How to Cut an Onion (How to Dice, Mince, and Chop Onions)

Wondering how to cut an onion? So many recipes call for a bit of onion, and I very much approve of that! Whether you need diced onion, minced onion, or chopped onion, you need to know how to do it properly. Learning how to chop an onion is one of those basic cooking skills that will always come in handy. I’ll show you how to dice an onion, how to mince onion (plus the difference between the two), how to store cut onions, and even how to saute onions!

an onion on a marble surface, next to a knife

How to Cut an Onion

Learn how to cut an onion, how to dice an onion, how to mince onion, and how to chop an onion. Basically, no matter how you want to cut it, you can learn it right here!

I love onions! I mean, I really love, love onions! They’re one of those ingredients that is so easy to add into dishes, and they always add so much extra flavor. But before you can use them, you have to learn how to cut an onion…that was a major stumper for me in the beginning, but now I’ve figured out the best way to chop onions and it’s so easy!

I love red onions in salads, Vidalia onions for grilling, and sweet yellow onions for almost every thing else I cook. I’m also learning to use leeks, shallots, scallions, baby onions and so many other varieties. I don’t often use white onions because of their stronger flavor, but they work well in many Mexican recipes (one of my favorites types of food).

I wasn’t always a fan of onions (I know, crazy), learning how to saute onions changed everything! Sauteing onions in a little butter (for the flavor) and olive oil (to prevent burning) until translucent tenderizes and brings out the natural sweetness of this great food. Now I’m hooked!

Here are all the things you’re going to learn in this post:

  • How to Pick a Good Onion
  • How to Peel an Onion
  • The Difference Between Minced, Diced, and Chopped
  • How to Cut an Onion
  • How to Dice an Onion
  • How to Mince Onion
  • How to Chop an Onion
  • How to Cut Onions without Crying!
  • How to Store Cut Onions
  • How to Saute Onions

Wow, that’s a lot…but onions are such an important part of cooking, and I want to make sure you guys know how to do it right. I used to stare at recipes thinking “what do they mean by…minced?” It seems like such a simple thing, but when you’re new to cooking, none of it makes sense! I’m lucky I had my mom to help me figure this stuff out, so now I’m passing all that glorious information on to you.

how to cut an onion: peeled onion on a marble surface, next to a knife

how to cut an onion: four onion halves laying flat on a marble surface

How to Pick a Good Onion

Before you cut an onion, you have to pick the right one. Picking a good onion is fairly simple, though.

Choose one that is firm, unblemished, and unbruised. Look for onions that have tight, dry, tissuey skins. It also helps to smell them: if it has a strong onion scent, it probably isn’t very sweet. But typically this will be based on the type of onion you’re using. 

When picking a good onion, avoid any that: have soft or wet spots, are sprouting or decaying, or have noticeable moisture or discoloration.

How to Peel an Onion

Before showing you how to cut an onion, you’ll need to peel it. To peel an onion, start by slicing about a 1/2 inch off the top/ends of the onion, then remove any papery skins. There will usually be a couple of layers of this to peel off. 

The next part depends on the onion, but I usually like to remove another layer after the outer paper layers are gone. To do this, just pierce through the top layer of the onion with your knife. Then you can easily remove another layer and get to the best part of the onion.

What’s the difference between diced, minced, and chopped onions?

Want to know how to cut an onion? Then you’re going to need to know the difference between diced onions, minced onions, and chopped onions. The best way to cut an onion depends on the recipe, so it’s good to know all three. This tutorial includes info for all three, so I’ve got you covered!

  • Diced Onion: When a recipe calls for diced onion, you should have small pieces about 1/4 – 1/2 inch. Diced onions are best for mixing into all kinds of dishes. You’ll know they’re there, you’ll taste them, but there won’t be large chunks in every bite of your food.
  • Minced Onion: Minced onions are about as small as you can get. It’s the same as dicing, but just much smaller, less than 1/2 inch in size. This works for recipes where you want the flavor, but you don’t really want to know they’re there. (Perfect when you’re cooking for someone who “doesn’t like onions”).
  • Chopped Onion: Chopped is a more general term, which just refers to cutting an onion less precisely than you would with diced or minced. These pieces will be larger, and could essentially be any size that works for your recipe. Chopped onions are great for soups and stews because they can hold up while cooking in the broth. This is also a good way to cut onions if you really want it to be a noticeable part of the dish, so that you get plenty of onion flavor.

sliced onions on a marble surface

how to dice an onion: sliced onions on a marble surface, one quarter is diced

How to Cut an Onion (Dice, Mince, or Chop)

Before this wonderful vegetable can be used, it usually has to be chopped, diced or minced. So this is where I show yo how to cut an onion! I have seen many methods of preparing an onion, but this method is the one that works best for me.

