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Sweet Vidalia Onions

Posted by by Colin Lyons, produce buyer
Friday, June 7, 2013

I used to hate onions. They were offensive to me with their pungent smell and crispy texture. Raw or cooked, if a dish had onions I wasn’t eating it.

It was only when I started to cook for myself that I realized the magic of onions and their ability to impart flavor on other foods. This was a huge turning point because I went from no onion, to perhaps too much. Is that possible?

When I first introduced onions to my cooking, I would mince them to almost nothing and cook them down to a paste. At this point I loved the flavor, but I still had a major textural issue with them. Today I put them on anything and everything. Diced fresh on tacos and salads, pan fried or grilled on burgers and sandwiches - the possibilities are endless!

Sweet onions vs. Regular "hot" onions

Every day onion               

Less sulfur

More water

Mild flavor

Taste buds pick up more of
 the natural sugar


Great for cooking

More sulfur (gives the pungent aroma, burning flavor and makes your eyes water )

 Strong flavor

Without a doubt, sweet onions are my onions of choice.

Sweet onions have been in such high demand in recent years that growers and shippers have figured out how to have year round availability on sweets. In my eyes, there is one sweet onion that stands out among the rest: the Vidalia.

Vidalia onions come from a very specific part of Georgia that has the perfect soil and climate to produce this special onion. The original discovery of Vidalia onions was more a fluke than a development. During the great depression, farmers in Georgia were looking for a new cash crop to fill their fields. With the intent of growing a regular hot onion, the farmers from Vidalia were surprised to find that their onions had a mild, sweet flavor. This surprise soon turned into excitement and word spread quickly about these sweet onions from Vidalia.

Today Vidalia sweet onions are widely available throughout the United States and Canada. For me, the Vidalia is a special treat that perfectly coincides with the start of our summer cooking season in Minnesota.

My favorite way to prepare Vidalia onions:
Peel your Vidalia onion down to a fresh, clean white layer. Take your knife and slice off slabs of onion that are ¼ inch to ½ inch thick. The idea here is that it almost looks like a thin hamburger with the rings still together.

Place them on a platter, coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the whole slab on a hot grill. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side or until your onion is golden brown with grill marks. I love to put this whole slab right on top of a burger or chicken sandwich. It is mild, sweet and oh so tasty!

Please share your favorite Vidalia recipe!

Tags: onions

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