How to Chop an Onion

How to Chop an Onion - Tutorial on #howtoHow To Series Tip 2: How to Chop an Onion, neatly, efficiently, and with few tears.

As mentioned last week, this year I will be posting a How To Series 3-4 times a month, that covers basic instructions and kitchen tips for many common cooking dilemmas.

How To Chop an Onion without Tears | A Spicy Perspective #howto

In the last couple years, I’ve received more emails about chopping onions than anything else.


Everyone wants to know how to cut even diced onions without mascara stripes running down their face.

Well, let me tackle the tears first and then we’ll talk about chopping.

Onions release gases when you cut into them. Those gases rise into the air and that is what causes your eyes to water. I’ve tried many methods for tear-free onion chopping from putting a fan in the kitchen or turning on the down draft to suck up the vapors, to wearing special goggles for onion chopping.

Some people forgo chopping altogether and put their onions in the food processor, although you lose control over what the onion pieces look like.

How To Chop an Onion | A Spicy Perspective #howto

What I’ve discovered is that if you know how to chop an onion properly, and only have one to chop, you can usually get the one onion chopped and in the pot without all the waterworks.

However, if you have several onions to chop, my favorite no-tear trick is to put the onion in the freezer for several minutes before chopping.

I simply place the onions in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes, while I pull out all my other ingredients and set up my work area. Then I pull them out of the freezer one at a time, to chop them. The bit of chill causes the gases to release from the onion slowly and my eyes stay smudge free.

Now on to chopping. This is the easiest method I’ve found for how to chop an onion quickly and evenly.

How to Chop an Onion:

Cut off the onion top, then cut the onion in half through the root end.

Chop an Onion | A Spicy Perspective #howto

Peel off the outer layers until no remaining peel is left. Lay the onion halves, flat-side-down on the cutting board. *It’s better to take off an extra layer than to try to salvage more of the onion and end up with papery peel in your dish–the peel does not soften while cooking.

Chop Onions | A Spicy Perspective #howto

Make a horizontal cut through the middle of the onion, up to the root. This ensures all the lower pieces are small and even.

#HowTo Chop an Onion | A Spicy Perspective

Then make several even cuts downwards, towards the root. I usually space them 1/4 inch apart.

#HowTo Chop an Onion without Tears | A Spicy Perspective

Finally, cut across the onion in 1/4 inch slices, perpendicular to the last cuts. The diced onion will drop to the cutting board.

Kitchen Tip: How To Chop an Onion | A Spicy Perspective

Repeat the process with the other onion half.

Onion | A Spicy Perspective

Once you get the hang of it, chopping onions will be a breeze!

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17 comments on “How to Chop an Onion

  1. Belinda @zomppaposted January 22, 2013 at 5:11 am Reply

    Yup the freezer or frig always works! Love your cutting board!

  2. Ali | Gimme Some Ovenposted January 22, 2013 at 8:32 am Reply

    Wow – I’ve never heard the freezer tip! Totally trying that today. :)

    Beautiful post!

  3. shelly (cookies and cups)posted January 22, 2013 at 10:58 am Reply

    That’s so funny that you get so many emails about that!! I am totally trying the freezer trick!

  4. Laurenposted January 22, 2013 at 11:03 am Reply

    I’m totally going to try the freezer trick! I saw the cutting trick on Rachel Ray one day – it’s hands down the best way!

  5. AngieBennettposted January 22, 2013 at 1:29 pm Reply

    Chewing mint gum while chopping has worked for me before.

  6. Colette @ JFF!posted January 22, 2013 at 1:32 pm Reply

    No tears!
    This is how I chop onions.

  7. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppersposted January 22, 2013 at 2:08 pm Reply

    Great post! I hate cutting onion!s!! I make my Husband do it for me if he’s home!!

  8. Jennifer @ Delicieuxposted January 22, 2013 at 4:11 pm Reply

    Great post! I always try to put my onions in the refrigerator before chopping them to help alleviate the tears. Speed works well too!

  9. Caroline @ Pass the Cocoaposted January 22, 2013 at 4:57 pm Reply

    Love this! I’ve never heard of the freezer trick before. Do you have any tips for getting the onion smell off of your hands once you’re done chopping?

    • Sommerposted January 22, 2013 at 7:07 pm Reply

      Hey Caroline, baking soda does pretty well, but some kitchen stores sell onion/garlic hand scrub that has a lot of mint in it.

  10. a farmer in the dellposted January 22, 2013 at 8:11 pm Reply

    Ahhh! I can put my ski goggles away! Thanks for the tip!!

  11. Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love.posted January 22, 2013 at 9:11 pm Reply

    I’ve never heard of the freezer thing! So going to try it next time.

  12. Laura (Tutti Dolci)posted January 22, 2013 at 11:19 pm Reply

    I always put my onions in the freezer too, it really works!

  13. Anita at Hungry Coupleposted January 23, 2013 at 6:57 pm Reply

    Nice tutorial. That is also the way I chop onions and you’re right that, if you dispatch it quickly, you won’t tear up.

  14. Chrisposted January 25, 2013 at 2:23 pm Reply

    Have you ever tried Alton Brown’s method of coming in at angles instead of straight down through the onion so that it cuts the concentric layers of the onion evenly? It seems to work but it is a little harder so I end up doing straight like you do.

  15. Meganposted February 6, 2013 at 8:16 am Reply

    Thank you for publishing this “How To” series! It has already answered a few of my queries and I look forward to more tutorials! I just discovered your site and I can’t wait to explore it for recipes!