Do Onions Go Bad? – Full Analysis

by Charlie

Onions are a popular vegetable that is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants. While vegetables in general are helpful for the human diet, onions have unique properties that differentiate them from the rest.

Onions have a reputation for a long shelf life and can survive for many months when stored properly. As bulk orders are prepared for shipment, onions can be stored in cool, dark environments.

But onions have to go bad eventually, right?

Do onions go bad? Yes, onions eventually do go bad. When stored in cool and low moisture space, whole onions can stay fresh and safe for consumption for 3 months. However, when stored in areas with moisture, onions have a higher risk of growing mold. Even if the area is safe from moisture, over time, onions become dry and shrivel up.

Do Onions Go Bad?

Onions are a perishable food, which have a limited shelf life and eventually go bad. But compared to most vegetables, onions are fairly durable and can last several months.

While the general question about an onion’s longevity can be answered, different factors make a difference for considering when onions go bad. For clarification, whole onions vs. chopped onions or white onions vs. scallions can impact how long the onions last and how onions can go bad.

Some of the more popular onions are white onions, yellow onions and red onions.

Do Whole Onions Go Bad?

Keeping onions whole is considered the best method for extending their shelf life. You don’t need to store whole onions in the fridge to maintain maximum freshness.

Actually, it is best to store whole onions in an area that is between 45-55° F with limited to zero exposure to sunlight. This storage method is applicable for white, yellow and red onions.

How Long Do Whole Onions Last in the Refrigerator?

If a storage space with these characteristics is not available, the next best option is to store in the refrigerator. Whole onions can last between 2-3 months in the refrigerator.

When putting whole onions in the fridge, remove them from any plastic storage bag. The typical plastic bag that can be found in the produce department at a supermarket eliminates air movement, which causes the onions to spoil faster.

Do Chopped, Sliced or Cut Onions Go Bad?

If you decided to cut your onions, you can still take the appropriate steps to store them correctly. Cut onions should be stored in the refrigerator. Chopped, sliced or cut onions can go bad. If stored in an proper food storage container, cut onions can last for up to 7 days in the fridge.

When the onions are no longer whole, their nutritional data will start to deteriorate. The faster that the onions are used, the better their quality. Smelling the onions and making sure that they don’t feel slimy is a quick way to access their quality.

A helpful tip for maintaining an onions freshness: leave the skin on your chopped onions. Keeping the skin intact helps to protect the onions and maintain freshness for longer.

Do Green Onions or Scallions Go Bad?

Scallions or green onions are a more milder tasting onion. Their defining feature is that fact that they don’t grow a fully develop plant bulb. The scallions are actually the tube-like, green leaves that grow from the bulb. These leaves are a vegetable can be eatable raw or cooked.

Given their unique characteristics, green onions or scallions should not be stored like other types of onions. Scallions (or green onions) can go bad. They have a shorter life than most other onions. Scallions should be kept in the fridge, where they can last 10-14 days.

To avoid the scallions from wiling or drying out, it is recommended to store the onions in a fridge-friendly plastic bag that is sealed. If you have handy, a vegetable crisper is best for storage.

Regardless of how you decide to store scallions in your fridge, avoid any contact with moisture. If moisture is present on your scallions, use a paper towel to wrap around the green leaves. You can store the towel inside the plastic bag to help keep the leaves dry.

Always store scallions in the fridge if you decide to not consume the day of purchase. Check in on your scallions to make sure that the leaves look fresh and firm. If some of the leaves start to get mushy or lose color, throw those specific leaves out to preserve the rest of the bunch.

How Long Do Cooked Onions Last?

Cooked onions have the shortest life compared to onions that aren’t cooked. When stored in the refrigerator, cooked onions only last between 3-5 days. Assume caution when consuming leftover cooked onions as they can begin to grow bacteria rather quickly.

Another option for preserving your cooked onions is by freezing. When stored in the freezer, cooked onions can last between 2-3 months. But if you decide to freeze your onions, freeze on the same day that they are cooked. The last thing you want is to freeze onions that may have already started to grow bacteria.

How Long Do Onions Last? [Full Chart]

In the PantryIn the Fridge
Whole Onions60-90 days60-90 days
Cut Onions (chopped/sliced)Not recommended5-7 days
Scallions or Green OnionsNot recommended10-14 days
Cooked OnionsNot recommended3-5 days

How to Store Onions

To have the best success storing onions, it is important to understand how air circulation, humidity and temperature impact the freshness and quality of onions. The best area to store whole onions is in the pantry. The best spot to store cut onions is in the fridge.

How to Keep an Onion Fresh for Longer

Taking some minor precautions can make the biggest difference when storing onions. Let’s discuss the most important factors:

Air Circulation: When purchasing onions, the larger sized bags tend to be netted or meshed. These bags are designed to naturally allow air to circulate around the onions to maintain freshness. These bags are great and easy to use when storing whole onions in your pantry.

If bulk bags aren’t available for purchase or you just wish to buy onions individually, you may be restricted to plastic produce bags. Once you are home, remove onions from these bags and store in either a open bowl or brown paper bag with punched holes.

Humidity: As we highlighted a few times already, moisture should be avoided when storing onions. Always try to keep your onions dry. Moisture can lead to bacteria growth – which thrives in areas exposed to be oxygen and water.

Because of this, do not store onions in areas with higher humidity levels (avoid cellars or basements). Typically, a pantry is the best option as they are naturally built for storing food.

Temperature: Air circulation and humidity are important, but if the temperature was wrong, the onions won’t last. I prefer to store my onions in temperatures between 45-55° F. Not as cold as a fridge, but not as warm as a heated house.

If you aren’t able to determine the temperature of your storage space, a safe test is to access whether that temperate is comfortable enough to live in with no thoughts of it being too warm.

Conclusion

  • Onions do go bad but depending on their state, their shelf life can vary.
  • Whole onions can last 2-3 months in the pantry or refrigerator.
  • Cut onions have a short shelf life and cannot be stored in the panty. The fridge in the best place to store cut onions. Leave skin on onions to prolong freshness.
  • Scallions are different compared to other onions. The leaves can maintain freshness and last 5-7 days in the fridge.
  • Cooked onions has the shortest shelf life because they take on the risk of growing bacteria. Cooked onions have a similar timeline of freshness compared to most leftovers.

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