Caramelized, pickled, cured, sliced, diced, cooked, or raw, no matter how we like our onions, they’re an everyday staple we simply cannot do without. Countless savory recipes feature this popular ingredient to add punch and flavor to the dish.
Abundantly available and relatively inexpensive, onions have dominated people’s culinary lifestyle since prehistoric times. According to the University of Missouri's Integrated Pest Management, onion originated 5000 years ago in Central Asia and it is one of the most ancient sources of food.
Over the years, people have developed creative ways to preserve onions for longer, and we’ve got many of them right here for you.
A Few Interesting Facts About Onions
Before we share some tips and pointers on how to store onions, let’s spend a minute on some characteristics of this humble vegetable and what makes it a cornerstone of millions of tasty recipes.
There’s no denying that onions are quite hardy and grown across the world in varying climatic conditions. A good onion harvest can last months, depending on how they’re stored. It’s the longer shelf-life than most other vegetables that make onions so ubiquitous.
Come in a Wide Variety:
Yellow, red, white, sweet, green, and bite-sized shallots. There are several different types of onions that are cultivated around the world. While the white, red, and yellow varieties last for months, the sweet and green are softer with high moisture content, making them more prone to spoilage.
Pungent and Flavorful:
Like garlic, chives, and leeks, onions also belong to the allium family of pungent plants. Red onions, in particular, are the spiciest, crunchiest, and sharpest of the lot. Meanwhile, white and sweet onions are milder and sweeter in flavor.
Ideal Storage Conditions to Store Onions for a Long Time
Sweeter and softer varieties of onions like scallions, sweet onions, and spring onions are best kept refrigerated. However, the rule of thumb for storing whole onions is to keep them in a place that’s cool, dry, and dark. One of the main reasons that onions go bad is that they sprout. So, you need to keep whole onions from not sprouting and the best way to do that is store them in cellars, pantries, storerooms, or basements that do not get direct sunlight and moisture.
Dry: A spot with 40 to 45 F is perfect for protecting your onion stock. Damp and humid places can cause onions to absorb moisture and mold.
Well-Ventilated: Onions need to breathe to stay fresh. Keep them in mesh bags or perforated bins for steady airflow. Our mesh onion storage bags have been preferred by many customers.
Dark: When around light, onions tend to sprout, dramatically changing their flavor. It’s good to keep them somewhere away from direct sunlight.
Isolated: Sulfurous and pungent onions affect and get affected by other produce around them. You wouldn’t want sharp odors of onions to rub off on other veggies and fruits, would you? So make sure to keep onion away from other fresh vegetables.
How to Store Different Varieties and Forms of Onions
You might find only a limited variety at your neighborhood grocery store, but onions exist in a wide array of colors, shapes, and flavors. It’s a good idea to head to a local farmers’ market to witness different onion harvests in all their splendor.
Related Article: 15 Locally Grown Things to Buy at Farmers Market
The right way to store onions depends on their type or whether they are whole, peeled, cut, or cooked.
How to Store Shallots
Shallots are smaller, longer in size and shape than your average onion while being longer with a more mellow and sweeter flavor profile. The best way to store them whole is inside a mesh bag at a place that’s cool as well as dark. Make sure that there is enough ventilation.
If you are looking to store a peeled shallot then storing it in a small covered bowl inside the refrigerator is the best option.
How to Store Sweeet Onions
These are the softest of onions with a high moisture content making them more perishable than the rest. You’ll know them by the names of their popular varieties, including Vidalias, Walla Wallas, and Mauis.
Peeled sweet onions can be stored in the refrigerator in such a way that the bulbs don’t bruise against one another. You can wrap them separately in absorbent paper towels or flour sack towels and refrigerate them to make them last months.
Related Article: Our comprehensive guide on what are flour sack towels.
If they are unpeeled then they can be stored just like the shallots in a mesh bag with enough ventilation and away from direct sunlight or moisture.
How to Store Green Onions
Also known as scallions and spring onions, these onions are typically harvested young with a long green stem that packs as much flavor as the tiny bulbs.
Widely used in various cuisines, these long onions can be preserved unrefrigerated by keeping their roots intact and dipping them in a jar of water if you plan to use them within a couple of days of harvest or bringing it from store.
If you want to preserve them for longer, wrap them in paper towels, absorbent kitchen towel or a muslin produce bags and stash them in the veggie bin of your fridge.
