Most people find it quite frustrating to give a new recipe a try only to realize that they don’t really understand how much of an ingredient or another they will have to buy and then use. While some recipes will call for the usage of onions in weight, like 4 ounces, for example, others might use a certain quantity of onions in volume (for example, one cup). There are also some recipes that just call a general number of a certain type of onions. Like 2 Bermuda onions of medium size, for example. But what does that really mean? What is the weight of an onion? As we’ve done so many times in the past, we went ahead and did some experiments so that people know how many onions they would need for one recipe or another.
So the first thing we did was go to the store and check out their produce section for different types of onions that you would commonly buy. Going through the selection of the store, we noticed that there are quite a few different types of onions you could pick between. Below you’ll find a list of four types you might find in stores:
- Sweet onions, as their name perfectly explains, have a makeup that makes the sugar content really shine. This is why they are the mildest, but also the sweetest of all the onions we eat. Among the most popular varieties that you might come across in stores are de Vidalia and Bermuda types.
- Red onions are the most common in kitchens, being the favorites in recipes for raw ingredient salads, with a sweet, but strong flavor.
- White onions are those with a tangier, sharper flavor. They are most common in Mexican and Latin American recipes.
- Yellow onions are considered the boldest and most spicy common type of onion that you will find and use in the United States. This is the safest one you can go for when a recipe calls for just an onion. Because they are used most of the time in recipes, we also decided to use yellow onions for our tests. The onion we got was with a 2″ to 3″ diameter, which is considered medium.
There are also the shallots, which are very similar to large garlic cloves but are in fact very small onions that would usually form in a type of cluster. These types are usually used in Southeast Asian and French cuisine and will feature a flavor that is somewhat milder than that of basic onions. There is also the pearl onion. This one will have a very small bulb, but the flavor will be delicate and sweet. You will find that the pearl onion is usually used as an accompaniment to other dishes.
One pound of onions will usually hold 3 large onions, 4 to 5 medium ones that are between 3 and 3.5 ounces each, or 6 smaller ones weighing about 2.5 ounces each.
When it comes to filling a cup, the actual number of onions you’ll need will come down to how you chop them, just like in the case of other vegetables and fruits. If you are trying a recipe that calls for larger chopped sizes, 2 onions should be enough, while a cup of finely minced onions will require around 3 whole onions of medium size. Shallots, on the other hand, will weigh about 1 once each and you will usually get one cup out of around 4 minced onions. This means that you can easily replace 3 to 4 shallots in any given recipe with a medium one.
An interesting fact is that the sulfuric compounds of the onion will be the ones causing your eyes to produce tears when you cut it by stimulating a painful sensation. You can actually minimize this particular feeling by cutting into the rood end of it last and chilling it beforehand. Onions were actually worshipped in Ancient Egypt. People used to believe that it symbolizes eternity due to its concentric rings. Out of all the onions found around the world, yellow onions will account for about 75%.
By now it should be easy for you to know exactly how much onion you’d need for one recipe or another regardless of whether you need to use a cup of chopped onions or other measurements. If this isn’t enough, you can always use our conversion tool to make it easier to figure out exactly how many onions will a certain recipe need.
But What Is an Onion?
Below you will find some basic information about the onion.
Are Onions Fruits or Vegetables?
Onions are not only one of the oldest ingredients to be used in the kitchen all around the world, but they are also considered vegetables.
What Are the Types of Onions?
Onions actually come in more than six hundred different types, but the most well-known varieties are the white green or spring onions, the white onions that are also known as the dry onions, the red or purple variety, and the yellow or brown type.
Green onions will get harvested and used while the leaves are green and the bulbs are still rather small, while dry onions will be kept in the ground until they become big enough to have big round bulbs and dried leaves.
What Do Onions Taste and Look Like?
Yellow onions, or brown, as some call them, can be used in most dishes, although their flavor is stronger when compared to other varieties. They have a thin papery layer of brown skin and are round in shape. The flesh beneath the skin is whiteish and multi-layered.
Purple or red varieties will have an almost purple, dark red skin, with a white layered flesh that features just a pinch of red. They have a rather pleasant taste that isn’t strong like in the case of the yellow type, which makes them more suitable for salads.
