What Is a Vidalia Onion and What Does It Taste Like?

Here’s everything you need to know about the sweet Southern onion. 

It's no surprise that the Vidalia onion is a staple in Southern summertime cooking: It's sweet, it's mild, and it goes with just about anything. But what exactly are Vidalia onions — and what makes them so special? Here's what you need to know about eating, buying, and cooking Vidalia onions:

What Is a Vidalia Onion?

A Vidalia onion is a type of sweet onion. It has a mild flavor, a uniquely flat shape, and a relatively high sugar content. The soil in Vidalia, Georgia has an unusually low amount of sulfur — that's why this variety is more sweet than sharp. It doesn't have the pungent, intensely acidic flavor of other onions. Vidalia onions are delicious raw or cooked on sandwiches, in salads and salsas, or served alongside your favorite meats.

Where Are Vidalia Onions Grown?

Vadalia onions growing in a garden.
DaveAlan/Getty Images

Vidalia onions are native to Vidalia, Georgia. In fact, it was named Georgia's official state vegetable in 1990.

According to Federal Marketing Order No. 955, Vidalia onions can be grown in the entirety of the following Georgia counties: Appling, Bacon, Bullock, Candler, Emanuel, Evans, Jeff Davis, Montgomery, Tattnall, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, and Wheeler. They can be grown in portions of the following counties: Dodge, Jenkins, Laurens, Long, Pierce, Screven, and Wayne.

Onions grown outside the aforementioned 20 counties are not considered Vidalia onions.

Vidalia Onion vs. Yellow Onion

The Vidalia is a type of sweet yellow onion. They're different from other types of yellow onions because of their high sugar content and low sulfur content. Most onions contain about 5 percent sugar, while Vidalias contain a whopping 12 percent. That, combined with the lack of sulfur from Vidalia soil, makes them sweeter and milder than other onions on the market.

How to Use Vidalia Onions

overhead shot of slow cooker caramelized onions in a bowl
Vanessa Greaves

The Vidalia's mild flavor makes it perfect for using raw, as it isn't as overwhelming as other onion varieties. However, they are also delicious when cooked (the high sugar content makes them particularly suited for caramelizing). When it comes to using Vidalia onions, the options are pretty much limitless.

Vidalia Onion Substitute

If you can't get your hands on Vidalia onions, you can use any type of sweet onion instead. For instance, Walla Walla and Maui are both perfectly acceptable alternatives.

However, when attempting to find a Vidalia substitute, remember these words of wisdom from The Vidalia Onion Committee in Georgia: "All Vidalias are sweet onions, but not all sweet onions are Vidalias." Your food will likely still be delicious if you don't use Vidalia onions, but it will have a bit more bite than the recipe intended.

Vidalia Onion Season

Vidalia onion season runs from April to August. You may be able to find them in stores outside this limited window, but they will not be as fresh and juicy. Look for firm onions that are free of cuts and blemishes.

Macro of a Vidalia Onion or sweet onion, selective focus on top.
rojoimages/Getty Images

How to Store Vidalia Onions

Vidalias have a higher water content than other onion varieties. This contributes to their juiciness and unique flavor, but it also shortens their shelf life.

According to the Vidalia Onion Committee, the ideal storage spot is in the crisper drawer of your fridge. Wrap them individually in paper towels to absorb excess moisture. You can also store Vidalia onions at room temperature with this easy hack: Hang a pair of clean, sheer pantyhose in a well-ventilated area in your kitchen. Keep the onions in the legs, tying a knot between each one. Simply untie the knots, starting from the bottom, when you're ready to use an onion.

Vidalia Onion Recipes

Now that you're an expert, it's time to get cooking. Try one of our favorite Vidalia onion recipes:

Hungry for more? Explore our entire collection of Vidalia Onion Recipes.

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