How to Store Onions (A Step-by-Step Guide)

onions in a well-ventilated wicker basket

Storing onions so they last longer isn’t as difficult as it might sound and in fact, once you become familiar with a few simple tips, you’ll be able to keep your onions around much longer from now on.

There are many different types of onions and they are a very versatile vegetable indeed, but onion storage tips are easy to learn and can help you enjoy these veggies a lot longer.

The best way to store onions often depends on how you want to use them later on, that is, whether raw in salads and sandwiches, or whether cooked in dishes.

Getting Started

If you’re growing your own onions, you’ll have to first know when to harvest onions before you start thinking about how to store them.

Harvesting onions at the right time is crucial, especially when they’re home-grown, and since onions can essentially be grown all year long, you’ll want to start storing your onions in the fall so that you can store them through the winter.

This usually means the onions you planted in March or so will be the ones being stored.

At this point, it’s worth noting that some types of onions handle storage a lot better than others, so if you know you’re going to store your onions, you might want to plant these in the first place.

These include: Ebenezer, yellow globe, yellow globe Danvers, downing yellow globe, copra, orbit, and early yellow globe.

White onions such as Southport white globe onions should only be stored if their necks are small, and red onions such as Wethersfield and Southport red globe onions are also great for storing.

When you harvest your onions, you’ll want to make sure you loosen the bulbs from the soil very gently, then spread them out away from direct sunlight and in an airy location.

This process, known as “curing”, allows the skins to harden, making storage of these veggies a lot more successful.

Storing Onions the Right Way

If they are good for storing in the first place and you store them properly, you can keep them fresh for six to eight months.

Related: How Long Do Onions Last?

How to store raw, unpeeled, whole onions

The following are some things to keep in mind when you’re interested in storing away your raw, unpeeled, whole onions for the winter or for a long time:

  • Leave the onions to dry for several weeks, and make sure the leaves stay intact.
  • When the leaves are completely dry, either braid the stems together or cut them to about one inch above where the bulb is.
  • Always keep onions in a place that is dark, cool, and very dry. Moisture causes the onions to sprout and rot quickly. If you find that one of your onions has started to sprout, especially if you cut into it and the center is green, just cut the sprout off and remove the green part, then use it like you normally would. 
  • A temperature of 40° to 55° Fahrenheit is ideal.
  • Where to store onions: If you’re looking for a great place to store your onions, try a dark and dry corner of your garage or a root cellar. Since most basements are damp, they are not an ideal place to store onions unless you use a de-humidifier and a moisture gauge to ensure that the place is dry enough for onion storage.
  • Stored onions must have ventilation to last longer.
  • For the perfect onion storage container, try a mesh bag or a wicker basket. You can also string the onions and hang the onion string. The video below shows how to string onions:

How to store onions from the garden

Onions planted in the garden can essentially be stored like onions from the grocery store.

The only difference is that the home-grown onions from the gardens must be “cured” first (as described above) before they are put away for long-term storage.

Additionally, home-grown onions have no chemicals that allow them to last longer, so you’ll have to store them as soon as possible after they are thoroughly dry.

To store onions from the garden for a lengthy period, the following precautions must be observed:

  • Select the onions that are firm and hard to touch. Soft onions should be kept aside for immediate use before they go completely bad.
  • Select the onions whose roots and stalks are dry and have a paper-like feel to touch.
  • The onions should not be bruised or sprouting.
  • Once selected, trim the stalk of the onions approximately one inch above the bulb, as well as shorten the roots
  • If the onions have dirt, hand brush the dirt away or remove the outer-most layer of the onion.
  • Store these onions as described above.

Different ways of storing raw, unpeeled, whole onions

Should raw, unpeeled, whole onions be refrigerated?

Raw, unpeeled, whole onions should not be refrigerated. This is because they will absorb the moisture in the fridge and will turn mushy and start to rot quickly.

How to store raw, peeled, whole onions

Unlike the unpeeled onions, peeled onions can be refrigerated. To store raw, peeled, whole onions, follow the procedure below:

  • Peel, wash and then wipe dry the onions.
  • Put the onions in a container and seal it with a lid.
  • Put the container in the fridge and use the onions within two weeks.