White onions are known to be a lot milder and softer than both red and brown onions. They won’t come with that hard, lingering aftertaste, although they still have a strong, distinct onion taste. This is why they are very popular raw in salads and other dishes.
If you soak the onions in cold water you can really remove some of their strong taste, which will make them suited for a lot more dishes.
Green onions, or spring onions as some people call them, are the immature, unripe varieties, that will be harvested a lot earlier. They will come with green stems that are soft and white, small bulbs. They have a rather sweet taste than other varieties.
What about leeks and shallots? They are also parts of the onion family. Shallots and leeks are also part of the onion family. Shallots are more elongated, looking like stretched onions. When it comes to their taste, they are slightly sweeter. When you peel them, you will notice that they are very similar to garlic, growing as cloves in clusters instead of the usual multi-layered rings. Leeks, on the other hand, are green, long vegetables, that are very similar to green onions, but bigger in size and with a milder taste. Usually, you won’t be able to replace leeks, with shallots or onions in recipes, as each of them has its own, very distinct taste. So stick to whatever the dish will call for.
So What Are Onions Actually Good For and When Should You Use Them?
Onions are considered among the most versatile ingredients that people use. They can be served raw, as they come, chopped or sliced thinly in burger toppings, dips, sandwiches, or salads, they can be pickled, deep-fried, caramelized, grilled, roasted, or cooked in another way. Some people even use chopped onions to thicken gravies and sauces.
The stalks of the spring onions can be used in dips or salads, and they can even be used whole as amazing crudités. Their mild, sweet flavor also makes them very popular in all kinds of cooked dishes.
Onions were actually given as gifts and used as currency in the past due to how much people liked and used them.
Some Good Substitutes for Onions
If you don’t want to make use of whole onions, you can also substitute them with onion flakes, powder, or onion juice.
Onions can also be replaced with leeks if you don’t really like their taste. This is because leeks are milder and sweeter. You can also use chives if you’re looking for a more garlicky taste.
Spring onions are also pretty good as substitutes. There are also people that are allergic to onions. For them, celery is one of the best substitutes. They will come with that crunchy texture, even though their taste will be pretty much different than onions. If you want to replace onions in soups, curries, or gravies, you can thicken your dishes with tomatoes or carrots.
If onion breath is a concern for you, you can try chewing on fennel seeds, cardamom, apples, or fresh parsley.
Can I Feed Onions to My Cat, Dog, or Other Pet?
This is a big no-no. Onions are considered very toxic to pets regardless of their variety and whether they are cooked or raw. Onion poisoning can even become fatal in some extreme cases. If you think that your pet has consumed onion, take it to a vet as soon as possible. The most common symptoms are breathing issues, drowsiness, nausea, and weakness.
Do Onions Give You Gas?
Yes, onions are among those vegetables that will give you gas. The gas, along with belching and bloating sensations, are caused by fructans, which are a type of carb found in onions, which are very hard to digest. Cooked onions will usually cause less gas than raw ones.
How to Store Onions
Below you will find some basic rules for storing onions.
How Long Will a Fresh Onion Last at Room temperature?
Raw onions will easily last for a maximum of three months at room temperature as long as they are stored in a well-ventilated, dark, and dry area.
How Should You Store Cut Fresh Onions
Onions that are peeled and cut should be stored in the refrigerator if you want to keep them fresh.
Another fantastic way to store onions is to pickle them. This is great for when you find that you have a lot more onions than you are planning to use.
You can also store onions in fine powder form, by drying them and then blending or mincing them. Fresh onions have a really mild flavor when compared to dried onions, which is why you should really calculate the amounts you add to your recipe based on their type. One small to medium onion will be the equivalent of one full tablespoon of onion powder.
Storing Onions in the Refrigerator
Onions should be kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator, regardless of whether they are peeled, cut, or whole. Ideally, you should opt for glass containers, as they won’t absorb any of the odor. Airtight containers are not actually used to mask the odor because they won’t do a perfect job with this but will be great at preventing onions from absorbing most of the moisture in the fridge.
When kept in the refrigerator, a raw anion will usually last around two weeks. When it comes to cooked onions, on the other hand, their lifespan will be a lot shorter, lasting only about one week in the refrigerator.
