How Long Are Onions Good For? Good Food Can Go Bad Too

We all live hectic lives and cannot afford to take care of our health as much as we should.

Unfortunately, simple things, like buying our groceries, can have a serious impact on our well-being, and most of us are not aware of that at all.

How come? Well, first of all, you know that fresh food is best for you and your loved ones, don’t you? 

But, do you have time and opportunity to grow your fruit and vegetables and pick them fresh out of your garden whenever you need them? I bet that your answer is no, or at least most of you will answer negatively.

Majority of us who live in the cities have to buy their fruit and vegetables in a grocery store or from a farmer’s market, and most of the time it will not have a use by date.

What is even worse, if you are anything like me, you buy a week supply (or even two weeks) in order to avoid spending your precious free time on grocery shopping too often.

In this way, we all end up with produce that needs to be properly stored and used in a reasonable amount of time, before it goes bad and threatens our health. Being unable to practice proper hygiene and food safety techniques can make you susceptible to foodborne illness.

It is therefore very important to learn about this subject, and today we will start with onions since all of us have them in our kitchen and use them on a daily basis.

I will answer the question of how long are onions good for and how to store them properly in order to yield all their benefits as well as enjoy their full taste and aroma.

With no further ado, here we go…

How to Purchase the Best Onions

What should you pay attention to when purchasing onions at your grocery store?

  1. First of all, the outer skin needs to be dry.
  2. Next, it needs to be sleek and free of spots and blemishes.
  3. Choose the onions that feel heavy for their size as lighter ones have lost their natural moisture due to being stored for too long. 
  4. Smell the onions; there should be almost no scent if they are good and fresh.

It is important to be able to tell when onions are not good, rotten or spoiled. Once again, examining the onions closely is the most reliable test to determine if the onions have gone bad.

If they have dark brown or black spots, soft areas, mold and a strong, unpleasant smell, avoid using them.

If the onions tick all the right boxes, take them home and store them appropriately!

Wondering how? Read on and find out.


How to Properly Store Whole Onions

Most of the people I know take the onions they buy home in a plastic bag and live them that way until they use them all up. That is a major mistake as it considerably shortens their shelf life.

Namely, onions need air movement to stay fresh for longer.

So, take them out of the plastic bag and place them in a well ventilated, dark and cool space such as a pantry or a cellar for the longest storage life.

A paper bag can be a good option as well, but a hanging wire mesh net is the perfect solution (if you have one available). The mesh allows the air to circulate and your onions to “breathe” and thus there is no moisture build-up and your onions can last longer.

If you have purchased onions with higher water content such as sweet onions, you have to be aware that they are more prone to bruising than storage varieties, and will, therefore, have a shorter shelf life. In order to make such onions last longer, you can wrap each one in old newspaper or a piece of paper towel and then store them in your refrigerator to stay cool and dry.

If your onions are whole, but you peeled them (removed their skin), you need to keep them in an airtight container and refrigerated (at 40°F or below) at all times as they are not protected by their skin and are susceptible to speedy decay. 


How Long Are Onions Good For

Even when you store the onions properly, they cannot last too long. 

You need to learn how long onions are good for if you wish to avoid health risks associated with food gone bad. When you know all you need to about food safety, and apply that knowledge to your everyday cooking, your meals will always be safe to eat and enjoy.

I once had an incident with chicken, and it made me realize how dangerous food can be when we do not know all about its proper storage. 

I have done thorough research on numerous food items ever since, and when it comes to the onion, here is what I have found out:

1. Whole onions

  • If you buy them fresh, you can store whole onions from four to six weeks in your pantry (or any other cool, dry place) and up to two months (although one month is most likely) in your refrigerator.

2. Whole scallions

  • Scallions are more “sensitive” and can be stored for up to two days out of the fridge and up to two weeks refrigerated.

3. Chopped onions

  • Chopped or sliced onions should be placed in an air-tight container prior to storing and have to be refrigerated at a maximum temperature of 40°F. If you do this, fresh chopped onions can stay good to consume for about a week or ten days tops.
  • If you have bought pre-cut fresh onions or a frozen pack, check for the "use by" date set by the manufacturer and make sure you honor it.

4. Frozen onions

  • You can prolong the shelf life of your onions and prevent them from going bad by chopping them up, sealing them into a freezer safe airtight bag and freezing them. In this way, they can be safely used for six to eight months.

5. Onions used in a dish

  • When you prepare a dish with onions and want to store it, you need to take into account all the other ingredients you have used for cooking as well. A dish can last as long as the quickest expiring ingredient you have used to prepare it. If that is onion, you can store it for up to a week.

Extra Tips

1. Getting rid of the onion breath and smell

I hate having "onion breath," but I thoroughly enjoy eating onions, and they are super healthy as well! If you have such a problem, it is good to know some tricks so that you can continue eating raw onions whenever you feel like it. For example, you can:

  • Sweeten-up your breath with some fresh parsley. It is cheap and effective, but most importantly natural breath sweetener you are sure to have in your home or garden. Simply chew a sprig or two!
  • Lemon juice is another natural breathe sweetener, if you can handle the sourness of course. Mix equal parts of water and fresh lemon juice and rinse your mouth with that mixture.
  • Another way to use lemon or any other citrus fruit is to chew citrus peel.

2. Removing the smell of onions from hands or cooking equipment

  • Lemon juice comes to the rescue in this case as well! Use it to rub your hands or the equipment you have used for cooking, and the smell will be gone in no time at all.
  • For cast iron, aluminum or carbon steel kitchenware use the salt instead of the lemon juice. 

Conclusion

Answering the question of how long are onions good for, is just one piece of the puzzle of proper food storage

There is much more to be learned in order to avoid health risks but also eat healthier, cut food costs and reduce waste.

Stay safe and let me know if you have any additional info on this subject! 🙂

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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