Although I do appreciate a beautiful cathartic cry every once in a while, onion tears aren’t that; they are painful. They sting and burn, and to make matters worse, you’re holding a very sharp knife, so don’t you dare rub your eyes. It doesn’t matter if you slice, dice or chop, everything hurts. When fresh onions are cut, they release sulfuric gas that brings tears to your face. the older the onion, the stronger the gas, and therefore, the more grief you will have. There are many old wives’ tales on how to stop crying while chopping onions and only some of them work.
No one wants to drag time chopping onions, that’s why it pains me to tell you that you have to chop the whole dang onion. Seriously. Chopping and freezing whole onions will extend the life of fresh onions, rather than cutting and using only what you need. Plus, you’ll get a head start on meal prep and save time and money (eliminating food waste is always a win).
If you’re caramelizing a casserole, frying rings, or trying one of your other favorite onion recipes, it makes sense. But even if you only need a handful to season your frittata or add a wink to your salad, you should still get through it. Because those of us who threw the unused onion half in the crisper know it’s just in purgatory before it goes in the trash.
But you should cut the whole onion, use what you need, and freeze the rest in a Ziploc bag. Yes, you heard right. You can freeze chopped onions!
You don’t have to do anything special to freeze onions: just throw the leftovers in an airtight bag suitable for the freezer, flatten it into a single layer and extract every last molecule of air . If you’re really worried about your onions sticking together, you can freeze them for about two hours in a single layer on a shallow baking sheet before transferring them to a container. This will prevent the chopped onion from forming clumps, making it easier to cook and reincorporate into whatever you cook next. Like most frozen vegetables, raw onions will last 6 months or more in the freezer – just be sure to label and date them so you don’t forget them!
I started freezing onions years ago when I overestimated how quickly I could squeeze through an extra large bag of Vidalias. I complained to my mom about how the strong, sweet smell flavored my kitchen and living room, and she suggested I slice them up and store them in the freezer. It blew my mind and since then I’ve always had a stash on hand for stir fries, soups and stews, or chili.
Now, if you want to enjoy raw onions (like in a salad or guacamole), freezing is prohibited. Also, thawed onions can get some water, so it’s best not to rely on them to caramelize. The extra moisture content will keep them from getting super sweet and golden. Frozen onions are best suited for casseroles, like braises or sauces, or recipes that require processing, like veggie burgers.
Here we’ve rounded up some of our favorite ways to cook with frozen onions. You’ll find recipes for homemade falafel, meatloaf, stew sauce, homemade fries, Martha Stewart’s ever-popular pasta casserole, and cheese-stuffed burgers.