One of the curry recipes in the book "50 great curries of India" says "Heat the oil in a cooking pot and fry the onions until deep pink." I think I know what it means when a recipe says "until deep brown" (which is what many Indian curry recipes call for), but "deep pink" is a first. Is the recipe simply using red onions or some other variety of onion than the one I'm used to (the ingredient list just says "2 large onions, finely chopped")? Does that make an important difference? Or is the recipe referring to the same stage of cooking as "deep brown" (though that doesn't look very pinkish to me)? Or would "deep brown" onions turn somewhat pink if you cooked them even longer? ...

(For the curious, the recipe is for the "prawns in sweet and hot curry")

  • I dare say using brown onions and just softening them will suffice in such a recipe, do not brown them.
    – Orbling
    Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 0:31
  • 3
    Could this be an accidental word misuse? It's possible that the author just used the wrong color word, if English is not his/her normal language.
    – bikeboy389
    Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 14:19
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    Well it's hard to completely rule out the possibility that it's just a plain error. I didn't do an exhaustive check, but so far it's the only recipe in the book that I've noticed specifying another color than brown or a variation of brown ("brown", "golden", "lightly colored", ...). Some Google'ing did turn up a few other recipes that ask for pink-fried onions, but honestly they required some digging to find: munchcrunchandsuch.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/stuffed-bindi-okra and theholidayspot.com/rakhi/new_recipes.htm (the 7th recipe, Dal fry).
    – Rinzwind
    Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 18:29

5 Answers 5


I own the same book and was similarly surprised when I read that instruction, but in the section on ingredients, the author does mention a particular variety of onions called pink onions. The mention is on pg. 32, and there is a picture of a pink onion on the upper left of pg. 34.

Here's an excerpt from pg. 32:

"The longer the onions are fried, the browner they will get and the deeper the color of the curry will be... When the onions are fried until only light pink in color, they will impart a sweetish taste to the curry. Certain varieties of onion, like Spanish onions, are too sweet to be appropriate for curry-making. The most appropriate from the taste point of view are the French and the small pink English."

From 50 great curries of india

I've never seen pink onions in any of the local markets (in northwestern US), I used white onions and sauteed them just to the point of browning. The recipe turned out fine, but it's a lot of onion. (The recipe calls for 2 large onions, finely chopped. It's a recipe that produces 2 servings.) Personally, I'd go a little lighter on the amount of onion or use yellow onions (despite the author's recommendation against Spanish onions), but that is just personal preference from a Western palate.

Note: it looks like the current printing of the book is different from the one I own, so the page numbers I cite may be off, but if you search inside the book (on Amazon) for "pink onion" you can see the page I've cited and the picture of what the author calls a pink onion.

  • 1
    You're right, I had read that section in the book before but had forgotten about its mention of pink onions! I couldn't find anything useful in Google for "English pink onion", but here's a blog post about French pink onions: seattlebonvivant.typepad.com/seattle_bon_vivant/2004/10/… Though note that the blog post says they are very sweet, whereas the author of "50 great curries" warns against using too sweet onions. It's a pitty the picture of pink onion in the book shows it whole rather than cut in half, which would be more useful for comparison.
    – Rinzwind
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 7:32
  • Nice work finding that blog post! The author compares them to a Walla Walla (almost as sweet as a Vidalia!) crossed with a red onion. That would definitely be a very different flavor than either the white or yellow you normally get at the supermarket. Too bad these are apparently so hard to come by in the States. Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 17:05
  • For a few years my local supermarket [London, UK] sold 'pink curry onions'. They were quite similar to regular brown onions in size variation & flavour, just slightly sweeter. They were good for colour but didn't greatly impact the final flavour.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jun 2, 2023 at 12:20

Pink onions are produced for India by Indian farmers. They are actually a hybrid cross of a red and a yellow onion. There are no US or European breeding programs for pink onions. Beware, cooking red onions will make them turn grey.


From some other recipes, red onions sauteed/sweated but NOT browned that then have lemon added turn a deep pink.

It is possible that other onions will do this also...several vegetables go red in acid and blue or blue/green in base.

But once you brown onions, they are not going to pink up. It is not an onion stage of caramelization.


When I roast certain sweet yellow onions (either from a raw state or pre-sauteed, lightly), they often turn a rather bright pink. I am referring to onions that I use in baking bialys or onion pockets or onion rolls (these are old-time New York style favorites). I have heard that they are "on the way to being caramelized" and not to be concerned; they will taste fine. But when I pull out my baked bialys and see the pink centers, it's not very pleasing esthetically. But they are still delicious. Hope that helps.


'Deep pink' means translucent when referring to an Indian pink onion. The Indian onion os closest to pink shallots. Not as sugary as a Vidalia or Walla Walla & not quite as sweet as a Spanish red. Indian pink onions have a 'zest' unlike any onion I recall from the US. I use Spanish yellow onions when cooking Indian food in the US.

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