Cambray onions, also known as spring onions or baby onions, are a delicious vegetable with a sweet, mild flavor perfect for salads, salsas, and Asian stir-fries. In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about cambray onions including their history, uses, health benefits, and tips for selecting, storing, and cooking with them.
What are cambray onions?
According to my research, cambray onions (also known as spring onions, Mexican spring onions, cebollitas cambray, baby onion, or sliver onion) are a variety of green onion or scallion that has a larger bulb and more defined shape compared to regular scallions or green onions.
They are small, cylindrical bulbs with long, green stalks. They are typically between 1-2 inches in diameter.
- They are a variety of green onion/scallion that looks similar to scallions but has a bigger bulb size.
- They have a strong flavor that is sweet when cooked/grilled. The tender texture and sweet taste makes them popular for grilling/roasting.
- They are very popular in Mexican and Latin American cuisine, where they are used in dishes like mixed grills, tacos, roasted meats, etc. They are considered essential for Mexican barbecues.
Cambray onions are a type of green onion with a large bulb that has a sweet flavor when cooked. They are used in various Latin American/Mexican dishes, especially grilled meats and tacos. Their popularity comes from their tender texture and sweet taste when grilled or roasted.
Differences from scallions
- Scallions are smaller and do not form large bulbs.
- Cambray onions have a stronger flavor than scallions.
- Popular in Latin American cuisine and often used in grilled dishes like tacos and mixed grills.
- Can be eaten raw, grilled/roasted, or pickled.
- Used to add flavor, texture, and color to various dishes.
- Also referred to as Mexican spring onions or BBQ onions.
They are a variety of green onion with a large white bulb and long green stems. They have a stronger flavor than scallions and are popularly used in Latin American and grilled cuisine.
- Key Identifying Traits:
- Small, cylindrical white bulbs with long, green stalks
- Delicate, papery white skin
- Bright green stalks
- Thin roots attached to bulbs
- Flavor Profile:
- Sweet, mild, and delicate flavor
- Lacking the harshness and bite of other onion varieties
- Crunchy texture when eaten raw
- Compared to mature onions, cambrays have a much milder, sweeter taste perfect for raw preparations. Their immature bulbs have not yet developed the same pungency.
The History and Origins of Cambray Onions
Cambray onions, also known as spring onions or multiplier onions, belong to the Allium genus along with other onion varieties. Their exact origins are unclear, but onions have a long history of cultivation going back over 5,000 years in Asia and the Middle East.
There is evidence that onions were present in ancient Mesoamerica and sold in Aztec markets, indicating some onion varieties are native to Mexico. Specifically, there are native Mexican onion varieties similar to multiplier onions found growing wild and cultivated in the Yucatán peninsula.
The name “Cambray” seems to come from a comparison to a type of onion found in Spain. Cambray onions resemble a cross between scallions and Texas onions, with long green stems and round bulbs. They are considered an important onion variety in Latin American cuisine and popularly used in mixed grill platters.
Cambray onions likely originated from native Mexican onion varieties, but their history of cultivation and exact lineage is uncertain. Their Spanish name refers to a resemblance to other Allium varieties, and they have become an essential ingredient in Latin American cooking.
Where and When to Find Cambray Onions
From my research:
Cambray onions originate from Mexico and are popular in Latin American cuisine. They can be found year-round in ethnic groceries and markets, with the best availability in spring and summer months. Their popularity in Mexican cooking makes them a staple ingredient in Latin American stores and markets.
Origin and Regions
- Cambray onions likely originated from native Mexican onion varieties found growing wild and cultivated in the Yucatán peninsula.
- They are an important onion variety in Latin American cuisine, especially Mexican cuisine.
- Cambray onions can be found year-round as they are cultivated. Peak season tends to be spring and summer.
Where to Find
- Mexican and Latin American markets, specialty produce stores.
- Some supermarkets carry them.
- Farmers markets when in season.
From my experience, the best time to find fresh cambray onions runs from approximately March through August. Due to their delicate nature, they are not easily shipped long distances and are best sourced locally when in season.
