Onion

The Right Way to Store Onions

Whether they're whole, peeled, sliced, or cooked.

May 13, 2020
Photo by Food52

I use onions almost every day—be it for thrown-together pantry pastas, my go-to Brussels sprout salad (it's got the best crunch), or the base for some kind of saucy-stewy braise.

Naturally, I tend to buy a lot of onions at once, so storing them the right way (so they last as long as possible) is key. Because there's nothing worse than a mushy-moldy onion that's no longer usable.

If you, too, hate wasting food, then you've come to the right place. Here's how to store onions every which way—whether you just picked them up from the store or already sliced and diced them.


How to Store Onions

When storing whole, unpeeled bulb onions, there are a few things to keep in mind. First things first: Keep them in a spot that's cool, dark, and dry. Ventilation is also important—if you don't keep them in a spot where they can get lots of air circulation, you'll cut down their shelf life (that's why keeping them whole in zip-top bags or airtight containers isn't ideal).

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“When I chop and onion and have like, half left over, it goes in that tub. Strong smelling leftovers go in there when I have them. That way only one plastic tub smells, not all of them.”
— Claudia T.
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You can store them in containers with air holes, breathable mesh bags, or even pantyhose (yes, seriously). Here's how, according to our former editor, Lindsay-Jean Hard: "Take a pair of [clean] pantyhose, drop an onion down into the toe, and tie a knot above it." Repeat that process with your remaining onions and hang it in a cool, dark cabinet. "There's no better way to maximize airflow around your onions while simultaneously keeping them separated and moisture-free. Whenever you need​ an onion, simply snip one off."

While it's not recommended to store whole, unpeeled onions in the fridge (they'll absorb moisture and become mushy more quickly that way), you should absolutely store them in the fridge if they are peeled, cut in half, or sliced.

Store peeled, halved, and sliced onions in airtight glass containers (plastic may absorb their smell) in the fridge; peeled onions will last about two weeks this way, and sliced onions will last for a week to 10 days. Cooked onions should also be stored in the fridge (airtight containers again, for the win) for three to five days.


How to Freeze Onions

Another handy trick for storing onions? Use your freezer!

You don't need to do much: Simply put raw, sliced onions into a freezer-safe zip-top bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, and pop it in the freezer; if you want to keep them from sticking, spread them out on a sheet-pan or shallow baking dish and freeze them for one to two hours before transferring to a container. They'll last in there for six months or more.

While we wouldn't recommend using your defrosted raw onions in dishes where they'll go uncooked (like guac or salads), they'll make an A+ addition to stews, braises, and sauces. You'll also want to avoid using this bunch for caramelizing, too, as they can become a bit watery after a stint in the freezer.

You can, however, make caramelized onions from a freshly cut onion and freeze those; keep your frozen caramelized onions in ice cube trays, muffin tins, zip-top bags, or an airtight container. Basically, the world is your onion.

How do you store onions? Tell us in the comments below!

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Erin Alexander is the Associate Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.

25 Comments

Mar May 25, 2020
The thought of cooking something that has been stored in pantyhose is kinda icky to me (if I even had any). And I’m not going to stand there and knot up pantyhose anyway. How about just a mesh bag?
For the tears - swim or ski googles and chew gum.
 
marianne P. May 24, 2020
Ok who has pantyhose’s anymore!
 
patti May 20, 2020
I know, I know, I know... don't store uncut onions in the fridge. I have tried all of the suggested methods and nothing works better for me than the fridge. They seem to last forever that way. Don't know why, based on what is recommended. Maybe I have "magic" refrigerators.
 
GuardianService May 21, 2020
I am in complete agreement, and would add that it solves the tearing-up issue as well. Bagged yellow onions can vary, but that's a grocery problem; red onions that I buy individually do really well. My primary fridge, which must know that I'm waiting for it to die, is 86 years old, so perhaps it too is "magic."
 
patti May 21, 2020
"GS" thanks for backing me up! Also I agree 100% about the tearing-up problem. In fact, I only take the onion out of the fridge just before cutting. For me, a warmer onion means there will be tears to shed.
 
