Mexican grilling onions and green onions are similar but not exactly the same. Both are types of onion bulbs, but they have some key differences:
- Mexican grilling onions are a specific variety called onion bulbs, while green onions is a general term for immature onions.
- Mexican grilling onions are larger, mature bulb onions. Green onions are smaller, immature onions with long green stalks.
- Mexican grilling onions have a mild, sweet flavor. Green onions have a stronger, more pungent onion flavor.
- Mexican grilling onions are ideal for grilling and caramelizing. Green onions are usually used raw as a garnish or in salsas.
So in summary, Mexican grilling onions are a specific type of large, mild onion bulb, while green onions is a broad term for any immature onions with green stalks. They have somewhat different uses in cooking.
What Are Mexican Grilling Onions?
Mexican grilling onions, also sometimes called onion bulbs, are a variety of large, mature onion grown specifically for grilling and caramelizing.
Some key characteristics of Mexican grilling onions:
- They have a round, bulbous base that ranges from the size of a golf ball to a softball.
- They tend to be on the milder side, with a sweet onion flavor.
- The outer skin can range in color from yellow to red to purple. The flesh is white or pale yellow.
- When sliced, grilling onions separate into individual petals or rings.
- Popular varieties include Walla Walla, Vidalia, and Texas 1015.
Mexican grilling onions are harvested when mature, so they have a higher sugar content and milder flavor than other raw onion varieties. This makes them ideal for grilling, roasting whole, or caramelizing into onion strings. The high sugar content caramelizes readily when cooked.
Uses for Mexican Grilling Onions
Mexican grilling onions really shine when exposed to high heat. Common uses include:
- Grilled – Slice large rings that are grilled on a barbecue until richly caramelized.
- Fajitas – The classic sliced onions used for making steak or chicken fajitas.
- Onion strings – Thinly slice and caramelize into crispy onion strings as a topping or garnish.
- Roasted – Toss whole bulbs coated in oil and roast in the oven or on the grill.
- Soups and stews – Add deep savory flavor when caramelized before adding to soups or braises.
- Onion rings – Use sliced petals as the basis for crispy battered onion rings.
- Quesadillas and tacos – Grilled slices are commonly used in quesadillas, tacos, and other Mexican dishes.
The mild, sweet flavor mellows when cooked and brings out the sugars and savory notes. Their large size makes them easy to slice and grill in big strips or rings.
What Are Green Onions?
Green onions, on the other hand, are not a specific variety per se. They are simply onions harvested before fully mature. Green onions can come from multiple onion species and cultivars. Here are some common characteristics:
- They have small, underdeveloped bulbs with long green stalks.
- The bulb generally ranges from the size of a coin to a golf ball.
- The green stalks are long, hollow tubes similar to chives.
- They have a strong onion bite from sulfur compounds.
- Common varieties used as green onions include scallions, spring onions, and salad onions.
Green onions are usually harvested young, before the bulbs fully mature and the greens die back. This results in milder onions that still have fresh green tops. They are sold bunched together with roots attached.
Uses for Green Onions
Green onions have a brighter, more pungent onion flavor that isn’t as sweet as grilling onions. Common uses include:
- Garnishes – Chopped raw green onions are used as a flavorful garnish for many foods.
- Salsas and relishes – Finely diced green onions add flavor to fresh salsa.
- Salads – Thinly sliced bulbs and greens add onion kick to salads.
- Soups and Asian dishes – Add slices to soups, noodle dishes, fried rice, etc.
- Omelets and scrambles – Sauteed greens are nice in egg dishes.
- Steaming – Whole bulbs can be lightly steamed or sauteed.
- Pickling – The bulbs and stalks are sometimes pickled.
The crisp texture and bright onion bite make them a versatile ingredient to use fresh or cooked. The hollow greens have a particularly intense oniony punch.
Differences Between Mexican Grilling Onions and Green Onions
While both Mexican grilling onions and green onions are bulb onions used for flavor, there are some key differences that set them apart:
- Mexican grilling onions are mature onions left to fully develop large, dense bulbs.
- Green onions are immature onions harvested early before the bulbs fully enlarge.
- Mexican grilling onions have very large, rounded bulbs ranging from golf ball to softball size.
- Green onion bulbs remain small, similar to a quarter or ping pong ball, since they are not fully grown.
- Mexican grilling onions are milder and sweeter due to higher sugar content.
- Green onions have a sharper, brighter, more pungent onion flavor.
- Mexican grilling onions are most often cooked – grilled, caramelized, roasted, sauteed, etc.
- Green onions are usually eaten fresh and raw, or briefly cooked.
- Mexican grilling onions generally do not have fresh greens; the greens die back as the bulb matures.
- Green onions have fresh, hollow green stalks and leaves since they are immature.
So in summary, the main differences come down to maturity, size, flavor, and how they are used. Mexican grilling onions are mature, large onion bulbs that taste mildly sweet when cooked. Green onions are young, not fully developed onions used for their fresh onion bite.
Can You Substitute One for the Other?
Because of the different flavor profiles and uses, Mexican grilling onions and green onions are not always interchangeable in recipes. However, in some cases, they can work as substitutes depending on the application.
