How to Chop an Onion

How to chop an onion, safely, easily, and with minimum tears! Video plus step-by-step photos.

  • Prep time: 2 minutes
  • Yield: 1 chopped onion

Ingredients

  • 1 onion

Method

1 Slice 1/2 inch from stem end, barely slice root end: Onions have two ends—a stem end, and a root end. Place the onion on a cutting board with the stem end pointing to the side.

Hold the onion firmly with one hand, and with the other hand, cut about 1/2-inch from the top of the stem end of the onion with a sharp chef's knife.

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Then, turn the onion around and make a shallow cut (maybe 1/8-inch) off the root end, cutting off the stringy roots, but leaving the hard root core intact.

2 Cut onion in half, top to bottom: Place the onion large-cut side down on the board (with the shallow root cut side on top). With the onion stabilized on the board, position the chef's knife directly over the root end of the onion and cut straight down to cut the onion in half.

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Place the onion halves cut side down on the board to minimize exposure to the eye-hurting fumes coming from the cut sides of the onion.

3 Peel back onion skin: Peel back the onion skin of one of the onion halves. There is no need to pull it all the way off if it is still attached to the root end.

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4 Make lengthwise cuts, angled toward center: Place the onion half large-cut-side down on the cutting board. Make lengthwise cuts into the onion, from root end to stem end, with the knife tip almost all the way to the root end (but not cutting through the root end).

Cut at an angle as you go around the onion, with the blade aimed toward the center of the onion.

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The number of cuts depends on how big a chop or slice size you want, fewer cuts for thick slices or roughly chopped, more cuts for thin slices or finely chopped.

5 Make cross-wise cuts: Once you are finished making angled lengthwise cuts, make cross-wise cuts. Hold the onion firmly with your fingers curled so that your knuckles press against the side of the knife as you cut the onion (this protects your fingertips from getting cut).

As you make cuts from the end of the onion, scoot your hand back, using your knuckles a guide for the knife.

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Comments

  • Del Libby

    I love the smell of onions and a little bacon sauting, the cutting video was great.

  • Jamie

    Why doesn’t anyone wash the onion. Effort chopping? The onions are handled by many people on way to grocery store and in store. Those germs can be transferred from the skin to the onion.
    I have never seen anyone wash an onion.

    • Elise Bauer

      My guess is because most onions are pressure washed before they reach the store (unless you are getting them from the farmer’s market) and that you are going to peel them anyway, so anything on the outside of the onion is going into the garbage (or compost).

  • Jenni

    I keep mine in the fridge. Never a tear to be shed.

  • Roma

    I have always cut an onion this way. I watch so many cooking shows that I don’t know where I picked up the info but I watched your video and read your information. It was gr8 as a refresher to make sure I was doing it right and if not what I needed to correct. Gr8 information. Thanks for sharing.

  • Alex

    Thank you for your your video. I saw other videos on cutting onions and didn’t quite understand what they meant by not cutting through the root. I saw from your video exactly what that meant

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Danny Strain

    Back in the 50’s and early 60’s I worked in my step mother’s hamburger cafe. I would take 1-1/2 to 2 50 pound sacks of onions and peel them and chop them very fine. For 5-1/2 years I cooked more hamburgers than any restaurant in Dallas county. I started at age 11.

    The only thing I can add is, I noticed the center of the onion is where most the gas comes from.

  • Steve

    Very nice. I will second the comment about leaving the root on to use as a handle. I do everything else pretty much the same. I like having the root keep things together and along with the peeled back skin, the “handle” keeps your fingers out of the way nicely.

  • Saskia

    I love onions and cook with them everyday. I use swimming goggles. Haven’t shed a tear since!

  • Gary in Massena

    Nice. Craftsy.com has a nice online knife skills training course (free) that is worth watching. Lots of focus on knife safety. I’ll readily admit that being pointed in the right direction on knife usage has paid big dividends in my kitchen.

  • Anna Robbins

    Dear Elise,

    Thank you so much for making our onion-slicing lives so much more efficient and effective.

    Please let us know the source (performer, composer) of the background music. It’s very calming.

    Thanks,
    Anna and Doug

  • MaryM

    My mom showed me this technique (along with John’s horizontal slices) some 60 years ago. The only thing I will add is that when you have the skin still attached to the root, it makes a nice handle when you get down towards the end.Helps keep your fingers from slippiing off the onion and you can get those last bits.

  • John

    I make two horizontal cuts to produce a smaller dice.

  • MM

    Great tips! Wonderful idea to keep onion intact while cutting – thanks so much!

  • Katwit

    Thanks for the great tip, Elise, and for all the wonderful recipes. You’ve helped make me look good in the kitchen.

    Laura, you and I are on the same page. I’ve been using either the disposable gloves or reusable kitchen gloves when I chop onions and garlic. I can get the smell off my hands by running them under cold water, then rubbing them over the stainless steel faucet, but the smell takes forever to come out of my fingernails! The gloves are a terrific tip.

    And thanks, Penwiper, I’m going to try refrigerating my onions. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Everyone.

  • Marcus

    Three additional tricks for avoiding crying:
    -put onions into water after peeling, also wet cutting board (supposedly absorbses fumes)
    -ensure ventilation AWAY from your eyes (open window, turn on exhaust hood,…)
    -wear diving goggles

    I know the latter sounds very wierd. But I did it yesterday as always when cutting 2kg+ for liver+onion+garlich. :)

  • Laura

    I want to thank you Elise for posting written instructions when you provide a video. I am retired, on a fixed income, have a 7-yr-old computer and dial-up service. I cannot watch videos, so having the written instructions available is VERY much appreciated. Thank you.

    On topic, this is not about slicing, but I have found that using the inexpensive, light-weight, opaque gloves that can be purchased in packages of a dozen or so prevent the onion smell from permeating the skin of the hands. Also, I have a friend whose hands break out when slicing onions, and these work perfectly for her. Bon apetit everyone!

  • Penwiper

    Additionally, it seems to be true from experience that if one keeps onions in the refrigerator, the designated onion chopper will be relatively tear free no matter how it is chopped. :-)