Kitchen Hacks

The Unfailing Way to Make Any Onion Last Forever

Or at least a really, really long time.

March  1, 2022
Photo by Food52

While I enjoy a nice, cathartic cry every now and then, onion tears are not that; they're painful. They sting and burn, and to make matters worse, you’re holding a sharp knife, so don’t you dare rub your eyes. It doesn’t matter if you’re slicing, dicing, or mincing, it all hurts. When fresh onions are cut, they release a sulfuric gas that causestears to stream down your face; the older the onion is, the stronger the gas is and therefore, the more heartbreak you’ll experience. There are numerous old wives tales about how to stop yourself from crying while cutting onions and only some of them work.

No one wants to drag out time when chopping onions, which is why it pains me to tell you that you need to chop the whole dang onion. Seriously. Chopping and freezing whole onions will extend the life of fresh onions, rather than only cutting and using what you need. Plus, you’ll get a head start on meal prep and will ultimately save yourself time and money (eliminating food waste is always a win).

If you’re caramelizing a panful, frying up some rings, or trying out one of your other favorite onion-forward recipes, that makes sense. But even if you just need a handful to season your frittata, or add a snap to your salad, you should still power through. Because those of us who have thrown the unused onion half in the crisper drawer knows it’s just in purgatory before it moves to the trash.

But you should cut the whole onion, use what you need, and freeze the rest in a Ziploc bag. Yes, you heard that right. You can freeze chopped onions!

You don’t need to do anything special to freeze onions: Just dump the leftovers into an airtight freezer-friendly bag, flatten it into a single layer, and squeeze every last molecule of air out of there. If you’re really concerned about your onions sticking together, you can freeze them for two hours or so in a single layer on a shallow baking sheet before transferring them in a container. This will prevent the chopped onion from forming clumps, making it easier to cook with and re-incorporate into whatever you’re cooking next. Like most frozen vegetables, the raw onions will last 6 months or more in the freezer—just make sure to label and date them so you don’t forget!

I first started freezing onions years ago when I over-estimated how quickly I could go through an extra-large bag of Vidalias. I complained to my mom about how the sharp, sweet smell was perfuming my kitchen and living room, and she suggested slicing and saving them in the freezer. It blew my mind and since then, I've always had a stash on hand for stir-frys, soups and stews, or chili.

Now, if you want to enjoy onions raw (like in a salad or guacamole), freezing is a no-go. Also, defrosted onions can get a little watery, so it’s best not to rely on them for caramelizing. The extra moisture content will prevent them from ever getting super sweet and golden brown. Frozen onions are better suited to cooked dishes that are stewy, like braises or sauces, or recipes that require them to be processed, like veggie burgers.

Here, we’ve gathered a few of our tear-free favorite ways to cook with frozen onions. You’ll find recipes for homemade falafels, meatloaf, ragu sauce, home fries, Martha Stewart’s always-popular one-pan pasta, and cheese-stuffed burgers.

Do you freeze your onions? What's your preferred way to store frozen vegetables?
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • RoddyF
  • Ritarod1947
  • Claire LS
    Claire LS
  • Smaug
  • ustabahippie
Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


RoddyF March 13, 2022
Why not freeze dry them? Apparently they loose nothing except their water!
Ritarod1947 January 9, 2019
another tip : i love mushrooms, but it is not for freezing raw. I buy a bunch, chop and saute in olive oil and a dash of soya sauce (opt.) - when cool i place in zip loc and freeze. Handy for pastas or omelettes
Ritarod1947 January 9, 2019
I have been cutting whole onions and saving rest in a zip loc bags in freezer - i place this in a hot pan when reqd and add required oil - it works fine.
I also, pulse chop a bunch of onions in a food processor and fry it in oil, till brown. When cook i freeze this in zip loc bags and use when required.
Claire L. August 18, 2018
Because I like to use our local produce all year round, in the fall I freeze sliced onions, shallots, leeks, celery, carrots, etc. They are perfect in soups and stews all winter and early spring.
Smaug August 6, 2018
I usually seek out relatively small onions that I can use up in one or two meals- never had any trouble keeping leftovers in the refrigerator, well wrapped, for a couple of days.
Smaug August 6, 2018
Yeah, I did get a couple of those a while back- Trader Joe sells onions by the piece. I did indeed grow weary of them over time.
ustabahippie August 5, 2018
I freeze jalapeños whole since I don’t use a whole one in cooking for myself. They stay hot indefinitely.
Smaug August 6, 2018
Virtually any pepper freezes beautifully, and they thaw very fast- some sort of internal antifreeze I suppose. I usually clean them first but it's not necessary- if you plan to peel them, though, best to do that while they're fresh.
MG G. August 5, 2018
I do this with bell peppers. Wash, dry then put the whole pepper in the freezer. It’s so easy to cut off whatever you need for cooking. Never any mushy peppers in the fridge.
mdelgatty May 28, 2020
Bet that would adequately soften them up for stuffing; then I could save the extra step of microwaving them first...
Jodi D. August 4, 2018
The juices that spray from an onion when cut are what irritates our eyes and noses. After literally wearing goggles and a face mask one day (which worked) I did a little more research and found refrigerating the onion BEFORE you slice congeals those juices and for the most part you can cut without tears! But I do like the freezing bit too. Thanks!
Natalia W. July 30, 2018
You could caramelize before you freeze too ;)
Rebecca August 6, 2018
I use the Crock-Pot method to caramelize a big batch of onions when I have a large stretch of time to do it and then freeze them in small amounts.
Marilyn July 30, 2018
I have been dicing and freezing onions for several years now - just yesterday I just chopped up half a large yellow one languishing in my fridge. I have a special plastic container I leave in the freezer, next to similar ones for carrots and celery. Need a quick stock, or a mirepoix on a weeknight? No problem! Saves time, saves money, saves food waste - a kitchen hat trick if ever there was.
Nancy July 31, 2018
Katie - great idea!
I'm like Marilyn...have been doing this a long time, and prefer boxes to bags as I can scoop out what I need easier from boxes.
Nancy July 31, 2018
Yes, plastic. If the boxes get too smelly & need them for something else, baking soda or dilute bleach will clean them up.
mdelgatty May 28, 2020
I have a dedicated container for sticking partial onions in the fridge; I almost always use it up before it goes bad.
Don't think I'd want to take a chance on putting onions in the freezer uncovered, though...
Sonnie July 30, 2018
Even better is to use a FoodSaver to remove all the air. And the thicker plastic of their bags is impermeable -- you'll never smell the onions until you reopen the bag.
Sonnie July 30, 2018
A FoodSaver is one of those things I'd find room for. I use mine every day. Usually multiple times a day!
Syl August 3, 2018
I don’t have room or budget for another appliance. I like the quart size baggies with a red closure tab. Insert flattened pepper slices or slivered onions and before zipping the red tab all the way across baggie, insert straw or finger and suck out air. ✌️