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May 11, 2011 06:12 AM

How do you mellow red onions

Years ago I had a recipe (or technique) for mellowing red onions. It had to do with letting ice water and onions sit together for about a day. But that alone doesn't seem to work. I have since tried sitting onions in 1 part red wine vinegar and 1 part ice water, but don't get the same results that I remember.
contains some tips for red onions, but not necessarily addressing the red onion.

Do you have a tip/trick to mellow red onions.

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  1. It sounds like you might be serving them raw. If not, I'm a big fan of the low&slow saute.

    1. Rella, try this: slice your onions as desired, and put into a strainer set over a bowl. Pour boiling water over the onions and let sit for 5 minutes or so; then drain and add ice cubes and ice water to bowl; let chill 'til crisp, pat dry and use. This has worked on any variety of onion for me, but one of the keys is to slice them first, so that you don't release more sulfuric compound (the stuff that makes you cry and tastes strong) after you've mellowed them, which is what the cutting does.

      4 Replies
      1. re: mamachef

        I like the idea of not letting the onions sit in vinegar, which gives the onions a vinegar taste. I want the onions to have the taste of onions only.

        I'm going to try this. Thanks for your help.

        1. re: Rella

          You're welcome, dear. It works!

        2. re: mamachef

          Dearest Mamachef,

          I deflamed my lonely red onion according to your good instructions (saved!) The onions will not compete with the garden arugula; salad coming up very shortly.

          My gratitude,


          1. re: Rella

            Rella, my dear:
            Thanks so much for letting me know that it worked out for that lonely only onion of yours! Enjoy your upcoming salad-fest!

        3. Even just dicing and rinsing will help. Jacques Pepin, on his show, once said that he never uses them without rinsing them post-dice.

          1. Does anyone remember hearing about soaking onions in milk? I've never done it, so I can't really comment, but that notion is sticking in my head for some reason. This is for a raw use.

            1 Reply
            1. re: nemo

              I have heard about this. My only concern is that the lactic acid might change them texturally.

            2. I've done just plain ice water.
              I use vinegar if I want to pickle them.

              1 Reply