How to Reduce the Pungency of Onions

If you’re anything like me, you don’t mind onions in your salads or even sandwiches, in fact you actually like them very much. Problem is, they can be awfully pungent. I make lots of salads with red onions (there’s even a Sicilian orange and red onion salad that’s one of my absolute favorites), however, when I serve them I notice that unless I soak them ahead of time, guests will almost always skirt them to the side of their plate either in fear of the inevitable burst of onion juice in their mouths or they’ve taken one bite and said to themselves, “I’ll pass on that”.

soaking onions in water

So, the best thing to do is cut them thinly and soak in water for about 20-30 minutes. Some say do it for less than that, and if you’re in a rush I’m sure five minutes earlier won’t be a problem, but  what soaking in water does is to basically make them a little more mild on the tongue (hence the fact that these in the photos are not cut so thinly).  You don’t have to go through this if you’re actually cooking the onions, just for those raw meals you may want to go down a whole lot easier. 

red onions in water

You can also just do this if you want to prevent from crying when cutting onions (which only happens to me when I’m not wearing my contacts- guess they protect my eyes from the vapors), although I don’t do this much because it’s a pain to dry them if you’re going to cook them next, otherwise they’ll turn most dishes soggy.

Well, that was a veer off topic…

Oh, and yes- it’s the same for yellow and white onions. Just in case you were going to ask.

Do you have any tricks for reducing the pungency of onions in raw dishes?

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  1. Just add some salt along with water for 15, 20 mins.. It will draw out the bitterness from the onions. Rinse well to remove the extra salt and drain.

    1. while cutting onions, I prefer not to try anything and want tears in my eyes because my ammi used to told me that it prevents from “Cataract” (motiya) in your eyes.

      1. The tears wash the eyes of dirt and dust, so it must be good! Cataracts occur when there is a buildup of protein in the lens, so keeping the eyes clean would probably help prevent it.

  2. I find peeling + washing onions (before cutting them), and leaving it in the fridge for about 30mins to an hour, helps reduce their zinginess and makes them more bearable while chopping (no more tears)!

    Soaking the chopped onions in water with a spoon of vinegar added , reduce their pungent flavour and makes it easier to eat it raw (if adding to a salad or sandwich!)

    Otherwise the cooking process usually draws all the pungency and zinginess away

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