Sorting out the names for onions

By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach ( with information sourced from Sydney Markets )

More often than not, a recipe book will refer to them as green onions while greengrocer's, supermarkets and most of the general public in Australia call them shallots. Just to confuse matters more, the British call them spring onions and the Americans call them scallions.

It's no wonder we're confused when a recipe asked for an onion that is anything but brown or red.

I'm referring to the long thin onion with green leaves, white end and no bulbs. The onions with bulbs are called spring onions here in Australia but I tend to avoid using these in recipes because I don't want to confuse people any more than they are already!

I remember meeting a well-known food editor at a wedding and almost coming to blows with her on the subject: Why do the media persist in calling these tasty fresh onions (aka shallots ) a name the general public don't use. I lost the argument and if you are looking at a recipe which calls for green onions you can safely assume you need a bunch of shallots.

So what are shallots? Technically there is no such thing as a shallot if you're to believe the famous food editor. The small onions that that grow in clusters with papery golden-brown skin are sometimes called French shallots but are more commonly referred to as eschalots. They're pretty delicious with a sweeter flavour than brown, white or red onions and are mainly used in exotic French and Asian cooking.

Anyway after reading all of that, if you're more confused than you were before, let's recap.

Shallot: Is a green onion. In most recipes books - other than The Greengrocer's Diet it will be referred to as a green onion. In The Greengrocer's Diet ( because my editor didn't know the difference) they are referred to as shallots.

Eschallot - looks like a little clustered brown onion with papery skin not dissimilar to garlic. It's also known as a French Shallot.

Brown onion is a brown onion

White onion is a white onion

Red onion is a red onion, but is also called a Spanish onion and in the US it may also be called ……. Does anyone care? !


Nov 17 2017 1:45PM
Unfortunately this has possibly confused people even more. In S.A. we say spring onion. I've never heard of green onion. There are also salad onions (S.A.) What about "cippolene" (sp?) onions?
A further hint is that if pushed, onions can be interchanged without the world or the recipe collapsing.
Comment by: Cath
Nov 17 2017 2:43PM
That's hilarious Cath - I agree, the world won't come tumbling down
Comment by: Judy

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Judy on Sorting out the names for onions :
That's hilarious Cath - I agree, the world won't come t... »
Cath on Sorting out the names for onions :
Unfortunately this has possibly confused people even mo... »
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