What is a Vidalia Onion?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Vidalia onion is a special cultivar of sweet onion which is raised exclusively in the American South. In fact, onions cannot legally be labeled as “Vidalia onions” in the United States unless they come from a specific region of the state of Georgia, thanks to a ruling from the Department of Agriculture. These onions are famously used in Southern cuisine, and they are also popular in some other parts of the United States, along with the sweet Maui onion, grown in Hawaii.

Vidalia onions.
Vidalia onions.

Vidalias emerged by accident in Southeastern Georgia in the 1930s, when farmers were struggling to find a new cash crop. They began growing yellow granex onions, but discovered that the crop was sweet, rather than hot, as expected. By the 1940s, onions from this region of Georgia were famous for their mild flavor, which, as it turns out, is created by the lack of sulfur in the soil. In 1986, the legislature of Georgia passed the Vidalia Onion Act, confining labeling to specific counties, and in 1990, it became the State Vegetable of Georgia.

Vidalia onions might go into onion chutney.
Vidalia onions might go into onion chutney.

Several onion cultivars have been crossed to produce the modern Vidalia onion. The result is a sweet yellow onion which is famously juicy and flavorful without the harsh bite and eye-watering sting most people associate with onions. Producers of Vidalia onions follow strict guidelines to ensure that their crop meets the state standard, and these onions command a high price at market.

Vidlia onions can be grilled for a cheeseburger topping.
Vidlia onions can be grilled for a cheeseburger topping.

Unlike many onions, the Vidalia onion does not store well. These onions need to be used quickly or they will start to soften and rot. As a result, consumers tend to place a premium on them when they are available in the late summer, and many people try to grow their own, to evade the high prices. While the cultivars used to make Vidalias can be grown almost anywhere, the results will not necessarily be sweet, because the flavor is dependent on the soil chemistry.

These onions are sweet enough to be eaten raw, with some people eating them like apples. Vidalias can be sliced and added to sandwiches, salads, and other dishes. They also take well to roasting, grilling, and frying, with cooking deepening the naturally sweet flavor. These sweet onions can be used in all sorts of creative ways, from onion chutney to grilled onions designed to top cheeseburgers.

When selecting a Vidalia onion in the store, look for an onion which feels firm and heavy for its size, indicating that it is fresh and juicy. Avoid onions with signs of mildew or mold, and use your onion within a week for the best flavor.

Vidalia onions may be cooked to draw out their natural sweetness.
Vidalia onions may be cooked to draw out their natural sweetness.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Wrap individually in foil and store in a cool dry room (cold room). They will last months if stored properly.


My grandmother lives in Woodstock, GA, and she and her parents have been growing Vidalias for years now.

She's a little crazy about it -- she's even got a recipe for Vidalia onion vinaigrette, not to mention the regular Vidalia onion dips, sauces, and sandwich-toppers.


Now I'm not really such an onion person, but I have to tell you, if you get a nice ham sandwich with some slices of Vidalia onion, mustard and a little watercress, that makes for some really good eating.

It's also really good if you put Vidalia onion relish on a hotdog, but it can be overpowering unless you've got a really good beef hotdog.


@anon85008 -- I don't know that there's a cut and dry rule, but what I always have done is to keep them in a cool, dry place.

Darker places like cabinets are the best, but they don't need to go in the refrigerator unless you cut them open.

They last about 2 weeks, more or less, but you can tell if they start to look really crumbly or get mold or start getting hairs.

Of course it's best to use them as soon as possible; that way you get the real sweetness and kick of a good Vidalia.


how do you store these onions and for how long?

Post your comments
Forgot password?