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Which onions for kabobs?

Kabobs are a popular grilled food, consisting of meat, vegetables, and sometimes fruit skewered on a stick or metal skewer. Onions are a common vegetable used in kabobs, providing flavor, moisture, and texture. But with so many varieties of onions available, which ones work best? The optimal onion for kabobs depends on several factors.

Onion Types

There are three main types of onions to consider for kabobs:

Yellow Onions

Yellow onions, also called brown onions, are the most common onion found in grocery stores. They have a flavor that is rich and full-bodied, but milder than other onion varieties. The texture becomes soft and translucent when cooked.

White Onions

White onions have a crisp texture and an aromatic, pungent flavor when raw. When cooked, they become soft and sweet. Though stronger in flavor than yellow onions, they are still relatively mild.

Red Onions

Red onions have the boldest flavor of common onion varieties. They have a crisp texture and bright purplish-red exterior. When cooked, red onions retain more of their spicy, pungent qualities.

Onion Flavor

The flavor profile of the onion should complement the other ingredients in the kabob.

Yellow and white onions are usually best for kabobs featuring beef or poultry, as they won’t overpower the flavor of the meat. Their mildness allows the other ingredients to shine.

Red onions pair well with boldly seasoned meats like lamb and sausages. They can also stand up to the strong flavors in a veggie kabob.

If using a sweeter glaze or sauce with the kabobs, yellow or white onions are recommended. Red onions may clash with very sweet flavors.

Onion Texture

Look at texture needs when selecting onions for kabobs. Consider cooking time and method.

Yellow and white onions hold their shape better during grilling or broiling. Pieces retain their structure on the skewer.

Red onion pieces tend to fall apart quicker when exposed to direct heat. Soak them in cold water for 30 minutes before skewering to help them stay intact.

Small pearl onions are a good option for grilled kabobs, as they naturally retain their shape. Larger onions should be cut into chunks or wedges.

For kabobs that will be baked or pan-seared instead of grilled, texture and shape are less of a concern. Any variety of onion can be used.

Onion Size

The size of the onion pieces impacts cooking time and method. Larger pieces take longer to cook through. Smaller sizes cook quicker.

1-2 inch onion wedges or chunks are best for grilling, broiling, or pan-searing, as they will finish cooking in a similar time frame as meat and other veggies.

Thin slices or diced onions work well for kabobs that will be baked or slow cooked. Match size to the other ingredients.

When in doubt, cut onions into 1-1.5 inch pieces to ensure thorough cooking without burning. Adjust size as needed to coordinate with cooking method.

Preparation Tips

Proper preparation is key to onions staying on the skewer during cooking:

– Trim off root and stem ends, peel outer layer. Cut into uniform sized pieces.

– Before skewering, either brush with oil or soak in acidic liquid like vinegar or lemon juice for 30 minutes. This helps the surface sear and caramelize faster.

– Alternate onion pieces with other vegetables or meat on the skewer. Pack items close together without cramming.

– Use two parallel skewers through each kabob to keep ingredients firmly in place if grilling.

– Double thread skewers, tying onion pieces on if needed.

Soaking wooden skewers before using also prevents burning.

Onion Kabob Pairings

Onions pair well with these ingredients:


  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Turkey
  • Sausage or kebabs
  • Seafood like shrimp, scallops or fish


  • Peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • Eggplant
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes


  • Pineapple
  • Peaches
  • Apricots
  • Pears

Mix and match for delicious flavor combinations!

Choosing the Best Onions for Kabobs

To summarize, keep these tips in mind when selecting onions for kabobs:

  • Yellow, white or sweet onions pair well with beef and poultry
  • Red onions work best with boldly seasoned meats like lamb
  • Match onion flavor to other ingredients
  • Select type that will hold shape during cooking method
  • Cut uniform, appropriately sized pieces
  • Prep onion pieces so they stay on skewer
  • Combine onions with complimentary fruits, veggies, meats

The right onion can take your kabob from ordinary to extraordinary. Kabobs are a great way to use up summer’s bounty of produce. Experiment with new onion types and flavor combos for delicious results! Proper preparation and cooking technique ensures your vegetables and meat cook evenly for best results.


Onions are a versatile vegetable with many varieties that work well in kabobs. Consider flavor, texture, size, and cooking method when selecting onions. Proper skewer preparation secures onion pieces during grilling or broiling. Pair onions with complementary fruits, veggies and meats. Trying new onion types and combinations results in amazing flavor. Use these tips to make your next batch of kabobs the best yet, showcasing the delicious flavor onions can add.