What onions have the most potent flavor?
August 31, 2008 8:18 PM   Subscribe

What onions have the most potent flavor? How can I find them?

Standard backpacking fare is everything dried, including onions and garlic. However, my experience in the kitchen tells me that food prepared with fresh onion is much more scrumptious than that made with dried onion. I think that I'm going to take a few fresh onions (and garlic -- they'll get fresh garlic from my cold dead hands) on a trip despite the weight. Naturally, I want only the most potent onions possible to save on weight. How can I find these?
posted by a robot made out of meat to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Experience with other vegetables is that food pulled fresh out of a garden has more intense flavors. I had a slice from a radish that I picked this afternoon that set my mouth aflame--and I love heat.

I haven't tested this theory on onions specifically. I've got three small ones that were also pulled out of the ground today waiting in my kitchen. Maybe I'll post an update tomorrow.

If you don't know anyone with garden onions to share, you could try your local farmers' market.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:29 PM on August 31, 2008

What about shallots? Have you thought about dehydrating your own onions? Maybe they'd be more intense if they're homemade / moister / fresher?
posted by JulianDay at 8:39 PM on August 31, 2008

Ordinary yellow onions are the most intensely flavored, in my experience. I haven't found anything more oniony, but I can tell you that white and red onions are milder, as are shallots. Also, "sweet" onions like Vidalias are pretty mild too.

I'd try shlepping a few regular yellow onions and adding dried onion powder to enhance the flavor without much extra weight. (Dried minced onion doesn't do anything for me, but the powder can add a nice kick.) Paul Prudhomme, one of my favorite cookbook authors, routinely adds dried onion powder to recipes that have plenty of fresh onions and I like the results. Onion powder absorbs moisture from the air quite rapidly and turns into a sticky brick, so keep it tightly sealed in an airtight container.
posted by Quietgal at 8:49 PM on August 31, 2008

Depends what direction you're looking for. Both Walla Walla & Maui onions have a very intense sweet flavor. Can't be of help if you're looking for the spicy end.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:01 PM on August 31, 2008

Vidalia onions are widely considered to be the best there are. Because there aren't very many of them and because they're in great demand, they're hard to get.

"Vidalia" refers to the place they're grown, not to the strain. The soil in Vidalia, Georgia is supposed to be the best there is for growing onions. Many people drive there to buy onions when they become available.

Ref Alton Brown.
posted by Class Goat at 9:26 PM on August 31, 2008

walla walla onions are the best in my opinion. you might try different ways of bringing out more of the flavor such as letting them sit in the sun for a day or so after picking. much like sun ripened tomatoes have a better flavor than those that lay around in a refridgerator drawer. the sun can do some pretty neat things.
posted by docmccoy at 10:42 PM on August 31, 2008

Seconding Vidalias. But it depends on what you mean by "potent." Vidalias are sweet onions. Are you wanting sweet oniony flavor or something more eye wateryingly oniony?
posted by amyms at 11:31 PM on August 31, 2008

If you want "serious" onion flavor I think you'd be disappointed with the sweetness of Vidalias or Walla Wallas.

I've heard that yellow and white are essentially interchangeable. I think they're both as strong as it gets. I think you probably want to maximize the punch by chopping it really fine - the more cells you bust open the more oniony goodness you'll get. I still think a little will go a long way, especially if you barely cook it.
posted by O9scar at 12:38 AM on September 1, 2008

My uninformed opinion is to get the smallest white or yellow onions you can find - smaller means stronger flavor - and dice as finely as possible.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 4:27 AM on September 1, 2008

Zomg RAMPS. (Actually a leek, but onion+garlic+hot is teh wowz.)
posted by TomMelee at 6:31 AM on September 1, 2008

Response by poster: While I like Vidalias, Walla-Wallas, Spanish, etc for their mild flavor on raw foods, are they really optimal for my purpose? I want to minimize the weight of onion that I carry and be able to develop onion-flavor in dishes. I know that there are different onions that they use to make the powder / flakes since they are potent in onion flavor to start with.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:39 AM on September 1, 2008

If what you want is most flavor for the least weight, then you should take onion powder and use a hell of a lot of it. No fresh onion will have as much flavoring potential per unit mass.
posted by Class Goat at 10:04 AM on September 1, 2008

I would second JulianDay on the shallot suggestion.

Shallots are the only oniony vegetable that regularly make me cry. I am powerless to resist them. And bonus points: they're tiny.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:21 AM on September 2, 2008

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