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).

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!
Grab your copy

It's here: Our game-changing guide to everyone's favorite room in the house. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks—from our community, test kitchen, and cooks we love—to help transform your space into its best self.

Grab your copy

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • desperatedogmom
  • Tone2442
  • Deirdre A Murr
    Deirdre A Murr
  • dean habowski
    dean habowski
  • fxdp
Erin Alexander

Written by: Erin Alexander

Erin Alexander is the Managing Editor of Food52.


desperatedogmom January 30, 2024
My pet peeve is the smell of cut onions getting into my ice in the freezer. How it transfers from the fridge to the freezer I do not know, but it happens. My sister-in-law who’s a chef told me years ago to wrap the cut onion in foil first, then place in a ziplock baggy. I never had oniony ice again!
I can’t wait to try the panty hose system for my whole onions!
Tone2442 January 30, 2024
I store my onions in vegetable bin in garage refrigerator and they have lasted a couple of months
Deirdre A. January 30, 2024
I live the Pacific Northwest of the US. As I have lived all over the US, I have noticed that some parts of the world, onions are dried differently -- or should I say they have vastly difference moisture content. Living in Southern California, I could keep onions for several months before they rotted. Here in the PNW, the onions seem to be much "fresher" in the stores and rot much more quickly. I store my onions in a kitchen drawer away from light and moisture. Any ideas on making them last longer?
P. S. Love the idea about freezing raw onions. I always seem to have a half onion floating around on the counter.
dean H. January 30, 2024
A peel onion,
B cut off what you need,
C toss onion in a ziploc sandwich bag,
D toss in fridge,
E use as desired,
E toss ziploc bag when you use the last of the onion.
Don't know how long they may last this way but here an onion rarely sticks around more than a week anyway.
A.S. January 30, 2024
This is insanely wasteful.
A.S. January 30, 2024
I'm just wondering if it's really that difficult to just wash a re-useable container.
dean H. January 30, 2024
One sandwich bag a week insanely wasteful, dost thou exaggerate just a wee bit? What would two to four per day per child for school lunch be, an apocalypse?
A.S. January 30, 2024
Antonella L. February 3, 2024
I cannot find any solution to remove the smell of onion in my non glass containers. Glass is fine.
fxdp May 24, 2023
I’ve always stored half onions peeled and tightly wrapped in plastic wrap (stretch-tite preferred). They last for weeks. Sliced onions last well on a plate covered tightly with plastic wrap. Chopped onions do well in a full ramekin covered with plastic wrap.
fxdp May 24, 2023
I should add to all the above: in the refrigerator.
IslandGirl May 24, 2023
The Royal Horticultural Society says to store whole onions in a cool, light (but no direct sunlight) place with good air circulation. According to the RHS, storing onions in the dark or in direct sunlight will cause them to sprout faster.
Lmmallard May 24, 2023
We've been storing onions in panty hose since I was a kid! I thought everyone did this. When you can only get Vidalias one time a year that's the best way to ensure you can have them all year long!
Teddee G. May 24, 2023
The person who comes up with a way to store produce that shouldn't be put in the refrigerator in a one-room apartment with no cool, dry location will become a millionaire!
DonnaC November 18, 2022
I have always stored a half of an onion with the peel on and wrapped air tight. However, my husband says I should peel it before I store it, mainly so he won't have to do it himself later. Which way is best?
J December 29, 2020
No! Don’t freeze your raw onions! We all have tiny freezers, yes? One quart of raw onions—sliced, minced, or chopped—melts into less than one cup of sauteed onions. So definitely freeze your onions—just cook them first and then freeze them in small onion-sized containers. I happen to love to saute my onions for an hour or more. Or, even better, caramelize them! Make it frozen mirepoix if you’re so inclined. Quick weeknight dinner? Just pull a container out of my freezer and I’m good to go.
Maia B. July 22, 2020
I don't have a cool dark space with air flow near my kitchen. What then?
Joni July 29, 2021
June June 9, 2020
I'm cooking for one most of the time so am always interested in ways to make food, especially produce, last as long as possible. I buy onions in three-pound bags and store them in a mesh basket in a dark cabinet. A year or so ago, I actually read the storage instructions on the bag: wrap individually in tissue paper, then, of course, store in cool, dark, well-ventilated space. I've had only one onion turn mushy since using this method. The tissue paper is re-usable. I'd also read, years ago, to leave the outer husky parts (not to tell off and discard until ready to use) and to store away from potatoes. Don't remember why, tho ; ) ...
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!
Sandi H. June 7, 2020
Women in the business world. It is still expected in high positions. Also, your leg looks better!
marianne P. June 7, 2020
Expected by who?
Charlene V. January 30, 2024
SMM January 30, 2024
Not only that - but where can you even buy pantyhose anymore? Needed some for a wedding and it took me awhile to find any!
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!
Christina January 25, 2021
Yep, I’m another onions in the magic fridge success story. We get ours from a farmer friend and he stores his in his unheated cellar. Works for us!
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.
Sandi H. June 7, 2020
You can knot at end of onions. Think! How many uses of panty hose? Use over a bowl for garbage.
Mary-Ann May 24, 2023
Did not mean to accidentally flag your comment
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