Healthy Kitchen Hacks: All About Onions

A peeled onion with a isolated white background with slight drop shadow.
Photo: Thinkstock.com/RUTHSOH

White, yellow, green or red — no matter the color, onions can add depths of flavor to virtually any cuisine. Most noted for their powerful bite when raw and their smooth, velvety texture when cooked, onions pack nutrients including vitamin C and fiber with just 46 calories per one-cup serving of raw, sliced onions.

Onion Prep

Stop the crying. Chill before cutting, light a candle, cut under a vent — to some degree, all of these methods for cutting onions may keep your eyes from watering. But the best way to avoid tears is to use goggles. There’s no need to buy fancy onion eyewear; swim goggles or safety goggles work just as well to stop airborne, tear-inducing sulfur molecules from penetrating your eye membranes.

Make them mellow. To take away their pungent, stinging bite, place peeled and thinly sliced onions in an ice water bath for 15 minutes. The cold water helps dissolve sulfur compounds on cut surfaces. Drain, pat dry and enjoy raw onion in salads or sandwiches.

Cut down cutting time. Instead of mincing or dicing, grate onions when making foods such as tomato sauce, chili or casseroles. It’s faster than knife chopping; you’ll avoid big chunks of onion in your entrée; and grated onion melts into the dish, fooling even onion haters.

Recipe Hacks

Fuss-free caramelizing. While not a shortcut on time, caramelizing onions in a slow cooker eliminates the frequent stirring and watchful eye required with the pan-sautéing method. Place 1 pound sliced onions in a greased slow cooker with 2 tablespoons butter and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Serve as a topping on pizza, burgers, eggs and pasta, or use them to make a quick French onion soup.

Create dairy-free cream. Whip up a savory, vegan sauce to use as a base for dairy-free macaroni and cheese, gratins or traditional cream soups. Roast some whole onions in the oven for 1 hour at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool and remove skins. Place in a blender with a few splashes of oil, lemon juice and salt to taste. Puree until completely smooth.

Sweet pairings. Herbs and spices traditionally used in sweet dishes create fabulous flavor when paired with sweet onions such as Vidalia. Combine with chopped mint for a refreshing flatbread topping. Sauté with ginger and add to burger patties. Sprinkle with nutmeg and fold into cooked pasta with spinach and Parmesan cheese.

Reuse and Recycle

Stock up. Instead of tossing or composting unused skins and ends, freeze onion scraps to make beef, chicken, seafood or vegetable broth or stock.

Use skins to color. Yellow and red onion skins can be used to dye hard-boiled eggs. Bring 1 cup water and 1 cup onion skins to a boil, then simmer 20 minutes. Cool, strain and add 1 tablespoon vinegar before dying. The result is beautiful, subtle shades of orange, red, purple and brown egg shells.

Reclaim your roots. Regrow green onions by placing the root end in a glass of water. Change the water weekly as green shoots begin to grow out of the roots. Once shoots are 4 inches tall, use them or plant them in dirt for further growth.

Deanna Segrave-Daly and Serena Ball on Facebook
Deanna Segrave-Daly and Serena Ball
Deanna Segrave-Daly, RDN, is a food-loving dietitian based in Philadelphia and co-owner of Teaspoon Communications, LLC. She blogs at TeaspoonofSpice.com. Follower her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Based in St. Louis, Serena Ball, MS, RD, is a food writer and owner of Teaspoon Communications. She blogs at TeaspoonOfSpice.com and produces bi-weekly Facebook LIVEs. Serena co-created TheRecipeReDux.com. She is happiest in her aqua-blue kitchen baking bread. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.