How to Store Red or Yellow Onions
Quality of the onions plays a big role in how long they can be stored. When you buy red or yellow onion, make sure they are dry and firm.
When crisp and dry, these onions can easily last two to three months at room temperature in a mesh bag. Remember to follow the dry, dark, ventilated, and isolated rules while storing them. We recommend the cellar, basement, or a dark corner of your kitchen away from lighting.
How to Store Peeled Onions
Many of us like to peel onions before storing them to reduce ‘meal prep time. Peeled onions should always be refrigerated and not kept out in the open as they become susceptible to bacterial growth and spoilage. A stay in your fridge in an air-tight container can extend its shelf life for up to 10-14 days.
How to Store Cut Onions
If you’re looking for ways to preserve sliced, diced, and cut onions, look only towards your fridge or freezer. Stick to air-tight glass containers as it’ll become a task to eliminate the onion-y smell of the plastic ones. Refrigeration will make them consumable for up to a week.
However, if you want to use them several days later, consider freezing the onions in zip lock bags.
How to Store Cooked Onions
If you’ve cooked or caramelized a large batch of onions and wondering how to store them, you’ve come to the right place! For anything other than raw onions, the refrigerator is the right place. Here too, air-tight glass containers or zip lock bags should do the trick. Aim to consume your batch of sautéed or caramelized onions within five days.
How to Store Pickled Onions
If you have some time in hand, might we suggest trying to cure onions to preserve them for more days. A DIY jar of pickled onions is good to consume anywhere between two to four weeks. Store-bought jars or traditionally pickled onions, on the other hand, can last you at least six months in the refrigerator.
5 Clever Hacks to Keep Your Stock of Onions Fresh
When ideal storage conditions are paired with these brilliant time-tested ideas, your home garden harvested, farm-sourced or store-bought onions will stay fresh for longer than ever before!
1. Stick to Refrigerator Crisper Drawers
Refrigeration is a great way to make peeled, cut, or softer varieties of onions last longer. Sulfur-rich onions give off gases that might turn other raw or cooked items in the fridge rancid.
Inside closed and cold quarters of a refrigerator, it’s best to keep the onions separate, preferably in the veggie compartment or crisper at a low-humidity setting. While whole onions can be preserved outside of refrigerator, opened or peeled onions should be placed in an air-tight container before putting them in the crisper drawer.
2. Zip-lock and Freeze
A brilliant way to cut down meal prep time as well as make the onions last longer is to freeze them. But only after peeling or cutting them. All you need are onions, a knife, and a few thick zip-lock bags.
Go for bags made specifically for freezer storage to prevent the odor from spreading across the freezer. Peel and chop the onions before you bag them. Stack up the bags in the freezer, and voila! You’re sorted onion-wise for months!
3. Use Mesh Produce Bags
Nothing beats mesh bags when it comes to storing unpeeled onions, whether at room temperature or inside a refrigerator. We’ve mentioned the importance of good airflow for onions to stay fresh. Mesh bags help with that.
Mesh onion storage bags from 100% organic cotton are airy, washable, and reusable. They are multi-purpose too, perfect for shopping to storing onions or any other produce.
4. Use Perforated Baskets or Containers
If you want to allocate a well-ventilated container to store your onions on the kitchen counter or any nook of your home, rely only on perforated bins or baskets. These are durable, airy, reusable, and keep the produce dry. Make sure to spread out the onions well before placing them in these bins.
5. Use a Clean Pantyhose
We did say we’ll be sharing some hacks to store onions, one of which is a pantyhose! A pantyhose mimic a mesh bag by letting the onions breathe. You can go for a used and washed pantyhose or a new one. Take a pair of scissors and snip off the top portion of the stockings. Then push onions down right to the toe end, seal it with a knot, and repeat the steps every time you throw in an onion.
While the texture of the pantyhose will keep the onions ventilated, the knots keep them from bruising each other. Store the stock at 40-45 F to make them last for many months.
Thanks to their perfect balance of sharpness and sweetness, onions have become the bedrock of infinite recipes.
Not just tasty, onions are incredibly healthy too, bringing anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and antioxidant goodness to those who consume them. Naturally, we love keeping a generous stock of this versatile produce, but it’s equally important to store them carefully to avoid spoilage and wastage.
We hope our blog has helped you with all the tips and hacks you’ll need to preserve the freshness of the onions for a long, long time.