Do Onions Go Bad? The Best Way to Store Onions

Tired of buying onions in bulk only for them to go bad? In this article, I will teach you how to preserve onions to increase their onion shelf-life.

I love the savory taste and smell of onions. I eat them raw in salads or caramelize them before garnishing my barbecues. To always buy onions in bulk to ensure I have a constant supply of them. The only issue I faced with this is that three out of ten onions always ended up being bad. Refrigeration helps but I could not fit an entire sack of onions in my freezer. Luckily, I discovered a way to keep onions fresh and for long.

What are the different types of onions?

The Best Way to Store Onions

There various types of onions and each come with a different color or flavor. The type of onion you choose determines, to a great extent, the flavor of your food. Understanding the various variants of onions helps you choose better when cooking.

Red onions

Red onions have a rich purple color. They are the common type of onions found in every household. They are great for salads, sandwiches, and stews.

Red onions tend to have a peppery or spicy flavor to them. They sometimes produce a white sap that can sting your eyes as you peel them. It is advisable to sock them in water before to chopping or dicing them. If you are cooking strong-flavored foods like kale, red onions bring out their flavor better.

Yellow onions

As their name suggests, this variant of onions has a rich yellow color. They are the best onions to use when you want to caramelize onions. A lot of people prefer yellow onions to red onions because they do not sting the eyes when you peel them.

White onions

White onions have a rich white color that makes them look like garlic. Just like red onions, they have a strong flavor and smell. The only difference is that they do not leave an aftertaste when you consume them.

White onions are ideal for making Mexican delicacies like macaroni salad. They also serve as a garnish in ceviche, tacos, salsa, or guacamole. White onions are common in barbecues too.

Sweet onions

Sweet onions have a white-yellowish color. They are the best-tasting onions because of their rich sweet taste. You do not have to caramelize them to bring out the sweet flavor. Sweet onions are great for relishes or a garnish in salads.


Shallots are what we call spring onions. They have a mild taste that is somewhere between garlic and red onion. Shallots are common in most French cuisines. They are great for making stews or salads. You can also toss a few shallots into your marinated meat before grilling it.

When do onions go bad and how can you preserve them?

Can onions go bad if kept refrigerated? Onions shelf life reduces when the onions absorb moisture from the surrounding.

While onions are perishable like any other vegetable, storing them in a refrigerator does not keep them fresh either. The onions will absorb the moisture around the refrigerator and start to mush. Some onions will start sprouting in their whole form which renders them unusable.

The secret to ensuring onions do not go back is to keep them in a dark and dry environment. Avoid wrapping onions in a plastic bag as this makes them absorb moisture and get mushy.

Here are preservation tricks to use at home when storing onions.

Keep whole onions aerated

Store whole onions in a cool dry area away from direct light. This prevents them from absorbing moisture which makes them mushy. Do not store whole onions in enclosed storage bags either. Keep them in mesh bags which prevent moisture from building up on the onions.

The same goes for Shallots or spring onions. They thrive for longer

Soak scallions in water

Dipping scallions in water keep their stalk fresh and firm. Ensure you also preserve them in cool temperature. If room temperature gets hot, place the immersed scallion in a refrigerator. Otherwise, use the scallions within two days when they are freshest.

Chives are another variant of onions that look like scallions. They have more water and tend to be perishable than scallions. Keep them dipped in a jar of water or preserve them in releasable bags. Use the chives within a week of storing them.

Use a tight container for unused onions

If you already used part of an onion or have enough onions left, preserve them in a sealed bag or container. The cut onions will remain fresh up to a week. Onion starts to oxidize and lose flavor when cut. Ensure you consume them sooner.

Leftover onions

If you are not going to use all the cooked onions, store the rest in a container and refrigerate. To prevent bacterial growth, ensure you refrigerate leftover onions within the first two hours of cooking them.

Sundry your onions

Sun drying onions help to get rid of excess moisture in them. This method works for whole onions apart from chives or scallion. Once sun-dried, the onion shelf life will increase.


Onions are a common ingredient in our kitchen that adds a unique flavor in our food. If you do not mind making frequent runs to the grocery store, only buy enough onions for a few days or a week. Personally, I prefer buying them in bulk and using the above storage methods to increase the onion shelf life.


Can cut onion make you ill?

Cut onion absorbs bacteria which can make you sick. Store chopped onions in a sealed container to preserve them.

Are raw onions good for you?

Raw onions contain a copious amount of minerals and vitamins. Ensure the onion is washed before consuming it raw.

What are the side effects of onion?

The pungent smell of onion causes teary eyes. Some people develop eczema when their skin is in contact with onion. You may also experience some stomach distress from eating onions.

Are onions safe for pets?

Onions are toxic to dogs. Do not feed your dog any food that contains onions in it.