I Tried 6 Ways to Cut Onions Without Crying—This Is What Worked
Onions are an essential ingredient in so many recipes and while we love them, they somehow always leave us in tears. So, why do onions make us cry? If your eyes are burning and you’re on the verge of tears (and you’re not watching an episode of This Is Us), blame science. This allium veggie contains sulfoxides that are a natural irritant to the eyes. Fresher onions are less likely to make you cry than old ones, but it’s often hard to tell the difference between young vs. old onions. Look for onions that have tight, intact peels versus those that have flaking, papery skin sans a bright green bulb. Additionally, a sharp chef’s knife will make it much easier to cut onions easily without shedding a tear. Whenever this happens, every home cook is bound to wonder, “is there a way to cut onions without crying?” We put several internet hacks to the test to find the best method for how to cut onions without tears.
RELATED: Watch Exactly How to Peel and Chop an Onion
Method #1: Chewing Gum
Supposedly, the cooling effect of mint gum is supposed to counteract the burning sensation, plus it forces you to breathe through your mouth. I chose Extra peppermint gum, since they’re longer sticks and I thought a bigger wad might help prevent the waterworks. Cutting the first half of the onion went okay—while there was a potent smell right off the bat, I didn’t feel the need to grab a tissue. When it came time to dice the second half, I felt every symptom—burning, itching, watery eyes. However, the tears were more “oh, there’s just something in my eye” rather than the bawling I experienced when Justin Bieber announced his engagement.
The Verdict: Save the gum for post-dinner.
Method #2: Chewing a Piece of Bread
I love bread and any excuse to eat it, but this trick did absolutely nothing. Immediately, I felt every awful physical pain that is a result of cutting onions. Like chewing gum, the reasoning behind this theory is that you should be breathing through your mouth, not your nose and chewing helps you do to that. Unless you want to multitask by combining snack time and meal prep in one, skip this method altogether.
The Verdict: Eat all the bread you want, just not while chopping onions.
Method #3: Chilling the Onion in the Refrigerator
Full disclosure: I was eating a double stuff Oreo while dicing this onion, so I can’t say for sure if the cold onion or the Oreo did the trick here (while I’d like to say it was the Oreo, my gut tells me otherwise). I left the onion in the refrigerator for 24 hours and then peeled and chopped like usual. No tears! No burning! I cut the entire onion without needing to grab a tissue. While I felt a slight irritation in my eyes towards the very end, overall it was painless. I was surprised this method worked so well since onions aren’t a produce item that generally need to be refrigerated. However, if it helps prevent the blubbering, I’m all for it.
The Verdict? Totally worth it.
Method #4: Leaving the Onion Stem Intact
Rumor has it that the onion stem has the most concentrated amount of sulfur aka the stuff that makes you cry. By cutting the stem off immediately, you’re releasing those chemicals in the air and into your eyes. If you leave it intact while chopping, there shouldn’t be tears. My eyes felt irritated the second I cut the onion in half, but then the feeling subsided a bit. While there was mild burning the entire time, it never escalated to full-on sobbing.
The Verdict? Not great, not terrible,
Method #5: Cutting the Onion Under Cold Water
This method is as awkward as it sounds—I placed my cutting board in the bottom of my sink and ran a light stream of the coldest water possible on the board and my onion. My sink is about 7 inches deep, so it was difficult to reach down and get an even dice. Additionally, some of the water collected on the cutting board, which caused a bit of flooding and washed some onion pieces down the drain. The cold water was also a bit, well, cold and uncomfortable as I chopped. However, no tears! This isn’t the easiest method, but it certainly did work.
The Verdict? Yes, but…
Method #6: Running Your Arm Under Cold Water
I devised this method entirely on my own when I worked at a French restaurant and was responsible for slicing 100 onions several times a week for French onion soup. Anytime you feel your eyes start to burn or well up, head over to the sink and run your forearm under cold water until you feel better (this usually takes about five seconds). While it’s not the most convenient method, it definitely takes the pain away regardless of how many onions you’re cutting. Similar to the mint gum theory, I think the cooling sensation of the icy water offsets the hot, burning misery in your eyes.
The Verdict? Roll up your sleeves!
Best Onion Recipes
Once you’re able to prep dinner without keeping a box of tissues next to your cutting board, try our favorite recipes that let onions take center stage. These caramelized onions with thyme are delicious atop burgers or update grandma’s meatloaf with this bacon-gruyere meatloaf with roasted carrots and onions. For a sweet and savory dish that looks as good as it tastes, try this caramelized onion and sour cherry tartine.