Everyone knows that the secret to a perfect, savory dish is the addition of onions. The same is the case with chili, the classic, spicy condiment that goes with almost anything.
Did you know that onion is so important that if you use the powder instead, chili may not taste the same as you expect it to be? Hence, onions are crucial in making the dish.
The best onions for chili include yellow or brown onions, white onions, red onions, Vidalia onions, shallots, green onions, or some of the following substitutes.
Let’s learn more about each substitute below!
1. Yellow or Brown Onions
Yellow, or brown onions as a variant, are a versatile type of onion. They have a pungent and strong taste. And just one yellow onion, chopped and ground into chili is enough to cover the taste.
When fried, they become sweeter due to caramelization which goes well with the tart ingredients of chili.
Yellow onions are the best pick for all purposes as they go with almost anything. If you decide to make a meat-based chili, these onions will bring out the juiciness of your chili as well and give it the tasty umami flavor many people seek after.
Due to its easy availability and strong taste, it is considered the best type of onion for chili.
2. White Onions
White onions are a type of onion that is not very easy to find, yet they bring out a strong, sharp, and sweet flavor to whatever they are added into.
They also contain fewer amounts of sugar and are sweet due to the sulfur present in them. The high water content in them gives it flaky, papery skin and also makes them crispy.
They are best used when worked into a salsa or a chutney and work well in chili as well. Due to their overpowering scent and taste, they can take over the taste of tomatoes and make the chili slightly sweeter, so it is advised to use them in slight moderation.
Do taste tests as you go adding them.
3. Red Onions
Red onions are best for eating raw due to the mild and sweet flavor they have. They are also very easily available, which makes them an economical choice.
Although pungent when taken raw, it slowly sweetens when it cooks, mixing in well with the spiciness and heat of the chilies present in the sauce.
Yellow onions can be used for a general type of chili which is usually on the hotter side, and red onions, which are naturally sweeter, bring a distinct flavor to the sauce which can be compared to salsa.
Red onions are also a healthier choice than other types of onions due to the high levels of antioxidants present in them.
4. Sweet Onions
Sweet onions are of many different kinds, but they all have the same sweet, succulent, and less pungent traits.
These are usually used for onion rings for the unique and savory flavor it gives when fried. If you are looking to make slightly sweeter chili rather than the spicy one, you can choose to go for them.
They contain less sulfur and more water than other sorts of onions and are perfect if you are opting to go for cooking in a slow cooker instead of a saucepan.
The sweetness of the onions mixes well with the tomato and spices when cooked this way. The chili made is immaculate and tastes heavenly.
Shallots are bulb-shaped members of the onion family that have a taste profile that also is closely similar to garlic.
They cost more than your regular onions but have a distinct flavor that can substitute for onion and garlic. When used in chili, they provide the same savory taste and intensity.
They are great as contenders for the best onion in chili because they are easy to cook. They also lack the pungent smell and can easily be added raw as toppings as well.
Due to their size and thin layers, they are also easy to dice or mince for cooking and break down well to blend the flavors of the chili deeply.
6. Green Onions
Green onions (more herb than vegetable) have a distinct flavor that is not particularly pungent and strong like normal onions. Rather, it has a more mild flavor that is enjoyable both as garnish and as an ingredient.
Though chili requires a strong flavor to bring out the savoring taste chili, green onions go on anything, including chili.
People usually use it to top up dishes such as steaks and chili, but when you substitute it for the round onions by slicing them up, they give a unique aroma and taste to your dish.
The vegetable is super versatile. You can chop up the bulb and grind it with the chili and slice the leaves to make a zesty topping.
7. Vidalia Onions
Although yellow onions are the best for use in chili, it is because of the heated and sweet properties they possess.
If you are looking to make a sweeter kind of chili, use sweet onions like Vidalia. They are the best kind that you may find in the market. They cost more than other onions but also have more health benefits.
Moreover, they have a lesser amount of sulfur in them and are great for using as a topping and being cooked in a frying pan, or a slow cooker.
They break down quickly and are very easy to blend with the other flavors. Vidalia onions will be the best kind to use in chili if you are looking for the healthiest option available.
8. Walla Walla
The best thing about Walla Walla is probably all the amazing benefits of it.
The overall sweet flavor with a slight hint of bitterness and spice and flaky texture make these onions easy to blend, so you can easily use them for your chili.
The downside they have is probably the fact that they are very hard to find and are only grown in the US. Walla Walla is another sweet type of onion, so you can expect the overall flavor of your chili to be sweet.
Mixed with other ingredients like meat, beans, and tomatoes, chili made from Walla Walla onions will be no match for any other substitute.
The taste would be a pleasant experience for your taste buds.
9. Spring Onions
Although small in size, the bulbs of spring onions as well as scallions, give the chili a distinct flavor that is authentic only to them.
Spring onions also have a lot of health benefits that help boost immunity and can be eaten raw or cooked. Moreover, all the parts of spring onions can be put to good use.
For instance, the bulb can be used to mix in with the chili and the leaves can be used to top it all off. Since they have a taste that can best only be described as a ‘spring onion’ flavor, they act as neutralizers to spicy ingredients and savory addition to the sweet ones.
Remember to always pick up the ones that are spotless and look the freshest.
10. Spanish Onions
Spanish onions are a type of yellow onions. However, they do not taste the same and are sweeter and more delicate in flavor.
They are mild enough to be eaten raw. Therefore, you can use them in sandwiches, hot dogs, and salads due to being less pungent and juicier.
They are an all-purpose onion, which is what makes them great for chilis as well.
Mix your Spanish onions with some beef, pepper, and tomatoes. You will likely obtain a sweet and savory chili that will complement the taste of tortillas, tacos, and even fajitas.
Even when slow-cooked in a pressure cooker, the sweetness of Spanish onion settles well into the other ingredients to give your chili a mild flavor.
Are Onions Added to Chili?
You can add onions to chili as they make your condiment a little savory by mixing well with the tanginess of the tomatoes.
Is There Any Secret Ingredient to Making Great Chili?
According to many websites and chef blogs, some secret ingredients to making great chili are cocoa powder, coffee, beer, cinnamon, and masa harina. They have been selected based on the fact that they make the perfect sweet and sour chili balance.
What Should You Not Put in Chili?
One ingredient that should never come close to your chili is raw meat. You need to always cook it to some extent first.
Onions have various uses.
For instance, white onions caramelize, purple onions make the ideal raw snack, and yellow works best for preparing chili. This veggie gives the extra edge to chili and turns it into the savory dish it is.
Hopefully, this article can help you decide which type of onion is the best when it comes to chili.