Transform Your Onions into Flavor Bombs

Raw onions can be a polarizing ingredient. Some people love their sharp, astringent crunch when added to burgers or sandwiches while others run at the sight of them in a fresh salad or salsa. 

If you fall into the latter group and consider raw onions to be too intense for your taste buds, we’ve got a quick and easy solution for you: rinse them! This little trick will spare you the overly bold flavor, while retaining the fabulous snappy texture that we love so much.

Here is why water can make a big difference: Onions contain sulfur, a compound that is released when the layers are cut open and come into contact with oxygen. The bigger and older the onion, the stronger the smell will be (because it has spent more time developing in the soil), and the more likely it is to overtake your nose and eyes, causing them to run or cry. Rinsing washes away the sulfur and leaves behind a milder onion. All onions contain sulfur, though red onions tend to be the most pungent.

If you have time, try soaking a sliced onion in ice water for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. You can also rinse it under the tap or pop it in the freezer for a few minutes. Any of these actions will dilute the reactive enzymes that make raw onion smell and taste so strongly. It may even improve onion’s role in a dish such as pico de gallo, letting the more subtle tomato shine without overpowering it.

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Other Ways to Make Onions Taste Milder

Another flavorful option is to make a quick pickle of sliced onions in vinegar, fresh lime, or lemon juice with salt. Even just a few minutes in an acidic brine will tone down its intensity considerably while boosting flavor and transforming into a delicious topping for sandwiches, wraps, salads, and more. (You can also seek out milder varieties at the grocery store, such as Vidalia or sweet onions, shallots, and young, spring onions.)

Onions can always be tempered by cooking; this is the most effective way to sweeten them (think caramelized onions and French onion soup), but they do lose their wonderful bite. So, if you want to keep that texture, just with a milder taste, give it a good rinse next time and see what a difference it makes.