Although garlic and onions have long been associated with putative cardiovascular health benefits, the effects of different commercially available onions and level of intake have not been studied. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to evaluate the potential health benefits of raw onions using the pig as a biomedical model. Twenty-five female (Large White×Landrace) pigs were used in a (2×2)+1 factorial experiment. Pigs were fed a standard grower diet supplemented with 100 g tallow/kg with the addition of Allium cepa var. cavalier or var. destiny at 0, 10 or 25 g/MJ digestible energy for 6 weeks. Overall, the consumption of onions resulted in significant reductions in plasma triacylglycerol; however, the reductions were most pronounced in pigs fed destiny onions (−26 %, P=0·042). Total plasma cholesterol and LDL:HDL ratios were not significantly different. Onion supplementation, regardless of the variety, resulted in dose-dependent reductions in erythrocyte counts and Hb levels, while the white blood cell concentrations, particularly lymphocytes, were increased in pigs that consumed onions. Furthermore, indices of blood clotting were largely unaffected by onion consumption. In conclusion, dietary supplementation with raw brown onions has moderate lipid-modulating and immunostimulatory properties. However, daily onion intake >25 g/MJ digestible energy could be detrimental to erythrocyte numbers.