How To Keep Onions From Stinking up Your Fridge

Onions are a great vegetable because they are so versatile. You can slice them and put them on burgers, chop them up and put them in everything from stews to dips, and use them to add extra flavor to many other foods. But some people don’t like the smell of onions, especially once you put them in the refrigerator.

To keep onions from stinking up your fridge, either keep them in a cool, dry place when they’re whole (which means keeping them out of the refrigerator) or chop them up and put them in airtight plastic bags before storing them in the fridge.

What Makes Onions Smell?

Woman wiping her eyes while cutting onions after learning how to keep onions from stinking up the fridge

Onions themselves do not actually have a smell. It’s their exposure to air and water that gives them such a strong odor. For this reason, if you keep your onions whole and unpeeled, they will not have a pungent odor. Of course, once they’re peeled and cut into, they react to the air and release certain enzymes that then produce chemicals filled with sulfur. The sulfur gives them the pungent, overwhelming odor that we’re all familiar with.

This makes knowing what to do with your onions an important part of your cooking skills.

First of all, if you buy onions but won’t be using them immediately, keep them whole and unpeeled and store them in a cool, dry place that is also well ventilated. A plastic bin that is perforated and kept away from water and humidity (e.g., in the pantry or in the corner of the kitchen) is perfect.

When you’re in the store, only buy onions that have no soft spots or bruises on them. Those ones won’t last very long once you get them home.

Once you peel and cut into an onion, things are different. The exposure to the air automatically produces a strong smell that is unpleasant to most people. The good news is that there are easy ways to store chopped or sliced onions without being exposed to that pungent onion smell. The best way is to chop or slice the entire onion, even if you only need to use part of it at the time, then place it in some type of airtight container, which can be either an airtight bag or plastic container. Afterward, place it in the refrigerator and it should not smell up the other foods.

Can You Freeze Onions?

Frozen onion that was in the freezer to keep onion smell from stinking up the fridge

Like most fresh foods, onions don’t last forever. They will, however, last a very long time if they are kept whole, unpeeled, and in a dry, well-ventilated bin. Just keep an eye on them and if they start to get soft spots, you’ll know you need to use them immediately or throw them away.

When it comes to a “safe” period of time that keeps the onions fresh, it will vary depending on the type of onions and how long they were in the store before you bought them.

While it is not recommended that you freeze whole onions (mostly because this will make them extremely difficult to thaw out and can affect their taste and texture), you can certainly freeze onions that are chopped or even sliced. If you’ve used enough onions for your recipe, you can place the rest of the sliced or chopped onion pieces in an airtight bag or container, then place it in the freezer. If you use a bag, make sure all of the air is out of it, and make sure you date it. Chopped or sliced onions placed in the freezer will last up to six months.

If you choose not to freeze your leftover onion, you should still place it in an airtight bag and put it in your refrigerator. You’ll have to use it within five to seven days for it to remain fresh. If you keep it in the fridge for longer than that, it will very likely affect both the taste and texture, but even worse, it will start to rot and go bad after roughly a week.

So your choices essentially are to keep your onions whole and properly stored, chop them and freeze them, or chop them and use them within five to seven days. With the last two options, always keep them in something that is airtight so the onion won’t spread bad odor to other foods.

Knife and onion that will stink up the fridge after being cut
Once you cut into that onion, you’ll either have to contain the smell of the leftovers or put up with it!

Other Ways To Store Onions Without Smelling up the Fridge

Any container you use for cut-up onions has to be airtight, but you have a few options when it comes to doing this. First of all, there are companies that make an airtight device called an onion keeper. These are BPA-free containers made of polystyrene plastic, and they keep your onion’s odors away from the rest of the foods in your fridge. You can also place chopped or sliced onions in a glass jar with a lid or in a plastic container. For the latter, you might want to add a little extra protection by placing a few layers of plastic wrap under the lid before sealing it.

Onions are a great addition to hundreds of yummy dishes, and if you wish to store them in your refrigerator without the rest of the foods there absorbing the onion odor, now you know how to do it.