How Long Do Onions Last? Shelf Life Explained (2023)

Onions are one of the most essential and basic ingredients used in cooking. Not only does it make the food taste delicious, but it is a great salad too.

When we buy onions, we often buy a lot. And once we buy them, we tend to leave them on the countertop. It is because they can last for a long time without rotting. And before you know it, the big batch of onions is already over.

But have you ever wondered: How Long Do Onions Last?

When stored properly, a whole onion bulb can last for 2-3 months. Store them in a cool, dark place to extend their shelf life. If you have chopped onions lying around, refrigerate them for later use. Ensure you put the chopped pieces in an air-tight container or a ziplock bag. This will prevent the onions from drying out. 

Not many of you might know it because onions are usually consumed before they go bad. But does it mean they can never go bad? Definitely, not. Onions do rot but after how long?

In this article, we will talk about how long onions last. We will also have a go at different ways to store onions and to look for signs of spoilage.

Shelf life of onions

Did you know onion bulbs grow under the soil? Well, they do grow in a dark place. Therefore, while storing them, it is important to store them in a cool, dark place. An ideal temperature to store onions is between 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Whole, raw onions last for 2-3 months if stored properly. To give your onions a proper shelf-life, store them in the cellar, pantry, or even the garage.

If, like me, you don’t have a pantry, cellar, or garage, don’t worry. It is also possible to store them in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life. Onions can last for 2-3 months when stored in the refrigerator. But storing onions in the freezer will affect their texture. You might notice that the onion skin has gone soft and mushy. This happens because they can absorb moisture very quickly.

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Don’t have a fridge and know not what to do with the onions? A simple way out is to store them at room temperature. At room temperature, whole and raw onions can last for 3-4 weeks.

Tip: While storing onions, ensure they have proper ventilation. Placing them in an open basket or a mesh bag is better. You can also cover them with paper or a simple cloth.

Cut, Sweet, and Red Onions- Different Ways to store onions

Onions are the most used kitchen ingredient in almost every household. They are everywhere, whether you want a quick salad, burger, or puree. But not all onions are the same, and each type requires different storage space.

Cut Onions

dicing the onions

Have chopped or sliced leftover onions? You can store chopped pieces in the fridge, where they can survive for a week! While storing half-chopped onions, seal them in an airtight container or a ziplock bag. This will help them retain their smell rather than absorb the surrounding smell. Putting the onions in an airtight container prevents them from drying or getting soggy.

Red Onions

Red onions are like regular onions in terms of storing them. Like white/yellow onions, they can last for 3-4 weeks at room temperature. Storing them in the fridge can extend their shelf-life to months before they go bad. Also, make sure you provide your red onions with proper ventilation.

Sweet Onions

In terms of shelf-life, sweet onions last for a shorter duration than red/white onions. It is because sweet onions have lower pyruvic acid content than their counterparts. At room temperature, sweet onions can last up to a week before going bad. If you store sweet onions in the fridge, they can last for about a month before going bad.

Tip: If you buy sweet onions, refrigerate them once you are home. Leaving them on the countertop will make them go bad soon.

How to Tell if an Onion Is Bad or Spoiled?

Onions, like any other edible product, can go bad. But how can you identify a bad onion from a good one? There are three ways to check your onions: appearance, texture, and odor.

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1. Appearance

Spoiled bulbs tend to show signs of discoloration on their skin. Once you peel the skin, you can see dark spots on the layers. If left for a long time, the discoloration can lead to mold formation. If you see molds, it is time to throw away the onion bulbs. Molds on your onion are a big NO-NO.

organic onions

Another thing to look for in a bad onion is sprouting. If your onion has sprout budding, it indicates that it has begun to rot.

2. Texture

A fresh onion bulb is stiff and solid. To check the quality of the onion, give the bulb a good press. If you feel the onion to be squishy or mushy, it is time to toss it away.

3. Smell

Unable to detect signs of spoilage from the appearance or texture? Well, it is time to take a good sniff. A fresh onion has a fresh oniony (not liked by many) smells. A bad onion will emit an unpleasant and rotten smell that no one wants. If you smell the rot, it is time to throw the onion away.

Tip: don’t leave your onions exposed to moisture and light. When storing them, ensure you don’t mix them with the potatoes. Storing them together will make onions go bad faster.

onions in basket

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. How long do whole onions last?

Ans. An Ideal life for whole onions is estimated to be 2-3 months, provided they are stored in a cool, dark place. For an onion to live up to its full life, it must be stored at approximately 45 and 55 degrees F.

Q2. Do onions last longer in the fridge or on the counter?

Ans. Whole onions can last longer when stored in a cool, dry place. On the other hand, half-cut onions must be stored in the refrigerator for a longer life.

Q3. How do you store onions for 6 months?

Ans. The ideal way to store onions is by keeping them in a cool, dry place. If you want the bulbs to last for 6 months or more, store them between 45-50 degrees F. Avoid any sort of moisture or water from contacting the onions. If in contact, water can spoil the onion bulbs, causing them to rot.

Q4. How long do unpeeled onions last?

Ans. Unpeeled or whole onions can last for 3-4 weeks at room temperature. But if stored in a cool, dry place, they can last for 2-3 months.

Q5. Why should onions not be refrigerated?

Ans. An onion stored in a fridge can convert the starch to sugars. This causes them to become soft and soggy, making them taste and smell bad.

The Bottom Line

Onions are one of the most useful and versatile companions for a cook. It is therefore very important that you store them well and properly. An important thing to remember while storing onions is to place them in a ventilated area. Storing them with no airflow will make them prone to molds. This will make them go bad faster than usual. Also, while storing chopped onions, please place them in the fridge.

Remember to put chopped pieces in an airtight container. This will prevent them from going dry. Onions going bad are hard to spot. Therefore, look for any strange smells or mushy or leaky onion bulbs. You can also take a quick whiff of the onion to know its freshness. Once checked for signs of spoilage, go forth and cook the delicious meal you were planning.

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Melissa Baker

Melissa Baker

I am a food lover and the founder of FoodQueries. I have years of experience when it comes to food. I have been cooking since childhood and I know a thing or two about storing, cooking and freezing food in the right way.