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By size or weight - I never seem to know ...

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If the volume of onion is important beyond "to taste", small, medium or large onion = poorly written recipe. – Jolenealaska Oct 7 '13 at 18:15
@Jolenealaska But knowing how to take a stab at making a recipe, even if it's poorly written, is still useful knowledge, worth an actual answer. – Jefromi Oct 7 '13 at 19:23
@Jefromi Fair enough, it's just a pet peeve of mine. – Jolenealaska Oct 7 '13 at 19:29
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Here's some general guidelines I have used in the past:

Small onion = 4 ounces by weight or about ½ cup chopped

Medium onion = 8 ounces, or about 1 cup chopped

Large onion = 12 ounces, or about 1½ cups chopped

Jumbo onion = 16 ounces, or about 2 cups chopped


The terms are not always completely accurate so use your best judgement. I've often seen large onions that were as big or bigger than "jumbo" according to this data.

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While not scientific, I think some ingredients are best left to the idea of artistic interpretation -- or in chef vernacular, "to taste". Onions are the perfect example of this. Like onions just so-so? use medium sized ones. Love 'em? Go large. Hate 'em? Go mini...and dice it really, really small.

NOTE: Skip jumbo. It's a bad category regardless of your affinity for the root. For most all veggies, it's ideal to buy small or medium, because smaller sizes maintain better flavor. The larger ones have often gained their girth through water weight...making for pithy textures and disappointing taste. Think watered-down chicken soup.

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