Peeled onions stored in the fridge will not cause one to tear up when chopping the onions.

How to store cut, sliced or chopped onions

chopped onions on a cutting board
chopped onions on wooden cutting board

Onions that have been diced should be stored using the following procedure:

  • Peel the onions and wash them.
  • Cut, dice or chop according to the desired size.
  • Put the chopped onions in a resealable or freezer bag or a container with a lid.
  • Store the onions in the fridge and use within 10 days of refrigerating.
  • Alternatively, if the chopped onions are a lot, you can store in several small resealable or freezer bags.
  • On the resealable/freezer bags, write the date on which the onions were stored.
  • Store in the freezer and use as and when needed. Frozen onions can last for six months.

It is important to note the following:

  • Frozen chopped onions should not be consumed raw as they have a high risk of harbouring bacteria.
  • Frozen chopped onions should not be thawed first before cooking, rather, they should be cooked directly without defrosting.
  • Onions should not be blanched before freezing.

How to store spring (green onions) or leeks

Whereas spring onions and leeks are different plants, they look similar and are stored in a similar manner.

difference between spring onion and leek
Spring onion vs. leek:

Spring onions should not be stored in a plastic bag because the moisture that will be retained will turn the spring onions soggy and slimy and the onions will go bad quickly.  

To store spring (green) onions in the fridge, use the following procedure:

  • Pat the spring onions dry with a kitchen towel or cloth. Do not wash the spring onions, only wash them when you want to use them.
  • Choose a container that is big enough to fit the spring onions. Alternatively, cut the spring onions into two so as to fit into the chosen container.
  • Lay a sheet of kitchen towel on the bottom of the container.
  • Place the spring onions and cover them with another sheet of kitchen towel.
  • Cover the container with a lid and keep in the fridge.
  • Use the stored spring onions within two weeks.

To store spring (green) onions in the freezer, use the following procedure:

  • Separate the white portions from the green portions.
  • Wash the white portions in water and keep them aside.
  • Cut them up into desired sizes.
  • Store the white portions in a resealable or freezer bag or an airtight container with lid. Make sure to remove air from the resealable/freezer bag and date-label the bags.
  • Put them in the freezer.
  • Wash the green portions and lay them on a flat surface to dry out. Alternatively dry them with a kitchen towel or cloth.
  • Once they are completely dry, remove the unwanted parts and cut the good parts into desired sizes.
  • Store them in a resealable or freezer bag or an airtight container, making sure to remove the air from the resealable/freezer bags. Date-label the bags.
  • Keep them in the freezer.
  • Frozen spring (green) onions can stay for months. Use them as and when desired.

Note: The white and green parts of the spring onions are stored separately because many recipes call for use either white or green parts of the spring onions, not both. However, you can store a batch of spring onions with both the white and green parts for recipes that require the use of both parts. 

How to store pickled onions 

pickled red onions in a mason jar
Pickled red onions

Pickling is a great (and tasty) way of storing onions especially if you have many onions that are about to go bad and you don’t know what to do with them.

Making pickled onions is easy. Check out this recipe for pickled red onions and try it out.

To store pickled onions:

  • Choose a heat-proof mason jar for keeping the pickled onions.
  • Once you’ve made the pickled onions, make sure they have cooled down to room temperature.
  • Cover the mason jar with its lid and keep in the fridge.
  • Use the pickled onions for two to three weeks.

Some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Storing Onions

Q: How do you store potatoes and onions?

A: You don’t. Both of those vegetables release moisture that can cause the other to ripen too quickly, so always store these two veggies separately.

Q: Can onions and garlic be stored together?

Yes. Both require the same storage conditions and can therefore be stored together.

Q: How long do onions last in storage?

A: If they’re dried and stored properly, they can last six to eight months.

Q: Do onions have to be in great shape before you store them?

A: Bad onions should not be stored but should be used as soon as possible. If you want to tell if an onion is bad, just look for signs such as a bad odour, soft spots, sprouts, any type of discolouration, and of course, any type of mold.

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