Onions are truly essential in the kitchen. I am yet to meet anyone who does not use an onion in one way or another.
Onions come in three unique colors, white, yellow and red. There are also different variations of onions in terms of size, flavor and appearance. Common types include shallots, leek, spring onions and bulb onions.
They offer nutritious benefits as they contain substantial amounts of vitamins, antioxidants as well as minerals.
In order to reap maximum benefits from an onion, it is imperative to know their shelf life. This will facilitate effective storage conditions to prevent spoilage.
What is an Onion’s Shelf Life?
Unpeeled whole onions are best left in the pantry. Fresh, peeled and whole onions can keep well in the pantry for up to 3 months.
For peeled, cut or sliced onions, refrigerate them in seal-able bags. They will keep well for 10 days at most. You can also freeze peeled, cut or sliced onions for long-term use.
When properly frozen, onions will last for up to 8 months.
How Best to Store Onions
In general, onions keep well in dry, well-ventilated and cool conditions. Onions do not do well in moist, humid conditions as they will sprout and rot quickly.
Suitable places for storing onions are the pantry, counter, root cellar or placed in meshed bags and hung outside in garages or basement.
Once in a while, you can aerate them by spreading them on a tray to dry out in the sun for a few hours.
Related post: How to Store Onions (A Step-by-Step Guide)
For long-term storage, you can effectively prolong the shelf life of onions by storing them in the following ways:
Pickling is an ancient method used to preserve food items by prolonging their shelf life. It entails immersing items in brine or vinegar.
Pickling onions involves a few common ingredients which include water, vinegar (white), sweetener like honey or sugar and salt.
The liquid ingredients are brought to a boil first before pouring over the onions. You can personalize your recipe by adding spices like chilli flakes.
The best onions for pickling are the red ones due to their strong, pungent flavor. However, there is nothing wrong with pickling other types.
Before pickling onions, peel and wash thoroughly. You can pickle onions when whole, sliced, halved, diced or segmented into wedges.
Ensure you use sterilized containers to prevent contamination. Leave the onions to pickle at room temperature for a few hours so that all the flavors are absorbed.
Pickled onions are best stored in the refrigerator if not in use.
Dehydrating food items is effective for prolonging their shelf life. Drying onions is a refreshing way of utilizing onions in other forms without losing the pungency and tangy flavor.
You can dry onions by using a dehydrator or outside where there is enough sunlight.
Dehydrating onions have to be peeled first and sliced into small sizes. This enables the onions to be evenly dried.
Before storing, ensure the slices are well dried to prevent growth of mold. Store in airtight containers.
Dried onions are best stored in dry, aerated conditions, away from direct sunlight. Keep checking the containers for any sign of moisture.
You can leave the dried onions in slices or go a step further by grinding into powder or crashing the slices with your hands to make onion flakes. You can also re-hydrate dried onions by simply soaking them in lukewarm water for several minutes.
Be rest assured that dried onions will serve you for several months. The only downside to dried onions is the loss of flavor after some time.
Onions preserved in oil
Another clever trick of increasing the shelf life of onions is to pack them in oil. This preservation technique is common in the Mediterranean regions.
Oil preserved onions are mainly for short-term use, but you will still enjoy the onions in their full flavor.
The most common oil used is olive oil mainly because it is a staple in the region compared to other oils. Olive oil seals the onions thus preventing any air, moisture or contaminants from penetrating into the onions, causing spoilage.
The secret to successful oil preserved onions is to heat the oil first, without smoking it. Pour the heated oil over the lined onion slices and allow it to cool.
Store in airtight containers and use them up within a week.
Quite an unfamiliar term, but braiding onions is a fairly ancient storage technique. It entails plaiting the stalks of several onions together and hanging them in a well ventilated, dark area.
In case you need to use them regularly, hang them in a nearby location such as your kitchen.
When braiding, use onions that are already cured and slightly dried, but still pliable. Also use solid, uniformly sized onions for each braid so that they dry evenly and balance out well.
Braided onions are wonderful to look at, it is only the pungent smell that you will have to contend with.
The traditional way of canning involves arranging foods in jars and heating them to a high temperature which destroys any microorganisms.
The usual equipment used in canning include seal-able mason jars, canners such as hot water bath or pressure canner.
Before canning, you need to be aware that not all food items are suitable for the hot water canner, due to the acid level in each food.
High acidic food items are best suited for the hot water canner. On the other hand, low acidic food items have to be pressure canned to ensure the vigorous pressure destroys any bacteria which would otherwise multiply fast.
Onions are low acidic, thus you have to be careful when canning at home. It is advisable to follow recipes from accredited bodies to prevent any fatalities from ingesting bacteria-laden canned foods.
Nevertheless, a simple canning procedure involves boiling sliced onions in water until they become translucent. The onions are then transferred into canning jars before adding salt and the boiling liquid. The items are mixed well before loosely sealing the jars and placing in the canner for processing.
Canned onions are best stored in the refrigerator or in dark, cool area.
Freezing is a quick and simple method of preserving foods.
When freezing onions, slice or chop them into chunks first. Pat them using paper towel before transferring in plastic bags or airtight containers. Squeeze out any air from the bags to prevent rotting.
Portion the onions into amounts you will use each time.
Frozen onions can keep well if the temperatures are maintained at zero degrees. They will last for up to 8 months.
Do Onions Go Bad? How to Identify Onion Spoilage
Onions will rot at some point. You can identify spoiled onions in the following ways:
- Soft and slimy texture – Fresh onions have a firm texture. When onions start to spoil, the flesh tends to become soft, sticky and slimy, especially for peeled and cut onions.
- Sour odor – Onions already have a pungent smell, so how will you know a spoiled one by its smell? Spoiled onions will give off a different smell than the usual one.
- Discolouration – Any signs of discolouration on the flesh can indicate spoilage. Darkened brown patches is a red flag.
Final Thoughts on “How Long do Onions Last?”
Onion is a staple ingredient in many households. This can cause people to overlook it and take it for granted, even during storage. However, you can enjoy onions all year round by properly storing it.
In case your onions go bad even after taking great care in storing them properly, you may consider throwing them in a compost bin (in case you have one) instead of throwing them away. Composting fruits and vegetables is a great way of making good use of kitchen waste while at the same time reducing the amount of waste your household produces.