How To Store Onions Properly

How To Store Onions Properly
Photo by Furkan EROĞLU on

Onions are a staple in many kitchens around the world, but storing them properly can be a bit of a challenge. If you’ve ever found yourself with sprouting or moldy onions, this guide is for you. Here’s how to keep your onions fresh and ready to use.

Understanding Onions

Before we dive into storage methods, it’s important to understand that onions release a gas called ethylene as they ripen. This gas can accelerate the ripening process of other produce, so it’s crucial to store onions separately from other fruits and vegetables.

Ideal Conditions for Storing Onions

Cool, Dark, and Dry: Onions last the longest in environments that are cool, dark, and dry. A pantry, cellar, or a dark cabinet away from heat sources is ideal. The temperature should be between 45-55°F (7-13°C).

Ventilation is Key: Good airflow is essential to prevent mold and rot. Store onions in a mesh bag, a wire basket, or any container that allows air circulation.

Separate from Potatoes: While it might seem convenient to store onions and potatoes together, doing so can cause both to spoil faster. Potatoes emit moisture and gases that can cause onions to rot.

Short-Term Storage

If you’re planning to use onions within a few weeks, keeping them in the mesh bag they came in is sufficient. Place them in a cool, dry spot away from direct sunlight.

Long-Term Storage

For long-term storage, consider braiding the onions’ stems and hanging them. Alternatively, you can store them in a basket lined with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture.


Generally, whole onions should not be stored in the refrigerator. However, if you have a cut onion, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to a week.


Onions can be frozen, but they should be used only in cooked dishes as freezing changes their texture. Chop or slice the onions, place them on a baking sheet to freeze individually, and then transfer them to a freezer bag or container.

Handling Sprouted Onions

If your onion has sprouted, it’s still usable. The sprouts can be bitter, so remove them before using the onion. The rest of the onion can be used as normal, though it may have a milder flavor.

Is It Proper To Store Onions In The Fridge?

Storing whole onions in the refrigerator is not recommended. The cold, humid environment inside a fridge can cause onions to become mushy and spoil faster due to the moisture. Onions are best stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated space to maintain their freshness.

However, if you have a partially used onion, refrigeration can help preserve it. Here’s how to do it properly:

  1. Wrap Tightly: Place the cut onion in a plastic wrap or a resealable plastic bag to limit its exposure to air.
  2. Use an Airtight Container: Alternatively, you can store the cut onion in an airtight container to prevent it from absorbing odors from other foods in the fridge.
  3. Consume Quickly: Try to use the refrigerated onion within a few days to ensure the best quality and flavor.

Remember, once an onion is refrigerated, it should stay refrigerated until you’re ready to use it. Shifting it back and forth between cold and room temperatures can accelerate spoilage.

For those who prefer to prepare onions in advance, freezing is a viable option. Chopped or sliced onions can be frozen and used directly in cooked dishes, although they may not be suitable for raw applications due to texture changes after thawing.

In summary, while whole onions should stay out of the fridge, cut onions can be refrigerated with proper care to extend their usability.

How Do I Know If An Onion Is Bad?

Determining whether an onion has gone bad is important to ensure the quality and safety of your dishes. Here are some signs that an onion is no longer good to use:

Soft Spots: A fresh onion should feel firm all around. If you find soft or mushy spots, it’s a sign that the onion is starting to rot.

Discoloration: Look for any unusual dark, brown, or black spots on the onion’s skin or flesh. These could indicate mold or bacterial growth.

Off Smell: Onions have a characteristic smell, but if you notice an off or sour odor, it’s best to discard the onion.

Sprouting: While sprouting onions can still be used (by removing the bitter sprouts), extensive sprouting suggests the onion is past its prime.

Mold: Any visible mold, especially around the neck of the onion, means it should not be consumed.

Texture Changes: If the onion’s layers have become slimy or slippery, this is a clear sign of decay.

If you encounter any of these signs, it’s best to err on the side of caution and throw the onion away. Consuming spoiled onions can lead to foodborne illness. Always inspect onions before use, and when in doubt, do not consume them.

Proper storage of onions can extend their shelf life and reduce waste. By following these tips, you can ensure that your onions remain fresh and flavorful for as long as possible. Remember, the key to onion storage is keeping them cool, dry, and well-ventilated. Happy cooking!

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