Substituting Mexican Grilling Onions for Green Onions
Mexican grilling onions tend to be too large, dense, and strong in flavor to use raw as a substitute for green onions. However, they can be substituted in some cooked applications:
- Fajitas or tacos – Thinly slice grilling onions and use instead of green onions.
- Soups, stews, fried rice – Saute chunks or slices to mellow the flavor.
- Scrambled eggs – Saute diced grilling onions before adding eggs.
- Salsa – Roast or grill chunks before chopping to use in place of some green onions.
The key is to mellow the grilling onions’ flavor profile by browning or cooking them first. Use a modest amount as their flavor will usually be more intense.
Substituting Green Onions for Mexican Grilling Onions
Green onions can work as a substitute for Mexican grilling onions in some instances where their bright, pungent flavor is desirable:
- Fajitas or tacos – Saute sliced green onion whites and greens.
- Quesadillas – Saute sliced greens before adding other fillings.
- Onion rings – Use green onion bulbs coated in batter.
- Garnish – Sprinkle raw minced greens as a garnish instead of grilled onions.
- Salsa – Finely dice and add raw green onions.
However, green onions are generally too small and lack the melting sweetness of grilling onions when cooked. For applications like french onion soup, caramelized onions, roasted onions, or onion strings, it’s best to use true grilling onions. The texture and flavor will be quite different with green onions.
In summary, grilling onions and green onions each have their ideal uses. While substituting one for the other can work in some cases, it???s often best to use the variety that the recipe was intended for to get ideal results. Understanding their differences allows you to make the most appropriate substitution where needed.
Onion Guide: Comparing Common Onion Varieties
Mexican grilling onions and green onions are just two of the many onion varieties available. Here is a guide comparing some key types:
|Medium to large
|Crisp with papery skins
|Widely used raw, cooked, or caramelized
|Medium to large
|Crisp with papery skins
|Often used in Mexican cuisine; great raw
|Very sweet, mild
|Juicy with papery skins
|Often grilled or caramelized
|Delicate, slightly sweet
|Usually cooked, not raw
|Thin, hollow greens
|Used raw or briefly cooked
|Crisp with red-tinged skins
|Often used raw; adds color
|Very small, round
|Pickled or used in stews
|Firm with layered rings
|Sauteed or caramelized
As you can see, onions come in diverse varieties with differences in size, flavor, and uses. By learning more about each type, you can select the right onion for the job in your cooking.
Storing and Handling Mexican Grilling Onions vs. Green Onions
The best storage methods also differ between grilling onions and green onions:
Mexican Grilling Onions
Grilling onions should be stored whole and dry, like other mature bulb onions:
- Store whole, unpeeled bulbs in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area.
- Do not wash before storing as moisture speeds spoilage.
- Place in woven bags, open crates, or wire racks with good air circulation.
- Avoid storing near light sources which can induce sprouting.
- With proper storage, grilling onions can last 2-3 months or more.
Once cut, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to a week. Discard halves with any mold or soft spots.
Green onions should be refrigerated since they are still fresh and partially alive:
- Rinse dirt off green onions and trim any roots.
- Wrap roots in a damp paper towel.
- Place wrapped green onion bunches in a perforated plastic bag.
- Store loosely in the refrigerator crisper drawer.
- Use within 1-2 weeks for best quality and flavor.
The refrigeration and moisture help preserve the crisp greens and delay sprouting in green onions. Take care not to place them in an airtight bag or container, which can trap moisture and accelerate rotting. Store grilling onions and green onions separately for best results.
How to Grill Mexican Grilling Onions
One of the best uses for Mexican grilling onions is tossing slices directly on a hot grill. Follow these simple steps for charred, caramelized grilled onion slices:
- Trim off the dry outer skins from the onion bulbs, leaving the root end intact.
- Slice the onions into 1/2 to 1-inch thick rounds.
- Brush or drizzle the onion slices lightly with oil.
- Heat a grill or grill pan to high heat.
- Add onion slices in a single layer. Let cook 2-3 minutes until browned.
- Flip and cook another 2-3 minutes on the other side.
- Remove browned, tender onions to a serving platter. Season with salt to taste.
The natural sugars will caramelize quickly over the high heat, bringing out the onions’ sweetness. Charred exterior with tender interior is the hallmark of great grilled onions.
Adjust oil amount and grill time as needed based on thickness of your onion slices and desired level of caramelization. Watch closely near the end to avoid burning.
These grilled onion slices make an amazing topping for fajitas, tacos, brats, burgers, steak, and more. Now that you know the difference between grilling onions and green onions, you can use each type to its full advantage!
Mexican grilling onions and green onions share some common characteristics as members of the onion family, but have distinct differences in maturity, flavor, uses, and storage needs.
Key takeaways include:
- Mexican grilling onions are mature, large onion bulbs best grilled or caramelized.
- Green onions are fresh, immature onions used raw or briefly cooked.
- Grilling onions are generally milder and sweeter when cooked.
- Green onions have a bright, pungent raw onion bite.
- Grilling onions can sometimes substitute for green onions when cooked first.
- Knowing when to use each type makes a difference in recipes.
So while these onion varieties have some overlap, understanding how to best use Mexican grilling onions vs. green onions can elevate your cooking. Their unique strengths in flavor, texture, and preparation methods help home cooks and chefs enhance everything from simple salsas to complex entrees.