The etiquette rules on how to serve and eat onions. Tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest and avoid any embarrassment.

What onions etiquette is

Onion etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and eat onions. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect your hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow the etiquette to serve onions to your guests appropriately.

As a guest, respect the etiquette rules to properly eat onions at the dining table and avoid offending your hosts or embarrassing yourself.

how to serve onions

What you should know about onions

Onions are a type of vegetable. They belong to the same family as also garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives.

Onions have a distinctive appearance. A white papery skin covers layers of white, yellow, or even red flesh. The texture of onions is firm and crisp when raw, but soft and sweet when cooked. The flavor of onions can vary from sweet to pungent. Their taste depends on the variety and how they are prepared.

Etiquette rules to serve and eat onions

1) How to store onions

The ideal temperature to store onions is between 1°C and 4°C (35°F and 40°F).

You can store onions in the pantry. Place them in a cool and dry place, with good ventilation, far from sources of heat and direct light. Keep them in a mesh bag or a basket. They can last for up to 2 weeks.

It is best to store onions in the fridge. Keep them in a paper bag or an open container to prevent moisture buildup. When properly stored in the fridge, onions can last for up to 3 to 4 weeks.

To freeze onions, chop them into small pieces first. Place them in an airtight container or freezer bag, and remove as much air as possible before sealing. When properly frozen, they can last for up to 6 months.

Store sliced or cooked onions in the fridge. Place them in an airtight container. They will last for up to 4 days.

2) How to clean onions

To clean onions, remove the papery outer layer and cut off the root end. Rinse the onions under cold running water to remove any dirt or debris. Pat them dry with a kitchen cloth or paper towel.

Onions that have turned bad may have a strong and foul smell, and a soft and slimy texture.

3) How to cook onions

Onions can be eaten raw or cooked.

The most common ways to cook onions are sautéing, grilling, roasting, caramelizing, and frying. Onions are a key ingredient in many dishes such as soups, stews, and curries. Popular dishes that include onions are French onion soup, onion rings, onion quiche, and onion tart.

You can add onions to salads and sandwiches in various ways. Such as sliced or diced, raw or cooked.

4) How to serve & present onions

Onions are appropriate for every occasion. You can serve them as a side dish or appetizer. However, they are unusual at breakfast or as a snack.

When serving onions to your guests, you can present them in a serving dish or a small bowl. The ideal serving temperature for onions depends on the dish. In general, it is best to serve them at room temperature or slightly warm. There are no specific serving tools needed for onions.

You can accompany onions with a variety of seasonings and accompaniments. Such as salt, black pepper, herbs, spices, cheese, and sour cream.

5) Food and wine to pair onions with

Onions pair well with a variety of vegetables and fruits. Great pairings include potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, carrots, apples, and oranges. Avoid pairing onions with sweet fruits, such as strawberries or watermelon.

Onions can pair well with cheese and dairy, such as Cheddar, Feta, and cream cheese. They do not pair well with soft or sweet cheeses, such as brie or ricotta.

The aroma of the onions matches well with meat such as beef, pork, and chicken. It can also pair well with fish, such as salmon and tuna. It is best to avoid onions with some seafood, such as scallops or shrimp, as they risk overpowering delicate flavors.

Onions pair well with many wines and beverages. Red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. White wines such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling. You can also pair onions with Rosé wine, sparkling wines, and dessert wines. Beer and spirits such as gin or vodka pair well too. The ideal pairing depends on the recipe and the cooking method.

6) How to eat onions

Eat onions with a fork and knife. It is acceptable to eat raw onions with your fingers only on informal occasions.

It is best to remove and discard the papery outer layer of the onion. Similarly, you should remove the root end and any other tough or woody parts.

Onions etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Read more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the most common onion etiquette mistakes:

  • 7/10. Using too much onion in a dish.
  • 6/10. Serving onions that are not fully cooked.
  • 5/10. Not offering breath mints or gum after serving onions.

Additional information for properly serving onions

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is important to stay healthy and correctly plan a menu.

Onions contain about 40 calories per 100 grams. A medium-sized onion contains about 44 calories.

How to buy the best onions

A crucial factor in onion etiquette is serving your guests the best product possible.

Season and availability 

Onions are available all year round. The best season to buy them depends on the variety. Spring onions are available in the spring. Sweet onions are available during the summer. Storage onions are available in the fall and winter months.

Choose the best

Onions can be found in commerce in a variety of forms. Such as fresh, canned, frozen, and dried. Fresh onions are the most common.

The most popular varieties of onions include yellow onions, red onions, white onions, and shallots. The most prized varieties vary depending on the region and the culinary traditions of that area.

To buy the best onions, look for ones that are firm and have a dry outer layer. Avoid onions that are soft, have signs of mold or have a strong smell. The size of the onion does not indicate quality. Smaller onions can be just as flavorful as larger ones.

Alternatives to onions

As a substitute for onions, try other vegetables that add similar flavors and aromas to dishes. Common alternatives to onions include garlic, leeks, shallots, and chives.