10 Proven Ways To Cut An Onion Without Crying

Stephanie Rayner
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10 Proven Ways To Cut An Onion Without Crying

Onions are a staple ingredient in many dishes, adding flavor and depth to a wide range of recipes. However, the tears that often accompany onion cutting can be a real challenge for many home cooks. The culprit behind this teary-eyed experience is a volatile compound released when onions are sliced, which irritates the eyes. Fortunately, there are several proven methods to cut an onion without shedding a tear. In this article, we will explore ten effective techniques to help you conquer the onion-cutting challenge.

1. Chill the Onion

One simple and effective way to reduce the release of the irritating compounds is to chill the onion before cutting it. By placing the onion in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, the volatile compounds become less volatile, resulting in fewer tears. Additionally, the cold temperature can numb the eye’s tear ducts, reducing the overall sensitivity to the onion’s irritants.

2. Cut Under Running Water

Another effective method is to cut the onion under running water. The water helps to wash away the irritants, preventing them from reaching your eyes. This technique can be easily accomplished by positioning the cutting board near a sink and allowing a gentle stream of water to flow while you slice the onion. Remember to exercise caution and ensure your hands are dry to avoid any accidents.

3. Use a Sharp Knife

Using a sharp knife is not only essential for precision and safety but can also help reduce tears. A sharp knife creates cleaner cuts, minimizing the damage to the onion’s cells and reducing the release of irritants. Dull knives, on the other hand, crush the onion’s cells, leading to more tears. Invest in a high-quality chef’s knife and keep it properly sharpened for a tear-free onion cutting experience.

4. Light a Candle

Believe it or not, lighting a candle near your cutting area can help reduce tears while cutting onions. The flame from the candle burns off the volatile compounds released by the onion, preventing them from reaching your eyes. Ensure the candle is placed in a safe location away from any flammable materials and never leave it unattended.

5. Wear Onion Goggles

If you frequently find yourself in tears while cutting onions, investing in a pair of onion goggles may be a worthwhile solution. These specialized goggles create a barrier between your eyes and the onion’s irritants, preventing tears from forming. Onion goggles are available in various styles and can be easily found online or at kitchen supply stores.

6. Cut the Onion Under an Extractor Fan

If you have an extractor fan in your kitchen, make use of it while cutting onions. The fan will help to draw away the volatile compounds released by the onion, reducing their concentration in the air and minimizing eye irritation. Position your cutting board near the fan and turn it on before you start slicing the onion.

7. Soak the Onion in Water

Soaking the onion in water before cutting can help reduce the release of irritants. By submerging the onion in water for a few minutes, the volatile compounds become diluted, resulting in fewer tears. This method is particularly useful when cutting large onions or when you need to slice multiple onions in one go.

8. Use a Ventilated Cutting Board

A ventilated cutting board is designed with small holes or ridges that allow air to circulate beneath the onion. This airflow helps to disperse the volatile compounds, reducing their concentration and minimizing eye irritation. Look for cutting boards specifically designed for onions or opt for a board with built-in ventilation features.

9. Cut the Onion Near a Steam Source

Steam can help neutralize the irritants released by onions, making it an effective method to prevent tears. Position your cutting board near a steam source, such as a boiling pot of water or a steamer, and let the steam work its magic. The steam will help to counteract the onion’s irritants, reducing eye irritation.

10. Master the Art of Onion Cutting

Finally, mastering the art of onion cutting can significantly reduce tears. By adopting proper cutting techniques, you can minimize the release of irritants and improve your overall efficiency. Some tips to consider include cutting the onion in a well-ventilated area, slicing with a swift and steady motion, and avoiding crushing or bruising the onion while cutting.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Why do onions make you cry?

Onions contain sulfur compounds that, when cut, release a volatile gas called syn-propanethial-S-oxide. This gas reacts with the moisture in your eyes, forming sulfuric acid, which irritates the eyes and triggers tears.

2. Does cutting onions under water prevent tears?

Yes, cutting onions under running water or submerged in a basin of water can help prevent tears. The water washes away the irritants released by the onion, preventing them from reaching your eyes.

3. Do all onion varieties make you cry?

While all onions contain the compounds that can cause tears, some varieties have higher concentrations than others. Generally, stronger-flavored onions, such as yellow onions, are more likely to induce tears compared to milder varieties like sweet onions.

4. Can wearing contact lenses prevent onion tears?

Wearing contact lenses may provide some protection against onion tears as they act as a barrier between the eyes and the irritants. However, it is still possible for some irritants to reach the eyes, so additional methods may be necessary for complete tear prevention.

5. Are there any health benefits to cutting onions?

Despite the tears they may cause, onions offer numerous health benefits. They are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, and have been linked to various health benefits, including improved heart health, reduced inflammation, and enhanced immune function.

6. Can you freeze onions to reduce tears?

Freezing onions before cutting them can help reduce the release of irritants, as the cold temperature slows down the enzymatic reaction that leads to tear-inducing compounds. However, frozen onions may become softer and more challenging to handle, so this method may not be suitable for all recipes.


Cutting onions without crying is a challenge faced by many home cooks. However, with the right techniques, it is possible to conquer this tear-inducing task. Chilling the onion, cutting under running water, using a sharp knife, lighting a candle, wearing onion goggles, and cutting near a steam source are all effective methods to reduce tears. Soaking the onion in water, using a ventilated cutting board, and mastering proper cutting techniques can also help minimize eye irritation.