How to Chop an Onion

Updated: Apr. 21, 2021

They play a supporting role in all kinds of recipes, so wouldn’t it be nice to learn the proper way to chop an onion? The Taste of Home Test Kitchen teaches you a pro-style chop that’s both speedier and safer, plus tips on how to cut your onions without the tears.


Expert Tips from the Taste of Home Test Kitchen

  • Use a sharp chef’s knife. Don’t grab your paring knife or serrated knife-they won’t be as fast, clean or safe.
  • Chop with an up-down motion instead of sawing.
  • To make sure they cook evenly, chop or dice pieces in a uniform size.
  • Protect your fingers while chopping! While holding the food in place, keep your fingertips slightly curled. Always cut away from your fingers!
  • If you don’t need the whole onion, only take the skin off the part you need and pop the rest in a zip-top bag in the fridge.
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Step 1: Peel

Before you chop, cut off the top of the onion and remove the skin. Unless you’re making rings or grating, it’s easier to peel the onion after you chop it in half from stem to root. Keep the root intact.

We’ll say it again: Always cut away from your fingers!


Step 2: Slice Vertically

Lay one half of the onion on the cutting board with the root facing away from you. You can use the root as a handle. Slice vertically, from stem to root. Stop each slice about a half inch from the root instead of slicing all the way through it-this helps to keep all the slices together. The closer the cuts, the finer the onion will be chopped.


Step 3: Slice Across

When you’ve finished your vertical slices, turn the onion 90 degrees and cut horizontally across the vertical cuts. Discard root end when you’re done.


How to Slice Onions

Easy! See directions for chopped onions, but stop after Step 2. Then chop off the root end to set the slices free.

How to Make Onion Rings

Slice the onion from pole to pole, discarding the stem. Toss the rings in a bowl to loosen the layers.

How to Shred Onions

Peel the onion. Use a cheese grater (keep the root or stem on to use as a handle) or a food processor with the grating attachment (chop off the ends before shredding).


How to Cut Onions Without Crying

Try these tricks from Taste of Home Community Cooks:

  • I keep the root end intact, and I use a very sharp knife. Right before chopping, I use a handheld sharpener, then I hone it and wipe it with a paper towel. If your knife is too dull, it “smashes” the onion cells and you get the unpleasant effects. Works for me! -Ann Sheehy, Lawrence, MA
  • I put my onions in the freezer about 15-20 minutes before I cut them, plus I use a very sharp knife. -Elizabeth Bramkamp, Gig Harbor, WA
  • I chew gum while breathing through my mouth instead of my nose! Sounds crazy, but it works! -Allison Ochoa, Hays, KS
  • I have had a chopper for years. It’s so easy and quick. I love it, and no tears. -Lisa Allen, Joppa, AL
  • My grandma always said to hold a match (unlit, of course) between your teeth. Something in the match absorbs the onion smell before it reaches your nose and eyes! -Erin Wright, Wallace, KS
  • Drink a tall glass of water, a few minutes before chopping onions. Dry eyes grab for any bit of water in the air. -Helen Nelander, Boulder Creek, CA
  • Microwave the whole onion for 30 seconds, then peel and chop it. No tears! I learned this trick from my 8th grade home ec teacher more than 20 years ago. I’ve done it ever since and it works every time! -Moira McGarry, Parkman, ME
  • I have actually worn regular goggles (the kind you get at hardware store) instead of onion cutting goggles after seeing someone do it on TV. It works great! And you look real cool, too. -Deborah Pennington, Decatur, AL

More handy onion tips:

How-and How Long-to Store Whole Onions

Keep onions in a cool, dry place, separated from other pantry veggies like potatoes. White, yellow and red onions will keep for several months, but use sweet onions within a few weeks.

How to Peel a Pearl Onion

In a Dutch oven or large kettle, bring 6 cups water to a boil. Add pearl onions; boil for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water; peel.

How to Get the Smell of Onion Off Your Hands

When you’ve finished chopping onions, sprinkle your hands with table salt, rub them together for a few moments, then wash them.

Next, take a look at these irresistible onion recipes.