Benefits and Uses of Cambray Onions
Cambray onions offer a unique set of nutrients and a versatile addition to salads, salsas, stir-fries, and more.
- Nutritional Benefits:
- Low in calories (30 per onion)
- Contains vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium
- Provides dietary fiber
- Minimal fat and carbohydrates
- Good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, folate, and iron
- Contains various vitamins, minerals, and potent plant compounds that have been shown to promote health
- Culinary Uses:
- Salads – Add raw slices or grilled onions
- Salsas and relishes – Finely chopped onions
- Sandwiches and burgers – Caramelized onion topping
- Soups and broths – Add onion stalks
- Stir-fries and egg dishes – Sauteed onions
- Garnishes and toppings – Fresh onion slices
- It can be sautéed, braised, boiled, steamed, baked, grilled, caramelized, roasted, or fried
- Used in salads, onion tarts, tacos, pasta dishes, stews, chili
- A popular ingredient in Latin cuisine and mixed grill platters
- Pairs Well With:
- Vinaigrettes, citrus, herbs (cilantro, dill)
- Lean proteins like fish and chicken
- Other spring produce (radishes, snap peas)
How to Select and Store Cambray Onions
Follow these tips for choosing fresh cambray onions and keeping them fresh:
- Selecting Cambrays:
- Choose onions that feel heavy for their size with no bruising or wet/mushy spots.
- Select larger-sized onions, if available, around 1-inch diameter or wider.
- Make sure the onions have fresh-looking green tops and firm bulbs
- Storing Cambrays:
- Store unwashed and untrimmed onions in breathable bags or wrapped in paper towels in the refrigerator.
- Properly stored, they will keep fresh for up to 2 weeks refrigerated.
- The green tops can also be wrapped separately from the bulbs.
- Freezing is an option, but frozen onions lose their crisp texture and are better for cooked dishes instead of raw.
Choose fresh, firm Cambray onions with intact roots and greens, then store them wrapped in breathable material in the refrigerator to maintain freshness for up to 2 weeks. Handle the green tops separately and use frozen onions for cooking only.
Tips for Preparing and Cooking Cambray Onions
These preparation and cooking methods are great ways to enjoy cambray onions:
- Trim off roots and any outer brown/damaged layers
- Leave roots and tops intact if storing
- Handle tops separately from bulbs if storing
- It can be roasted, grilled, sautéed, fried, or boiled
- Roast at 350°F to caramelize and bring out the sweetness
- Grill over charcoal until soft
- Use in tacos, salads, pasta, stews, etc
- Pair with meats, dress with olive oil/salt/pepper
- Substitute scallions if Cambrays unavailable
Trim, then roast, grill, or sauté Cambrays, using them in various dishes. Store properly refrigerated and they’ll stay fresh for weeks. Adjust cooking times compared to other onions and handle green tops with care.
Cambray onions, also known as Mexican or spring onions, likely originated from native wild onion varieties in Mexico and have become a staple in Latin American cuisines.
Characterized by their long green stems and round bulbs, cambray onions are most readily available in the spring and summer months.
While their exact flavor profile is uncertain based on the search results, cambray onions can be enjoyed cooked in a variety of dishes from tacos to roasted vegetables.
Their versatility and nutritional value from compounds like vitamin C make them a tasty addition to many recipes.
Cambray onions can be found year-round in specialty produce stores and Latin markets, where their importance in Mexican cooking has solidified their place as a key ingredient.
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We hope you found this guide helpful! If you have any experience preparing or enjoying these sweet, mild spring onions, please share it with us.
We’d love to hear your favorite cambray onion recipes, cooking tips, or stories about discovering this delicious vegetable.
Let us know by posting a comment below or contacting us to provide your insights. Your real-world experience can help other home cooks learn how to best use them in their kitchens!
Iskra Banović is our seasoned Editor-in-Chief at BlueFashion. She has been steering the website’s content and editorial direction since 2018. With a rich background in fashion design, Iskra’s expertise spans across fashion, interior design, beauty, lifestyle, travel, and culture.