How to Store Onions

It’s really difficult to think of a life without onions: and we’re not just saying that because we’re based in Poland! Onions are used in many recipes across the world. Chances are they’re on your shopping list more weeks than not. But once you buy them, do you know how to store onions optimally?

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how to store onions - overviewOverview

Even if you’re not aware of it, onions have pretty much been omnipresent. Originating from central Asia, they have been known to be used in prehistoric diets, revered by ancient Egyptians, and used as currency by Medieval Europeans.

But what’s the best method for storing onions? If you’re curious about how to store onions, or how to prolong their shelf life, then read our guide below.

how to store onions - how to storeHow to Store Onions

Can Onions be Kept in the Pantry?

Whole onions – the best way to increase the shelf life and keep onions fresh is to store them whole. Place them in a well ventilated cool dark place: between 40-50f (4-10c). Onions will start to sprout and rot if exposed to too much moisture and light.

You can store them by tying their stalks to rope or string and hanging them. You can even put onions in plastic mesh tubing or old tights/pantyhose. Once, placed in these, tie a knot around each individual onion to allow the maximum amount of cool air to flow around each of them.

Do not keep them in a plastic bag as this is not breathable. Doing so will cause moisture to gather in the bag and speed up the rotting process. Alternatively, you can keep them in a woven basket.

Onions will last longer in climates or seasons that are cool and dry, due to the lack of moisture in the air. So, expect onions to have a shorter shelf life in the summer than they do in the winter, even when storing them optimally.

Half an onion – once cut, onions will start to decay quickly. Therefore, they’re not suitable for storing in the pantry and they should be stored in a refrigerator instead (see below).

Chopped/sliced onions – these should also be stored in a refrigerator (see below).

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how to store onions - fridgeCan Onions be Kept in the Refrigerator?

Whole onions – it is not at all recommended to store whole onions in the refrigerator. This is because the air inside the fridge is very moist, causing them to rot quicker. Instead, they should be stored in a dark and cool dry place to make them last the longest, such as a pantry (see above).

Half an onion – place the half an onion cut-side down and wrap it tightly in clingfilm/plastic wrap or place it in an airtight plastic storage container or plastic zipper bag. This will make sure the onion doesn’t dry out, and also prevent oxygen and additional moisture getting to it.

It is not recommended to use the half an onion raw, such as in a salad or salsa, after storing it in the fridge. They should only be used in cooked dishes.

Chopped/sliced onions – do not wrap these in clingfilm/plastic wrap as it will be difficult to create an airtight seal around the onions. Therefore, we highly recommend a plastic storage container or a plastic zipper bag.

how to store onions - freezerCan Onions be Kept in the Freezer?

Whole onions – these shouldn’t be frozen as the defrosting process will cause the cell structure to break down making them mushy. This will make it difficult to slice or chop.

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Half an onion – like a whole onion, the defrosting process will mean the remaining half will be very difficult to prepare as it will be very soft after defrosting.

Chopped/sliced onions – this is perhaps the best way to store prepared onions as it increases their shelf life the longest. What’s more, it can save a lot of time during cooking as it’s possible to use the prepared onions straight out of the freezer and in the pan without defrosting them.

Store them in a plastic zipper bag or plastic storage container. When placing the prepared onions inside of these, be sure to spread them out as evenly as possible. This means that when you come to use them they’ll defrost quicker, or cook more evenly when cooking them without defrosting.

How long do onions last?

Pantry Refrigerator Freezer
Whole onions expire in… 1-6 months

(depending on climate and season)

Half an onion expires in… 6-10 days
Chopped/Sliced onions expire in… 6-10 days 6-8 months

how to store onions - gone badHow to Tell When Onions Have Gone Bad

Look – whole onions that have gone bad may develop dark spots on their outer layer which will begin to grow mold. Furthermore, they will also start sprouting green shoots from the top. As for half, chopped, or sliced onions, you might see mold develop on them. This looks like thin white hairs.

Feel – whole onions should be smooth and firm. If they have soft areas it means they have begun to go bad. For a half, chopped, or sliced onions, they will have gone bad if they have a slimy texture to them.

Smell – onions that are starting to rot will also start to smell bad. Whilst many people find onions already have an unpleasant smell, anything that doesn’t smell like onions, or smells even worse, means that they’ve gone bad.

Now that you know how to store onions, you might want to check out how to store other products by checking out our “How to Store…” section.

Do you store your onions differently? Are there any storage methods that surprised you? Do you regularly freeze chopped onions? Let us know in the comments.

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