How To Chop Onions Without Crying?

Onions are pretty much a staple in every meal I ever cook – which means I used to spend a lot of cooking time barely able to see!

I really wanted to know how to chop onions without crying – and a bet a lot of other people do too – so read on for some great tips.

How To Chop Onions Without Crying

The tears that stream out of your eyes when you chop an onion are caused by chemicals inside the onions themselves.

To keep it simple, it is a type of amino acid that is released, that then produces a form of sulphuric acid – no wonder it is so irritating to eyes!

There are some ways that you can avoid bursting into tears while chopping an onion, and while they might not entirely eliminate the problem, they can help…

  • Leave the root end on. This is where the amino acids are most concentrated, so leaving that part on while you chop the rest can really help.
  • Refrigerate the onion. Popping your onions in the fridge for a while before you chop them can help with the eye irritation.
  • Rinse the onion before chopping. Submerging your onions in cold water for 15-20 minutes before you use them can help to reduce the tears.
  • Chop them underwater. Similar to the above, the water will prevent the onions’ enzymes reacting with the air – it is a little awkward to do though!
  • Use a very sharp knife. The shorter amount of time you are chopping, the better, right? Using a good knife will reduce your chopping time and thus your crying time.

Chopping onions – especially if your recipe asks for a lot of them – can be a painful experience!

Take a few precautions first though, and you may find that you can avoid the eye protection goggles.

If you want to know the science behind why onions make us weep, have a read through this article.

How Come I Don’t Cry When I Cut Onions?

You may be feeling like a superperson, with your special power that you can chop onions without crying – good for you!

However, it may not actually be down to superpowers (sorry to disappoint you).

Onions that are fresher tend to release fewer of the enzymes that causes eye distress, so maybe you’re just getting the pick of the bunch.

Cutting onions quickly gives less time for the enzymes to accumulate, so if you are a fast slicer then this may account for your lack of tears.

Do you wear contact lenses? If I chop onions in glasses, I weep buckets. With contact lenses in, not a single tear!

If your knives are very sharp, you probably find that you cry less – the cells will be sliced rather than bruised, which will release less of the troublesome compounds.

How Do Chefs Chop Onions Without Crying?

Professional chefs go through a lot of onions, so you’d imagine that they spend half of their day in tears!

However, there are a great many little tips that the greats use when chopping onions – follow these, and you can chop onions like a pro!

  • Leave the root attached. Most of the enzymes are stored in this area, so leaving it attached until the last minute will reduce your tears.
  • Wash the onion first. Once you have peeled off the papery layers, give the whole onion a quick wash under running water, to remove some of the compounds that cause the irritation.
  • Refrigerate the onion. Sticking your onions in the fridge for half an hour before you slice them will help with the crying.
  • Use a very sharp knife. Slicing straight through the onion instead of bruising the layers will definitely reduce the enzymes being released.
  • Run the tap. Although it is a little wasteful, running the tap next to where you are chopping will encourage the acids to find the water source, rather than your eyes.

This video shows you how to chop an onion in many different ways, like a professional chef:

Does A Wet Paper Towel Help With Onions?

Let’s face it, a wet paper towel isn’t much use in the kitchen, is it? Or, is it… Turns out, a wet paper towel can be a game changer when you chop onions.

Simply dampen a piece of kitchen paper and lay it on top of your chopping board. Then, place the onion on top and get chopping!

This method helps to slightly reduce the amount of the tear-causing enzymes that are released into the air.

The reason behind this is that the acid released by the onions is actually attracted to water – hence why it causes such problems in your eyes.

OK, it won’t entirely stop you from shedding a tear or two when you slice – but it will definitely help.

Just watch out that you don’t saturate the paper towel too much, or you may end up with bits stuck to your onions!

This method works just as well using a wet tea towel, or a clean dish cloth, if you want to avoid pesky scraps of tissue.

Why Do People Boil Onions?

If you are at the end of your tether with onion tears, you may want to try the trick that some use – boiling them!

Briefly immersing your onions in a pan of boiling water before you chop them will not only destroy some of the acids caused by the enzymes released, but it can also change the flavour.

Boiling onions can help to reduce their bitterness slightly, making this an ideal method to not only reduce tears but also to start the cooking process.

Once you have boiled them briefly, you can then chop and use your onions as you were initially planning to – whether frying, baking or raw.

Onions are a fabulous food. They are packed with health benefits, plus they are tasty and versatile too.

Their only downside is the fact that they make you cry! Hopefully you now have some good ideas to keep those onion tears at bay.

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