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kitchen 101: how to dice an onion

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I hate dicing onions. I don’t know if it’s because my eyes are crazy sensitive or if it’s because I wear glasses (or both!) but within 10 seconds of my first onion cut, the waterworks start. On TV, they always make it look like it’s just regular ole crying when you cut an onion, but regular crying doesn’t hurt. And man, does onion crying ever hurt. Ow. Ow. Ow. Even when I’m wearing my classy onion goggles, I still have issues.

The unfortunate thing about my onion issues (well, other than the searing, burning pain) is that onion is pretty much the most amazing flavor ever. I love onions. I use them as a base flavor in just about everything I make! I guess it’s the whole “every rose has it’s thorn” thing. To get that delicious, onion-y flavor, I have to sacrifice my comfort and tears.

Because I refuse to give up on onions, I’ve perfected my version of a speed-y dice. I chop up at least 4-5 onions a week, and this method really helps keep my tears to a minimum. I’m sure this isn’t the professional way to do it, but it’s my way, and it works! I make sure to use the natural layered structure of the onion to my advantage, which saves me a set of cuts. Here we go!

We’re going to work one half of the onion at a time. Using a sharp knife and steady grip, slice the onion in half from the root to the stalk.

I trim off the stalk ends of each half, and then peel off the top layer of the onion and toss it into the compost tin.

You should now have two, peeled onion halves with the roots still in tact.

Place one of the onion halves on a cutting board, and while holding the root end with curled fingers, make large cuts from the root end to the (formerly) stalk end. Don’t cut all the way through the root, we want to leave the onion attached. I usually start cutting in the middle, and then cut down each side.

Depending on the size of the dice you want, you can make these cuts big or small.

Rotate the onion half around, hold the root end with curled fingers (I actually tend to ram my nails into the root end for extra security) and then make small perpendicular cuts along the wide part of the onion.

As you slice, onion pieces should fall off into a pretty pile. Slice all the way to the root, then discard the root. Repeat steps three and four with the second half of the onion.

Some onion layers don’t like to separate, so I tend to just run my knife through the pile once or twice to make sure there aren’t any big chunks. It isn’t a necessary step, because the layers will separate once you’re cooking with them, but if you’re using the onion raw, it doesn’t hurt to give them one final run through with the knife.

And, you’re done!

Do onions make you cry?

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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12 Responses
  1. Great tutorial! I chop my onions very similarly (though I usually lop off both ends. Your way is better though!) Funnily enough, I very rarely have an issue with chopping onions. I don’t know if it’s because I often keep my onions in the refrigerator (which I’ve heard helps), or if it’s because I wear contacts (do they shield my eyes? I have no idea!), but I can probably count the number of times I’ve teared up chopping onions on one hand. Guess I’m just lucky like that because I LOOOOOVE onions. I literally cook them into every meal. So flavorful, so easy, so delicious. I will just be standing around in my kitchen, trying to decide what to make, and just start chopping onions because no matter what I end up cooking, I just know it’s gonna have onions.

  2. Athena R

    That’s exactly how I chop my onions. I guess watching those cooking shows has paid off..haha. I don’t usually tear when I wear my contacts, which is most of the time. If I have on my glasses, I’ll definitely get a tear or two.

  3. I dice the same way but will also add a horizontal cut (and try not to cut my fingers) if it’s an extra big onion.

    Thankfully I have contacts, so that protective barrier is an eye saver. On the occasion I’ve worn glasses to chop I’ve had to leave the kitchen my eyes teared so badly. Yikes!

  4. That was how my home economics teacher said we should do it! Contact lenses are the best thing for chopping onions, ok so they’re also really good for seeing but the onion thing is ace!

  5. shannon

    I chop my onions the same way too! Yay for efficiency! I finally convinced my husband that keeping the knives sharp is in the best interest of both my fingers and our marriage, and I’ve noticed that if I’m chopping onions with a super sharp knife, I tear up waaaaay less than if I’m bludgeoning them to bits with a dull blade. Not very scientific, but weird, no?

  6. Vicky

    Actually, I think you’re pretty close to the “professional” way. I learned from a youtube video by one of the Food Network chefs. Basically the same thing, except he did a few horizontal cuts between your steps 2 and 3. Saved me tons of time and possibly changed my life.

  7. Addie

    The other day I read that if you hold a piece of bread with your mouth while you chop onions, you won’t tear up. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s worth a try. Plus, as a bonus you get to eat the bread!

  8. YES. I have the same issue as you when cutting onions. I cry and it’s painful. Usually I have Ted cut them up because I can’t deal. it’s awful.

  9. Jen

    If you put the onion in the freezer for a few minutes before cutting it, it cuts down on the crying. You can put it in the fridge, for a little longer like pop it in the fridge a meal before you’re going to use it, and that works. I’m really allergic (migraine trigger) to whatever chemical makes you cry, and since I started doing this, I haven’t had any problems with cutting onions.

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