Odds & Ends: How to Chop an Onion Without Crying

Onions are an integral part of so many delicious dishes. But cooking with onions comes with an unfortunate side effect: crying. Every time I prep a meal that contains onions, I’m left with red eyes and mascara running down my face. Not pretty. Until recently I thought that crying while chopping an onion was inevitable. But I decided to do a little research and found out that there are actually several ways to avoid crying while chopping. And today I’m going to share a few of those solutions with you.

But first, have your ever wondered why onions make you cry? Here’s a fun dinner party fact… It’s not actually the whole onion that makes you tear up. Cutting just the root and attached shoot part of an onion (otherwise known as the onion’s “basal plate”) releases an enzyme into the air. When that enzyme combines with water (like the water in your eye) it creates sulfuric acid, which irritates your eyes.

Now that you know why onions make you cry, here are five ways to avoid the tears altogether…

1. Chill the Onion
A cold onion releases its tear-causing enzyme into the air at a much slower rate than a room temperature onion. But as you might remember from Lauren’s Fridge vs. Cupboard post, onions also take on a mealy texture in the fridge. For optimal texture and less tears, only chill your onion right before you are going to be chopping it—for one hour in the fridge or 15 minutes in the freezer.

2. Wear Goggles
You might look a little silly while wearing them, but onion goggles are a pretty effective solution for managing tears. If you don’t want to go out and spend on specialty kitchen specs, putting any type of airtight barrier between your eyes and the onion helps—including contact lenses.

3. Breathe Through Your Mouth
This is the solution that I use most often. Since your olfactory nerves are located so close to your tear ducts, breathing the onion vapors in through your nose can also contribute to teary eyes. Breath through your mouth while chopping an onion to greatly reduce tears.

4. Get to the Root of the Problem
Since the irritating enzymes are confined to the onion’s “basal plate,” if you can avoid cutting into this area you will avoid tears entirely. Before you begin chopping your onion, cut a cone out of the root end of the onion that is about 1/3 the diameter of the onion and goes 1/3 deep. This area should encompass the entire basal plate. Once you have disposed of the cone, peel and chop the rest of your onion per usual.

5. Use a Food Processor
I use my food processor all the time for making things like pesto and Healthy No-Bake Cookie Dough Bites. But I often forget that my food processor can also be used to chop an onion quickly and easily—which means less time to start tearing up. This solution could be considered cheating since you’re not actually doing the chopping yourself… But hey, whatever works!

Do you have any other tried and true tips for cutting an onion without crying?

Please share them with me in the comments.

xo Ilana
Team LC

Sources: The Kitchn, HuffPost Taste, LifeHacker, LifeHacker
Photo: Rochellerella
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  • amanda

    All you have to do is wet the onion. Peel the skin off and out it under the faucet…then cut it in half and wet the inside too before you start chopping. It’s simply that easy.