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Why did I just soak my onions?

I just made a fantastic recipe I found on the web for a mango avacado salsa. It also included red onion, garlic, and cilantro.

The instructions actually called for 1/2 cup of red onion, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes.


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  1. it takes out some of the bite. i do this with a lot of dishes that call for raw onions...mostly with white onions though not red as the red are pretty mild already

    1. Red onions tends to, uh, stay with me a long time. To make them even sweeter, taking out more of the bite, I'd add some lime juice to the water, or soak them in lime juice; fresh. Perfect for a salsa. So sweet you could eat them straight.

      4 Replies
      1. re: galleygirl

        This is a great suggestion. Red onions sliced very finely and marinated in lime juice are gorgeous. They also go great in Nigella's watermelon, feta, and black olive salad.

        1. re: Kagey

          That recipe gave me the idea, and I've ben doing it all the time since them. The red onions marinated in lime there are really what makes the recipe...

          1. re: Kagey

            that salad sounds divine! is there a special recipe, or just combine the above?

        2. Here is the recipe with all its bells and whistles,
          but all you really need is the watermelon, the feta, and the onions in lime juice, with a sprinkle of EVOO...

          1. I love to add onion to my garden salad but they often have too much bite. A quick rinse and then a soak in redwine vinegar, a pinch of fresh nutmeg, and a pinch of salt makes them taste wonderful.

            1. As others have said, they take some of the bite out. It it can also remove the "old onion" taste from your mouth and reduce stomach upset.

              1. Thanks folks - that all makes sense. Should be useful as I do make a few recipes regularly where I might want to moderate the strength of the onions.

                1. GDS in PA:Can you please provide the link for the mango avocado salsa?
                  Thank you!

                  1. The use of salt, or salt water can cut the bite of the onions even more. Lightly pickled red onions are a common garnish in Latin American cooking. They retain the crispness of the onion, while turning a lovely pink. Combining them with chiles gives them a different kind of bite.

                    1. And some say they are easier to cut that way (also having a piece of bread on your mouth) to fight the tear reaction.

                      1. Soak onions to be able to easily peel away just the outer layers that should be removed.

                        1. for applications where citrus or extra salt would are not desired, soaking in milk is also sometimes said to take away some bite while helping them stay crisp. (This seems to be common in japan, but i've heard some u.s. cooks recommend it too)

                          1. When I want to use raw onion in a salad, I soak the slices in a mixture of vinegar, water, and salt. I'd guess it's about two cups of water, a third of a cup of vinegar (whatever cheap vinegar I have around), and a teaspoon of salt. I let them soak for twenty minutes or so, and then rinse them well. Be careful, though—once I forgot about them, and left them soaking for a few hours. They were inedibly salty.