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Listed below are some onion types most commonly used in Finnish cooking and in the recipes of this site.

Onions can be used as a vegetable or as a seasoning. They are used fresh or dried. Onion's outer skin consists of several paper-thin layers. The skin of a fresh onion is moist and juicy. When the onion dries, the skin turns crisp and dry, changing its colour to yellow, white, red or brown, depending on the variety.

See also:

Yellow onion
(Allium cepa)

Yellow onions

In picture above: dry onions (top) and fresh onions (bottom).

The yellow onion is most commonly used in Finnish cooking. It is used raw or cooked in numerous dishes. The flavour of yellow onion varies from mild to rather sharp, depending on the variety.

White onion
(Allium cepa)

White onions

White onion, when dry, has a silvery white skin. Its flavour is usually very mild and sweet, making it perfect to be used raw in salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, etc.

Red onion
(Allium cepa)

Red onions

Red onion, when dry, has a purple-red skin. Its inner leaves are beautifully tinged with red, which makes it a very decorative and colourful addition to various foods, pickles or salads. It is usually somewhat sweeter and milder than the yellow onion.

Pearl onion
(Allium cepa)

Pearl onions

Pearl onions  —  also called pickling onions and button onions  —  are small-sized onions used mainly in pickling. Their size ranges between about two to five centimetres in diameter. Their skin colour varies from silver-white to yellow, golden brown or red.

True pearl onion (Allium porrum var. sectivum) is more closely related to leek (see below).

(Allium cepa var. ascalonicum)


In picture above: various shallot types — regular, round French shallots and elongated banana shallots.

Shallot onions are small in size, each bulb usually consisting of two to three cloves.

The flavour of shallot is regarded as very distinguished and aromatic compared with other onions, and it is widely used in European cooking, particularly in France.

(Allium sativum)

Garlic bulbs

In picture above: fresh garlic bulbs (top), dry garlic bulbs (below left) and single clove garlic (below right).

Because of its pungent flavour, garlic has been less used as a seasoning in the Nordic countries. Nowadays it is more popular here, mainly used to season Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian dishes.

There are many varieties of garlic available, one of which is the Chinese single clove garlic.

(Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum)


Leek has a much milder flavour than most onions.

The tender white part is used raw or cooked in salads, sauces, soups and various other dishes. The coarser green part is usually used to flavour broths, soups, stews and purees.

(Allium schoenoprasum)


Chives have long and hollow grass-like stems. The leaves are much thinner than those of green onions or scallions (see below) and their taste is milder.

Chives should not be cooked, but added to foods just before serving.

Garlic or Chinese chives (Allium tuberosum) is another variety of chives with a mild flavour of garlic.

Green onion
(Allium cepa)

Green onions

Green onion  —  also called spring onion  —  is a type of thickly planted yellow onion harvested early in the spring, while it is still immature. It somewhat resembles the scallion (see right), but has much longer and tenderer leaves and a larger, more pronounced bulb.

The green leafy part of the green onion is the main part to be used in cooking. The sharp-sweet, aromatic flavour of the leaves is especially appreciated in Russian cooking, where they are used raw in various salads or as delicious filling in pies. The white part is used like ordinary onion. Green onion can be replaced with young, tender scallion.

(Allium fistulosum)


Scallion produces a long cylindrical plant with long green leaves. The bulb is less pronounced than that of green onion (see left).

While still young, small and tender, both the white and green part of scallion may be used the same way as green onion in cooking, although their taste is often much bitterer and/or blander and less aromatic than those of green onion.

Some scallions get thicker and tougher when older, resembling and tasting more like leek, and can be used to replace it in cooking.

Formerly in Finland, the green grocers selling fresh green onions in summertime and the people who bought them used to cut off the green part just above the bulb, throwing it away, and my family always happily got the discarded leaves for no charge, secretly sneering at the "stupid Finns" who did not understand to appreciate them :-) Even today one can see many ignorant Finns cutting off and throwing the green part of the onions in a rubbish bin already at the grocery store.


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