How to Store Onions and Keep Them Fresh

How to store onions (bulb onions) in a ventilated basket

Onions are great to add to a variety of meals to increase flavor and enhance the taste. Whether you grow onions or buy them from the grocery store, it’s important to know how to store onions properly so they last. When stored properly, some onions can last for months. Even onion types with the highest moisture content can stay fresh for weeks if they’re stored the right way. Use these storage tips to help extend the shelf life of your onions.

Storing Sweet Onions

While some onions last for months, sweet onions have a high moisture content. This means they’re more likely to spoil quickly because they’re prone to mold and sprouting. If you know you won’t be using sweet onions quickly, make a short-term plan on how to store them. Wrap each one in a paper towel and store them in the refrigerator. Sweet onions will only keep a few weeks with this method, so plan to use them soon.

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Storing Dry Bulb Onions

Those strong onions that you harvest late in the fall have the potential to last for months when you keep them in a dark, dry place. In fact, the compound that makes you cry when you cut onions helps preserve them. Bulb onions have the longest shelf life of all onions and are the best type to grow for storage or buy in bulk. Like potatoes and some other root vegetables, onions should be stored in a cool, dry place. Onions also need ample ventilation, so it’s important to avoid leaving them in plastic bags.

Clean pantyhose provide the perfect storage container for dry bulb onions. Cut off the legs of a pair of pantyhose. Drop an onion into the foot of one of the legs and tie a knot to secure it in place. Keep adding onions and tying knots until both legs are full. Using this tactic with a mesh bag or netting works similarly. Hang the pantyhose in a cool, dry place for storage that lasts up to 8 months. When you need an onion, cut a slit in one of the tied-off sections.

Pro Tip for How to Store Onions

Don’t store onions near other produce. Other fruits and vegetables can absorb the flavor.

Storing Cut Onions

If you’ve been cooking more than usual, you may find the need to store leftover onions. Most recipes call for cut or diced onions. However, it’s common to only use part of an onion, or less than you expected. Even when you slice onions for onion rings, they stack up quickly. In the past, it was a common idea that cut onions are a magnet for bacteria. This isn’t true. It’s perfectly safe to store cut onions as long as you put them in the fridge in an airtight container. Whether your onion leftovers are sliced, diced, or cut in half, you simply need to place them in a sealed container and put them in the refrigerator. Diced and sliced onions last seven to ten days in the fridge. Whole onions last 10-14 days when refrigerated.

Pro Tip for How to Store Onions

Cooked onions need to be stored in the refrigerator, as well. They can be stored for up to five days in a sealed container.

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Storing Green Onions

Storing spring onions in water to keep them fresh

Scallions, or green onions, are used in a variety of recipes, but it’s often difficult to use them all at once. Keeping green onions fresh can be even more difficult than other onion types. Unfortunately, the green part can quickly grow limp and slimy if it’s not stored correctly. Instead of storing scallions in the package you purchased them in, try one of these methods.

Store Them in a Jar

Like most onions, green onions don’t necessarily need to be stored in the refrigerator. Instead, place them in a heavy-bottomed jar that’s tall enough to keep the stalks from flopping over. Add just enough cold or room temperature water to cover the roots (an inch or two) and place the jar on your window sill. Add water or change the water every few days as needed.

Place Them in the Refrigerator

If you don’t have a suitable window sill for your scallions, you can put them far in the refrigerator. If you use this method, then place a plastic bag over the green tips to keep humidity in. The bag doesn’t need to be sealed tightly, but it should be cinched tightly enough to keep moisture in. This can be accomplished with a partly sealed Ziploc bag or a rubber band place where the bag meets the top of the jar.

Use a Damp Paper Towel

Since a jar can be easily knocked over, a paper towel can provide a suitable replacement. Dampen (don’t soak) the paper towel and wrap the green onions. Place the wrapped onions in a plastic bag or storage container to preserve moisture. It’s not necessary for the bag to be sealed tight, but you need to dampen the paper towel when it begins to dry out.

Can I Freeze Onions for Storage?

Yes. However, frozen onions won’t thaw with the same texture as raw onions, so they’re best used in recipes that call for cooked onions.

If you want to learn how to store onions by freezing them, peel and cut them first. The freezing process will cause onions to lose their firm texture, so cutting them after thawing would be difficult. Determine how your onions will be used, then cut, slice, or dice them accordingly. To freeze them, spread the cut or chopped onions in a single layer on a baking sheet and flash freeze them. Once frozen, place onions in a freezer bag, eliminate the excess air, and seal it.

Other long term storage options for onions include dehydration and even canning or pickling.

Pro Tip for How to Store Onions

If you have an abundance of onions to freeze, work in batches. Onions have a strong odor while freezing, and the foods in your fridge and freezer are likely to absorb the smell and taste if you work for long periods of time. Once frozen, however, the onions will lose their overpowering smell.

How to Know When You Should Throw Out Onions

Storing onions for as long as possible makes perfect sense. Buying in bulk and growing your own onions can also help you save money. However, you need to know when they’re no longer safe. It’s important to check on your onions frequently, even when they’re in a dry, dark place. When one becomes spoiled, it can contaminate the surrounding ones and spoil the whole bunch (just like apples). So, how can you tell your onions are going bad?

Discoloration is one of the first signs your onions are spoiled. Look for brown, gray, or black spots. Fuzzy growths are also a bad sign. These spots are mold growth. Luckily, this is easy to see and the most common type of spoilage in onions. A different type of spoilage causes the appearance of slime and your onions to grow soft and mushy. Microorganisms cause this. Discard onions that show signs of spoilage.

Choosing Onions That Store Well

Many cooks enjoy growing onions or buy them in bulk so that they’ll always be available. It’s no wonder, as onions seem to work with practically anything and it’s easy to keep them on hand once you know how to store onions. You can enjoy them in salads, stirfry, mixed veggies, and a variety of soups and stews. While it’s true that properly stored onions can last for months, not all onions have the same storage properties. If you plan to buy onions in bulk or grow them for winter storage, look for these types:

Yellow Onions

  • Bridger
  • Copeland
  • Copra
  • Ebenezer
  • Patterson
  • Pontiac
  • Stuttgarter
  • Sweet Sandwich
  • Talon
  • Yellow Globe
  • Yellow Sweet Spanish

Red Onions

  • Red Bull
  • Creole
  • Burgermaster
  • Red Wind
  • Wethersfield
  • Red Zeppelin

White Onions

  • Southport White Globe
  • Stuttgarter Heirloom
  • White Sweet Spanish

Onions are a favorite vegetable that enhances a variety of dishes. Since they store well, buying in bulk and growing onions is a great solution for having your favorite foods on hand all the time and save money. Taking the time to learn about the types of onions and how to store onions properly can help you with this process. Whether you freeze, refrigerate, or dry store your onions, keep them on hand to create all your favorite meals.

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