What Is The Spiciest Type Of Onion?

Onions have a distinct flavor, but you may not associate them with being spicy since they don't deliver the heat like chili peppers. Still, if you are an onion connoisseur, you know "onions have a flavor profile that ranges from sweet and mild to spicy and pungent," per the National Onion Association. Like other spicy foods, onions trick our bodies. Scientific American reports that, while chilis trick our bodies into reacting like they are hot, onions do the same but to a lesser extent.

When we chop an onion, we damage the cells and release natural chemicals that give the onion its flavor. In fact, how an onion is cut even affects its flavor. One of the chemicals released when we chop onions is propenylsulfenic acid which makes our eyes water and is also "responsible for the heat and burning sensation" we get when we eat raw onions, according to a paper by Guy Crosby, the Cooking Science Guy.

You might describe onions as having a pungent flavor — and that flavor comes from sulfur. Crosby notes the strength of each onion depends on the type and how much sulfur was in the soil where it grew. The more sulfur, the stronger the heat. If you have adventurous tastes, you can choose stronger onions and if not then you may prefer milder onions.

Red onions pack the strongest flavor

If you prefer milder sweet onions, your best bet may be a yellow onion harvested between March and September, via the Nation Onion Association. Spring onions are also an option, according to Guy Crosby. If you have spicier tastes, then look for red onions that were harvested between August and May. These are the spiciest, according to the National Onion Association, and this is especially true of red "storage" onions that were dried after harvesting to give them a longer shelf life.

Sometimes people use red onions because they like the color and enjoy them once chopped or cooked. They may not enjoy the extra burn while cutting them, though. If that's you, don't fret. There are some hacks for chopping onions without crying, and once you choose the type of onion, make sure you have a sharp knife, cutting board, and a bowl of water handy.