DMStenlake May 24, 2020
Hey. We also store in fridge without any problems and now that you mention it, no tears! I didn’t put the coldness together with that!
 
A.S. May 19, 2020
Its pretty irresponsible to suggest wasting a pair of pantyhose every time you need to store a bundle of onions... if you are going to use that method, just untwist and remove an onion instead of cutting it off!
 
BakerMary May 24, 2020
Twit ties in between instead of knots!
 
Terri S. May 24, 2020
Maybe, like me, the writer has a large drawerful of pantyhose/tights that are no longer worn. I have so many and I never wear them anymore--I don't know what else to do with them, so this seems like a reasonable suggestion. I bet you could fit a LOT of onions into a single leg. :-D
 
ashley May 26, 2020
i agree with you, but if you have a pair that already has a hole in it, my local news had a doctor on that said tights could also be up cycled into filter layers for homemade masks!
 
A.S. May 26, 2020
Oops yes i realize my suggestion to “just untwist” is a bit odd and open ended, haha I was more focused on the waste than the method- but I think twist ties as suggested above, is a great re-usable idea! Anything that can keep them separate, just take the onions out of the top rather than the bottom!
 
A.S. May 26, 2020
Great idea!
 
A.S. May 26, 2020
Whoops! I thought I thought I could reply to individual comments.
 
Rosemary C. May 17, 2020
I have a small ceramic grease jar with lid that keeps diced onions for days and days in the fridge just like I chopped them a minute ago. Watch out when you take the lid off because the sulfur has accumulated over time and will knock you over.
 
Judith K. May 17, 2020
After I peel an onion and have left overs from the onion I wrap it in paper towel and place it in an air tight plastic bag. I have discovered all of my produce lasts longer if they are wrapped in a paper tower before they are put in plastic bags. This method has saved me from having lots of food spoil before it gets used.
 
Christine M. May 16, 2020
My husband way overbought onions last month. I made pickled onions! Super on burgers.
 
Britt M. May 20, 2020
Pickled onions sounds great!! I know I love regular pickles, so I am guessing I'd love this too! Thank you for this suggestion!
 
Erica M. May 14, 2020
You can indeed make caramelized onions successfully from frozen sliced onions. They'll be firmer if sliced pole to pole. They are watery because freezing breaks cell walls. In fact, onions cook faster directly from the freezer than freshly sliced, because the water is already released and just needs to evaporate. With freshly sliced, it takes more time for the heat to weaken the cell walls and cook off the water. In addition to freezing caramelized onions, when making a big pan of them (because you can never have too much!), I remove some onions at the point when they are lightly sauteed, and freeze them in small amounts. Often, the most time-consuming part of cooking a meal is prepping and sauteeing the onions. Pop a lump of frozen sauteed onions into your pan and in 2-3 minutes, it's ready for the rest of your ingredients. When making a big pan
 
Claudia T. May 14, 2020
Thanks for the tips!
I have one "stinky plastic container" - it's the reused container and lid from a plastic tub of Mae Ploy curry paste. I drew an onion on it with Sharpie. When I chop and onion and have like, half left over, it goes in that tub. Strong smelling leftovers go in there when I have them. That way only one plastic tub smells, not all of them.
 
cosmiccook May 24, 2020
As far as stinky containers, I routinely soak the few plastic I have in a LIGHT bleach & soap water mix for about 15 minutes. Cleans them up nicely and no orders are detected.
 
miriamnz May 13, 2020
Don’t store them with potatoes.
 
Stinky May 15, 2020
Because?
 
Fran M. May 15, 2020
Why? I always throw them together in a box
 
Debbie B. May 15, 2020
They both release moisture which makes them spoil faster. Put them in the same basket and your onions will sprout and potatoes grow eyes much faster.
 
Grace C. May 15, 2020
Onions release ethylene, which makes potatoes sprout. It's not just about moisture, otherwise there would be no difference between storing lots of potatoes together (fine), versus storing some potatoes with onions (potatoes sprouting, could be good if you want to grow potatoes). Google "onions potatoes sprout" and you'll get lots of info on this.