How Should You Freeze Onions?
Onions can be frozen and doing this won’t be all that hard. They don’t need preparation like blanching, or pre-treating. They only need to be frozen, peeled, chopped, and then frozen.
When you need to use diced or sliced frozen onions, you won’t have to defrost them. You will just add them as they are straight into your sauces, stews, or soups, or even when you plan to saute them with other types of vegetables. You should remember that you will change the onion’s texture when you are freezing it. This means that salads, salsas, or other fresh dishes will turn out not that great when you use frozen onions.
When you want to freeze them, cut them into pieces and arrange them on a baking tray. Place it uncovered inside the freezer where you can leave it for a few hours. Leaving it overnight is the best. As soon as they are properly frozen, you can place the onions in bags or containers right into the freezer.
There are some people that also like to blanch onions before freezing them. You will be able to prevent texture, color, and flavor loss when you blanch the onions because the enzymes inside will have their actions reduced. Don’t be afraid to blanch onions whole up until you notice the center is completely heated. This shouldn’t take more than 3 to 7 minutes, depending on the size of the vegetable. Before placing the onions into the freezer bags or containers, make sure you drain them well and cool them properly.
How to Cut Onions
Below you will find some basic information about cutting onions.
First off, How Should You Clean Onions?
It is a good idea to give onions a quick wash with just water, even though most of the time, they won’t need to be cleaned because they have the brown papery skin protecting them.
Sulfuric acid is the one reacting with the moisture in and around your eyes when you cut onions. This causes the eyes to feel a burning sensation and start to water. You can avoid this by cutting the onions directly underwater. If you don’t want to do this, just make sure you cut them as fast as you can without hurting yourself, so that you don’t get exposed to the cut onion for more than you should.
Should You Peel an Onion First Or Is The Skin Edible?
Although you won’t see a lot of people do this, you can, in fact, eat the skin of an onion. And what’s even more interesting, is the fact that the skin of an onion is packed with flavor and works great in stocks, sauces, and even soups. Before using the skin of an onion, you should wash it thoroughly with water.
How to Slice Onions
The first thing you will do is wash the onion with water. Then use a cutting board and slice the onion from its root to its stem lengthwise. Keep the root so that the onion rings don’t separate, but remove the stem.
As soon as the stem has been removed and the onion is halved, pull off the papery skin. Put the onion on the cutting board. It should sit with its side down. Slice it crossways into pieces that have a crescent look. Do the same with the other half as well.
Make sure you wipe down the cutting board with a wet towel or a damp sponge as soon as you finish cutting your onions.
How to Cube or Chop an Onion
Make sure you properly wash the onion with water before you start the process. Use the cutting board and slice the onion from its root to its stem, lengthwise. To prevent the onion rings from separating, keep the root, although the stem should be removed.
As soon as you remove the stem and the onion is completely cut in half, you will have to pull off its thin, papery skin. Place half of the onion on the curing board with its flat side down and then slice it crosswise. Cut the crescents horizontally to make even smaller pieces. Throw away the remaining root.
General Information on How to Store Onion
The best onions to store are the ones with dry skins.
Long-Term Onion Storage
When you freeze onions they become really limp and won’t work in raw dishes. You will still have the great flavor and texture for cooking, or stir-fried dishes, like meatloaf, stews, or soups.
If you want to freeze onions, make sure you peel and chop them first. Although a lot of people like to blanch them, this isn’t a must. If you do want to blanch them, make sure they are chopped and place them in boiling water for roughly 2 minutes and a half. Then, cool them in ice water and drain them properly. Place them at 1/2 inch headspace and day pack them. Make sure you freeze them at they will keep when frozen at -17.8°C or 0°F to make sure they last for up to 6 months.
Short-Term Onion Storage
Onions will keep for short-term periods when they are placed in baskets or mesh bags so that air can properly circulate through them. Place them in your pantry or other dry, cool place. Avoid damp root cellars or refrigerators when storing onions for a short period of time. Keep them at a temperature that is between 40 to 50°F (4.4 to 10°C). In this way, you can make sure that the onions will keep fresh for around 2 months.
Sliced or chopped onions will last when stored in sealed containers in your refrigerator for a maximum of 7 days.