How to Cut Onions

how to cut onions

Onions are a must in pretty much everything that is cooked in our kitchen, so cutting them efficiently is a high priority.

For a long time, I had been doing it wrong. To paint you a small picture of what this meant, imagine a horribly mismatched WWE-style showdown between me with a knife and a sad-looking bulb. By the time I’d finished hacking away at it, the onion had basically collapsed in on itself, with flakey skin everywhere, onion layers falling apart, and pieces of all different sizes.

Oh, and probably I was crying with mascara covering 90% of my face because I couldn’t locate my Speedo goggles to protect my eyes from the onion aromas.

But there is a right way to cut an onion and it will probably change your life! Super quick and easy to master. Here, we’re talking about how to do three popular onion cuts: rings, chopped, and sliced. 

onion rings, diced onion, sliced onion

But first, a quick onion anatomy lesson.

onion anatomy 101

Here is an onion. (hi, onion). It has a flakey outer layer that you do not want to eat. Inside the outer flakiness are layers of crunchy onion that will give you sort of bad breath while making your food taste so good!

Also important to note are the root and stem ends.

this is the root end

This is the root end. Easy to identify by all those root scraggles. It serves the vital purpose of holding your onion together while you’re cutting it, and giving you some real estate to hold on to while you slice and dice.

this is the stem end

Here’s the stem end. No matter how you are cutting your onion, the first step is always to cut off the stem end. It doesn’t hold the onion together, so we can lob it off.

Onion Rings

sliced onion rings

Onion Rings: Good for burgers, other sandwiches, and – of course – onion rings!

lob off the stem end

To get sliced rings out of your onion, first you will want to cut off the stem end. 

make a small nick through the outermost onion layer

Then, right where the stem end used to be, make a small slice through the corner of the outermost layer of onion, just enough to get your finger under it. Peel that layer off, making sure to leave the root.

peel off the outermost layer of onion

Now you have a peeled onion with the root still intact! Hold the root end and slice the onion vertically into rings.

hold onto the root and slice into rings

Since the root is intact, you can slice up your whole onion. It won’t fall apart in the process, and you will have something to hold on to. These are the things adults get excited about!

Chopped Onion

how to chop an onion

Chopped onion: This is the cut I do almost daily. It’s good for soups, stews, sauces – basically anything that is cooked and has onions in it. If you’re needing diced onion (good for eating raw onion, like on taco toppings, pasta salads, chili, etc.), you’ll use the same method but make all of your slices closer together.

slice off the stem end

Begin by slicing off the stem end. 

Then, place your onion sliced-side down so the root is facing up. Cut the onion in half straight through the root. 

cut onion in half through the root

Peel off the outermost layer of both onion halves, keeping the root intact.

place onion halves cut-side down

Place the onion halves face-down on your cutting board, with the root facing away from you. Make vertical slices toward the root, but be careful not to cut all the way through the back of the onion. 

make slices toward the root, being careful not to cut all the way through

(Also important to note that this is where you’ll determine what size onion pieces you want. For chopped onion, make your slices about 1/2-inch apart. For diced onion, they should be closer to 1/4-inch apart.)

turn your onion halves 90 degrees

Then, keeping the onion face-down, turn it 90 degrees so the root end is in your non-knife hand and the end where the stem used to be is toward the knife. Hold onto the root while you make vertical cuts all the way down the onion until all that’s left is the root. You want these cuts to be the same size as in the previous step.

and continue cutting

Sliced Onion

how to slice onion

Sliced onion: Good for sandwiches, fajitas, stir fried vegetables, and salads.

Lob off the stem end of your onion and discard. 

cut off the stem and root ends

Lob off the root end of your onion and discard. (The only time we do this! It always feels exciting to me.)

cut the onion in half

Stand the onion up and cut in half from root end to stem end.

peel off the outermost layer

Peel off the outermost layer of each half.

Place halves face-down and slice vertically.

place onion halves cut-side down and slice vertically

Next we need to figure out how to not cry when cutting onions. There are a lot of wild tips out there – chewing gum, having super sharp knives, rinsing your onions, holding your breath, closing your eyes. No, wait. I made that last one up and please don’t do it. My best tip is to swallow your pride and get your swim goggles out. But surely there is a better idea out there than this. TELL ME IF YOU HAVE A GOOD ONE.

how to cut onions

2 thoughts on “How to Cut Onions

  1. This blog post is amazingly helpful to me!!! My MILK once told me she presses her tongue against the roof of her mouth to keep the aroma from affecting her too strongly. Not sure if it works for everyone, but it helps her!

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