Onions are a pantry staple.
There are two things we’re not allowed to run out of in this house, and that’s toilet paper and onions. Hmm, come to think of it, I wonder which we go through more of?
Best not to ask.
Onions are one of the few vegetables that you can toss in your pantry and they will be there, ready to use weeks later. They rarely need any extra effort to preserve them for long periods.
There’s a lot to be said for preserving your harvest with a method that requires no extra energy once your food is processed, such as canning or dehydrating. But sometimes we don’t have time for those methods. Or, maybe you just don’t want to mess with them because they’re a lot of work.
Freezing is a perfect alternative to traditional preservation methods. Plus, it cuts down on prep work.
If you’re looking for ways to cut down on your time spent in the kitchen, prepping certain essentials ahead of time can come in handy. Onions are an easy option for making mealtime quicker. Spend an afternoon one weekend cutting, slicing, dicing and freezing, and you’ll have onions at the ready for weeks or even months.
Onions are a great candidate for freezing because they don’t require blanching of any sort, and they hold their shape quite well once they’ve thawed. You can freeze them in nearly any variation you’d need to cook with them – minced, diced, sliced, even rings.
A few quick tips before we get started –
It’s okay, don’t cry.
If you plan on prepping quite a few onions at once, I highly recommend tossing them into the refrigerator for an hour or two beforehand. Your eyeballs will thank you. Warmer onions tend to sweat more, hence the nightmare that is chopping onions while you bawl your eyes out.
What’s that smell?
Onions are notorious for making other items stored with them smell like, well, onions. With that in mind, whatever you choose to store your frozen onions in, you’ll want to be sure it’s airtight.
When you’re in the process of freezing your onions, you may want to consider removing certain items from your freezer while you work — things like fruit or fish. Check your onions often, so you can remove them as soon as they’re completely frozen. That way, they spend as little time in the open air of your freezer as possible.
It’s also a good idea to put a fresh bowl of baking soda in the freezer while you’re working.
Am I the only one that loves watching these Epicurious 50 People Try Some Common Cooking Task videos? I always feel so much better about my own culinary abilities. Anyway, this video shows the proper way to dice an onion quickly. (And quite a few ways to do it badly.) Enjoy!
To prevent food that’s been frozen from sticking together, you need to package it and get it back into the freezer before it thaws. Make sure you have all your supplies and tools ready to go so that once you pull the frozen onions from the freezer, you can work quickly to package them and get them back in the freezer.
Wash Your Hands
When you’re all done mincing, chopping, slicing and dicing, use a lemon quarter or a splash of lemon on your hands. Rub your hands well with the lemon juice, and it will remove the onion smell. Then simply wash your hands with normal soap and water.
1. Freezing Minced Onions
These guys are super easy to freeze. Toss a quartered onions into a food processor and pulse until the onion is minced. You can, of course, mince the onion by hand too.
Press the minced onions into ice cube trays and freeze. There should be enough natural onion juice to hold them together. However, if your onions are especially dry, you might want to drizzle a little olive oil or water over them and mix them well before putting them in the ice cube trays.
Once the onions are frozen solid, remove them from the trays and store them in an airtight freezer bag. Most ice cube trays will hold around one tablespoon of minced onion, making it easy to measure out how much you need when you’re cooking.
2. Freezing Diced, Sliced, and Onion Rings
The key to making frozen food easy to remove from the container it’s stored in after it has been frozen is to freeze the food individually before you store it.
To freeze onions, spread them out so they aren’t clumped together on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put them in the oven. Once they are frozen solid (1-3 hours), remove them and put them in an airtight container in the freezer.
If you’re doing several batches, layer them on top of each other with parchment paper between them. This will make the process quicker, as you can do quite a few layers of onions per baking sheet.
It’s okay if the onions are cramped together on the sheet, just try to be sure they aren’t layered on top of each other.
3. Freezing Scallions or Green Onions
I am super picky about green onions. Half the time, the ones that show up in the supermarket are all dried and out, and the greens (my favorite part) look terrible. Whenever there happens to be a good-looking batch, it’s a good time to stock up.
Freezing green onions is as simple as freezing white, yellow or red onions. You’ll want to rinse them and pat them thoroughly dry before freezing them, though.
Slice the scallions into your desired size and arrange the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the sheet in the freezer and let them freeze solid (usually an hour).
Remove the frozen green onions to a freezer bag, seal and pop them back into the freezer.
The one downside to frozen scallions is that the green tops wilt considerably when thawed, so it’s best to toss them immediately into whatever you’re cooking. You can store the green tops and the white bottoms in separate containers in your freezer if you like.
4. Freezing Roasted Onions
I love roasting veggies. The high heat of your oven plus the natural sugars in vegetables equals scrumptious veggies that even the pickiest eater can’t say no to.
Roast up several batches of sliced onions and freeze them to enjoy that unbeatable flavor anytime you want without heating up the oven or spending the extra time roasting them.
To begin, you’ll need to line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 400F. Using onions with the tops and skins removed, slice the onions into rounds that are ½ inch thick.
Try to keep them from separating and lay them out on your parchment paper. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the onions with olive oil. Don’t use too much, or they’ll turn out soggy. Sprinkle the onions with salt and pepper.
Pop them into the oven on the top rack and roast them for around thirty minutes. They’ll be golden and delicious and slightly soft.
Leave the onions on the baking sheet to cool completely before popping the entire sheet into the freezer. Once the onion rounds are frozen solid (about 1-3 hours), place them in an airtight container and store them in the freezer.
5. Freezing Caramelized Onions
Let’s talk about caramelized onions for a moment.
These things are squishy, ribbony cooking gold. But man, do they take forever to cook.
I’m not talking about the ones where you throw them in the pan with a lot of oil and crank the heat up. I’m talking about real caramelized onions that you cook slowly for about an hour.
That kind of flavor takes time.
But who has time to spend an hour on onions when it’s Thursday night, and you’re exhausted, and you still have to take the kids to scoutsoccerclubmeeting?
Make up a couple of large batches of caramelized onions and freeze them in ice cube trays. Once they’re completely frozen, pop them out, toss them in a freezer bag and grab them as you need them.
P.S. Drop a few cubes into a mug, top with beef broth and a little cheese and toss it in the microwave for instant french onion soup. Oh yeah.
P.P.S. I highly recommend following Vivian Howard’s R-Rated Onions recipe for caramelized onions.
Of course, the problem with spending an afternoon cooking caramelized onions and roasting onions and freezing onions is that the house will start to smell pretty great. You may need to dip into your freezer stock right away.
If you really want to make your house smell amazing, consider setting aside some onions to make your own homemade onion powder.
Nothing beats a little prep work to make weeknight dinners a little less crazy. And now, armed with a freezer full of frozen onions, you’re ahead of the game.