Whether you chop, dice, or mince an onion, the process starts the same. Grab your cutting board and a sharp knife, then slice about 1/2 inch off the end/root of the onion. Remove those papery skins and any unusable layers (see above for details on how to peel an onion).

Also note, if you don’t want to cut the whole onion at once, just start with as much as you need. After cutting the onions in half, you could then cut one half of the onion in half again, and just chop a quarter of the onion. Then keep the rest in tact for another recipe.

How to Dice an Onion

  1. After peeling the onion, cut it in half.
  2. Lay the halves flat-side down on the cutting board.
  3. Use your knife to cut across the onion in 1/2 inch slices.
  4. Then going in the other direction, cut across again in 1/2 inch slices.

How to Mince Onion

  1. Same as dicing an onion, peel the onion and then cut in half.
  2. Lay the halves on the cutting board, flat-side down.
  3. Cut across the onion the same as you did above, but make 1/4 inch cuts (or smaller if the recipe calls for it).
  4. Moving in the other direction, cut the same size as you did before.

How to Chop an Onion

Chopping an onion is much less precise and could be done in a variety of ways. However, I typically cut the onion the same way as if I were dicing or mincing, just in larger pieces. So after peeling and cutting the onion in half, lay the flat side on the cutting board.

  1. Cut in one direction in whatever size pieces you want. 3/4 inch is a good standard size for a recipe that doesn’t specify.
  2. Then moving in the other direction, cut again in 3/4 inch slices.

diced onion in a skillet on a marble surface

diced onion in a skillet

How to Cut Onions Without Crying

Most of us know that cutting onions can often lead to tears. Whether you’ve seen it on TV or experienced it yourself, it’s true that onions can make you cry. This is because onions release an irritant that affects our eyes. You can actually get through the process without tears though. 

Here are a few tips:

  • One of the main ways to avoid crying is to keep cut ends of an onion faced away from you. So if you’re facing the cut halves down on the cutting board as I mentioned, that will help a bit.
  • Using a properly sharpened knife will cut into the onion better, and cause less of that chemical irritant to be released. 
  • This is an obvious one, but don’t touch your eyes or your face directly after chopping onions. Make sure you thoroughly wash your hands.
  • As soon as you’re done cutting, set the onions away from you until you need to add them into your dish.
  • Chilled onions will usually be less of a problem. So let the onion sit in the refrigerator for a bit before cutting.

How to Store Cut Onions

When you first buy onions, store them in a cool, dark pantry or cabinet. They will usually keep for 3-4 weeks if stored properly and kept dry. This is BEFORE cutting them.

Once you’ve cut the onion, you’ll need to store it differently. Here’s how to store cut onions:

  • Place any diced or minced onion  pieces in an airtight container, in the refrigerator.
  • Chopped onions and larger pieces can be stored in reusable containers or resealable bags.
  • If you have large uncut pieces of onion, you can also wrap them in plastic wrap. (For example, if you only cut half the onion, wrap the unused half and keep it in the refrigerator.)

Once an onion has been cut in any way, it needs to be stored in the refrigerator. It helps to keep onions in separate drawers so that other vegetables don’t get that oniony smell or flavor. Cut onions should be used within about 7-10 days.

How to Saute Onions

I love using onion in all kinds of recipes, whether it calls for them or not! It’s almost like a simple seasoning to me. “This dish is good, but it could use a little….onion!” Sauteing onions is an easy way to add more onion into your dishes. It cooks them just enough and gives them the perfect flavor. They work in tacos and Mexican dishes, pastas, pizzas, chicken recipes…almost anything, if you ask me.

Here’s how to saute onions:

  1. Add butter and olive oil into a skillet over medium-high heat. Give the butter time to melt.
  2. Throw your chopped, minced, or diced onions into the skillet. Stir them around to make sure all the onion is coated in the oil/butter.
  3. Stir regularly, and cook until the onions become fragrant and translucent. This should only take about 3-4 minutes.
  4. A little trick: adding a splash of water into the pan helps to stop the onions from burning.

Now throw them in any dish, mix them with sausage or ground beef, add them to your favorite dish. 

how to saute onions: minced onion in a skillet with a wooden spoon

That’s it! Learning how to cut an onion is really that simple. Diced onion, minced onion, chopped onion, it doesn’t matter. It’s all so easy. Now you can start sneaking these little flavor cubes into your culinary creations (and if you are cooking for someone that hates onions, they never have to know).

Looking for some other basic cooking skills and how tos? Check out these tutorials:

And here are some of my favorite onion-filled recipes:

Wondering how to cut an onion? So many recipes call for a bit of onion, and I very much approve of that! Whether you need diced onion, minced onion, or chopped onion, you need to know how to do it properly. Learning how to chop an onion is one of those basic cooking skills that will always come in handy. I'll show you how to dice an onion, how to mince onion (plus the difference between the two), how to store cut onions, and even how to saute onions!

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