There are so many different types of onions out there these days. Who would’ve thought that this would be a make-or-break decision for recipes?
Fajitas are one example of a popular dish that relies on the flavor of onions to create a well-balanced, tender, juicy, and flavorful meal.
But is there a “best” onion to choose for fajitas? When it comes down to it, availability will be the main determining factor. After that, it’s down to the flavor profile you want to create. You can choose basic white or yellow onions for a more savory option, or you can create a more complex fajita using sweet onions like Vidalia or Walla Walla.
There are many more wonderful onion options, all of which we will discuss today.
First, we will look at deciding factors that will help you determine which onion goes best with your fajita recipe. Then, we will look at what we consider to be the best onions that pair incredibly well with fajitas!
What Are Fajitas Made Of?
Before looking at which onions to choose for making fajitas, you must understand what fajitas are and what they should taste like.
This is an authentic Tex-Mex dish that is colorful, flavorful, and packed with texture.
Traditionally the type of meat used was skirt steak, also known as “Arrachera.” However, as with virtually all dishes today, you can use any cut of tender, juicy beef and even chicken. Many people make fajitas completely vegetarian as well!
Along with the three main components of this dish, it is often served with a variety of condiments.
How To Choose The Best Onions For Fajitas
As we have mentioned, fajitas are a pretty complex dish when it comes to their flavors!
The grilled meat obviously makes it very savory and umami. However, the grilled bell peppers and onions generally give it some sweeter undertones.
Then, of course, you also have the added condiments and spices added on top of these basic flavors. These can be spicy, earthy, and even tangy — it depends entirely on what your recipe calls for!
When it comes to the best onions for fajitas, there is a lot of debate. Many people say that you are only allowed to use white onions, whereas others say that any type of onion will do. That’s exactly what we will explore today!
In our personal opinion, choosing the best onion will depend mainly on what flavor you want to develop.
Some onions create sweeter flavors, while others tend to bring out savory undertones. Some even add an astringent tart flavor to the meal!
But at the end of the day, we really think that there are no wrong answers. Here’s how you can narrow down your options!
1. What Is Available To You
This is probably the most important factor to consider first — there is no point in choosing to work with red shallots if you cannot even find them in your region!
Another thing to consider is their price. Some onions can cost quite a pretty penny, but at the end of the day, they are just onions.
If you want to make an onion marmalade, then by all means, splurge a little. But when it comes to fajitas, there are many more affordable options that can get the job done as effectively as the expensive option you have in mind.
After all, the flavors of the other elements could potentially overwhelm those of the onions!
2. Flavor You Want To Create
As we’ve said, first see what is available to you, then narrow down what flavor you want to create.
You basically have three ways you can go about it:
- Choose an onion that creates sweeter flavors.
- Choose more savory onions.
- Pick an onion option that has a slight spiciness.
There are many different types of sweet onions you can choose from; Vidalia and Walla Walla are arguably the most common and even affordable of them all.
These are best cooked over low heat for a longer period of time, which helps caramelize the onions instead of frying them. The caramelization of the natural sugars is what helps make these onions sweet!
Now, these onions shouldn’t be caramelized completely for fajitas — we’re just explaining the principle of why and how they work. For fajitas, you can cook them over medium-low heat.
This way they will be able to release their sweet flavors while frying. It’s the perfect combination of the two techniques!
Yellow and white onions are hands-down the best options for savory onions.
Yellow onions are ideal for heavily spiced fajita recipes — they have a very bold flavor that can easily stand up against the meat and seasonings.
White onions are a little milder, but are still able to help develop and enhance an overall savory profile.
If you want to add a little bit of spicy, tart flavor (not from chilies), then red onions are your best option.
Even better, they will add a pop of color alongside the sliced, grilled bell peppers!
Best Onions For Fajitas
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the best onions for fajitas. We will discuss what they are, why they work, and when they work best.
At the end of the day, as we’ve mentioned before, the choice comes down to your personal preference!
1. White Onions
Now, the only reason we have placed white onions right at the top is that technically they are primarily used for making fajitas.
They aren’t our personal favorite option for fajitas, as we are obsessed with savory-sweet flavor combinations. Nevertheless, they are authentic and tasty onions to use!
White onions will add a savory flavor profile to your fajitas. They are not very sweet and have a sharp, pungent flavor. They also have a slightly spicy undertone that many people love. They are milder than yellow onions, which is why they are preferred.
They will blend in seamlessly with the accompanying elements while still providing that signature grilled onion flavor and texture.
Personally, we would pair these with chicken fajitas. They will go with beef as well, but beef is already pretty savory. Chicken, on the other hand, needs some help with that, which is why white onions will be a great pairing!
The best substitute for white onions is yellow onions.
2. Vidalia Onions
Now, this option is arguably our favorite one of them all. At least, it’s the option we tend to gravitate to the most!
Vidalia is a very popular sweet onion. It contains a high concentration of natural sugars, which makes it caramelize very easily.
Even though it does best at low temperatures, you can increase the heat a little for making fajitas. This way, you are frying them, but they are still allowed to release their sweet flavor.
If you can’t find Vidalia onions, you can also use Walla Walla. Both of these onions look like yellow onions — Walla Walla tends to be whiter and has a more roundish shape, while Vidalia has a yellowish hue to them and is flatter.
Both of these will be labeled in-store because of their popularity. You should be able to find at least one of the two options.
As we have mentioned, these onions will add an overall sweet flavor to your fajitas. We love pairing them with deliciously grilled steak — the sweetness goes incredibly well with the savory charred flavors of the umami meat!
3. Yellow Onions
Most onions you find in a store are yellow onions — if your recipe doesn’t specify which type of onion you should use, it is likely yellow onion. These are very affordable and very easy to find!
Yellow onions differ from white onions in a couple of ways. First off, they are often firmer in texture than white onions. Yellow onions also tend to be marginally smaller than white onions.
What really differentiates the two from each other is that yellow onions aren’t snow-white on the inside — they have a noticeably yellowish hue throughout.
Now, as we have mentioned, yellow onions have a very prominent, strong, and savory flavor — they work best for vegetarian and chicken fajitas. Don’t add them to uber-savory recipes; they will be too rich and overwhelming.
You can substitute yellow onions for white onions.
4. Red Onions
We just have to add red onions to this list today.
First of all, they are very easy to find. Secondly, they will help add some color to your dish if it is looking a little bland.
And finally, red onions are slightly spicy and generally lean towards a more savory flavor, but less than white onions.
The biggest and only downside (for us at least) with using red onions is that they are slightly more expensive than the options mentioned above. But don’t worry, they aren’t that expensive!
Red onions will make an amazing addition to any type of fajita. They aren’t too savory that they will create an imbalanced umami flavor with beef fajitas, but also not too sweet where they will fade into the background with chicken fajitas.
Everybody always asks us about shallots! And yes, you can use them for fajitas. They are a little pricey and not as easy to find as most other onions, but they’re so worth it.
These are deliciously mild, savory onions. However, they have a slightly garlicky undertone — this is why we love them so much!
They will also work great with any type of fajita. They will help create a savory flavor with beef strips and help bring out the natural chicken flavors as well!
If you want to recreate the flavor of a shallot with another type of onion, use white onions with some garlic. There isn’t really another onion that is as unique as these!