whole food ~ well made

Sweet onion salad at

Three Ways to Go Wild for Walla Walla Sweet Onions

When there is so much fabulous produce abounding right now, why in the world would I get excited over sweet onions, of all things?

Because Walla Walla sweet onions are on right now, and they have a season as short as peaches. By the middle of this month, the whole crop will be harvested and once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Yup, fresh, seasonal onions. Kinda unexpected, no?

I learned this interviewing a couple of onion farmers from the Walla Walla region. As usual, I heard how fascinating and challenging agriculture truly is–again.

For instance, did you know that these sweet onions are so delicate that they have to be hand harvested?

Sweet onion salad at
Slice these sweet onions from root to stem for this vibrant summer salad.

The other reason to celebrate is that sweet onions heighten everything we’re all cooking this summer: burgers and corn, zucchini and peppers, salmon and steak.

Grilled Sweet Onions

Cutting up a Walla Walla Sweet is a reflex whenever I get the grill going. No matter what I’m making, it’s going to be better with some of these succulent onions alongside.

The only trick is not losing any through the grate. If you have a grilling basket, good for you. I really need to invest in one for moments like these.

In general, thick slices work better than wedges. Then you can separate the rings for a roasted vegetable side dish, Or, chop them after grilling.

Sweet onion salad at

Caramelized Sweet Onions

Of course, there is nothing like caramelized onions on a burger. Here’s my guide to caramelize them right.

In my experience, most people stop cooking them prematurely and don’t get them fully caramelized, which takes about one hour. Put in the time in advance, and you can have caramelized onions for your ultimate grassfed burgers.

Sweet Onion Salad

But if you want to truly experience Walla Walla sweets like an onion grower does, try this sweet onion, tomato and cucumber salad from Michael Locati‘s grandmother, Vera.

It is a hallmark to the Italian onion growers of the Walla Walla valley, to simplicity and to summertime.

Because these onions have a high sugar content, you can enjoy them raw. A short bath in this red wine vinaigrette mellows them even more.

So, grab a glass of cold wine and call a few friends for dinner. Cheers!


and become a forager

Grandma Vera's Chilled Sweet Onion Salad

This height-of-summer salad is so simple, be sure that every single ingredient is the best, including the red wine vinegar. You can prepare this up to one day in advance and the flavors keep getting better. Serve it alongside any grilled meal from burgers to fish. Even onion skeptics will be surprised how sweet it is. 
Course Salad
Cuisine Italian
Keyword sweet onion salad
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author Lynne Curry


  • 1 Walla Walla sweet onion, peeled
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 medium cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise and sliced at an angle
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup best-quality red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • Cut the onion in half from root to neck. Slice each onion half into half moon shapes, and then cut the crescents in half.
  • Combine the onion, tomato and cucumber in a large salad bowl. Toss well with the salt and then add the vinegar to coat completely. Add the olive oil and pepper and stir well. Taste for seasoning, adding additional salt and vinegar for a vibrant and full-flavored salad.
  • Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving for the best flavors and to serve cold. 


  1. Pam

    I just re-read your “treatise” on caramelizing onions. Do you cook them in olive oil or butter or ?? Also, do you add any sugar?
    I enjoy your blog so much! I recently made a chard/kale galette and used your microwave method for zapping the greens. Slick!
    Love your corner of the world. We spent a few days there in May and enjoyed some great meals–Terminal Gravity and The Embers. Sorry to have missed the Lostine!

  2. Those are great questions, Pam (and I’m going to update that post to include them. So thanks!)

    Answers: I use olive oil for caramelizing and never add any sugar. The reduction itself (cooking off the water in the onions) brings out the natural sugars.

    Awfully nice comments! I’m so grateful for readers like you!

  3. Lianne Richland

    This salad is wonderful! It is simple and fresh. Perfect. Thank you so much for enlightening me about using these tasty onions.

    1. Thanks so much for writing to say this, Lianne!

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