than one, I would include another tip.


The best solution to' no tears' is to get someone else to chop them!


The only time I've ever heard of wearing goggles to cut onions was in an industrial setting. They were dicing a thousand pounds of onions per day. These workers wore full face and skin protections and respirators!

As part of a company familiarization tour, my group crossed this room unprotected. It was only a 20-25 foot wide room and we were in it for only about 15-30 seconds, but I will remember it for the rest of my life. Our eyes were stinging and watering for an hour afterwards.

I have never complained about onions bothering my eyes since.


This is the kind of onion that is available in all the Mediterranean countries. It's really flavorful and sweet and softens quickly when it's cooked.

After spending two years cooking with Spanish sweet onion regularly, I'm so disappointed with the yellow onions I use here in the States. I usually cannot find Spanish onions in grocery stores or they just cost more.

Yellow onions look similar but they are less sweet, more acidic and take longer to cook.


Cutting an onion in gloves and with safety glasses is over the top. We've been cooking in kitchens world-wide from the early ages, and women have cooked all over the world without this nonsense for hundreds of years. Come on, now!


What works really well for me is chopping the onion on the counter close to a turned on gas stove burner.

It seems that the compound released by chopping the onion is affected by the burning gas so it does not reach the eyes, therefore there is no crying.


Wear non-latex gloves while cutting up onions and peppers and that will stop the tears and burning.


I got this tip years ago from a magazine, and I find it to be foolproof. Just sprinkle your cutting board with lemon juice, and there will be no more tears.


These tricks work fairly well, but goggles tend to be the best way to avoid crying. You cry when you cut onions because cutting destroys cell walls, creating a volatile compound that is released by the onion. This mixes with the tears that naturally moisten your eyes and creates a weak sulfuric acid.

This is why your eyes burn and you tear up while cutting onions. The best way to avoid this is to wear goggles. You can buy goggles specially made for this, or wear goggles you might have for swimming. Wearing goggles may look a bit silly, but your eyes won't burn and you'll have no more tears.


@alex94: Another thing that you can do is chill the onion first. That helps to keep the sulfur compounds inactive.

The Spanish onion is much less harsh than a regular onion. It is actually the one that is least likely to bring you to tears.


@alex94: Although the Spanish onion is not quite as bad as other onions on the tear factor, they still make us cry! There are a few things that you can try to stop the onions from being you to tears.

One thing is to keep your mouth closed and hold your breath as much as possible. Another thing that works is to slice the onion underwater. Also, you can have a candle burning nearby and that helps, too.


I love sweet spanish onions. The only problem I have with them is that they make me cry! Is there anything that I can do to reduce the tears?

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    • Spanish onions are large and round.
      Spanish onions are large and round.
    • Bring out the sweetness of Spanish onions by sauteing lightly in butter or oil for a few minutes.
      By: xalanx
      Bring out the sweetness of Spanish onions by sauteing lightly in butter or oil for a few minutes.