Two Ways to Cut an Onion

onions, diced & sliced

OK, I know most of you know how to cut onions. If you’re one of them, please stop reading. I don’t mean to bore you.

This post is intended for those of you who might just like a little extra guidance at the chopping block. The way I cut onions is the way I learned many years ago while working at a restaurant. When I was there, the chef at the time made the most beautiful salads, relishes, ceviches, and most notably, salsas. Depending on the season and on the celebration (and on his mood), the star ingredient of the salsa always changed — from tomato (of course) to roasted poblano pepper to grilled pineapple to jicama to mango to corn to pickled red onion to tomatillo. The supporting cast, however, remained constant or nearly constant: there was always some sort of herb (cilantro, mint, Thai basil), some sort of acid (lime juice, lemon juice, vinegar), some sort of heat source (jalapeno, Thai bird chili, Tabasco) and always red onion.

The red onion — diced into perfect little arched diamonds — was always the prettiest of all of the shapes comprising the salsas. Sometimes it was super thin (when used in a delicate mixture topping a fresh oyster, for example) and sometimes it was super thick (when used in tomato bruschetta, for example). But the cutting method was always the same. I’ve included a video below. The key, which might be hard to pick up in the video, is in the final slicing step: when the half moon slices of onion are stacked, and you are ready to start creating your dice, you always want to keep your knife 90º to the curve. Does this make sense? I know this is nothing earth shattering, but once you learn out how to do this, you’ll be so happy (I was at least) to see those little red diamonds amassing on your board — they make the prettiest additions to salsa, of course, but also to potato salads or whole grain salads or bean salads etc.

finely diced onions

Note: This is not a technique to improve speed — the goal is to create beautiful delicate red diamonds.

sliced onions

There’s no story to go along with the second method, slicing, but I also learned this method at the restaurant. A video is probably unnecessary, but I’ve included one below anyway. When I need to sauté an onion or to caramelize it or to slice it for a Greek salad, for example, this is how I do it:

cutting board

25 Comments

  1. Superb reminders. :) I find myself getting caught in a rut with cutting my onions, and anything they’re in ends up looking the same. This was refreshing, and your red onions are lovely!

    Reply
    • Whitney! As of this morning, I have homemade vanilla brewing. Steeping? Aging? Whatever it’s doing, I am so excited! Bottles are arriving Wednesday or Thursday. Will report back soon!

      Reply
  2. I thought I knew how to cut an onion, but I do it differently. I give this a try today, though, because I wasn’t that happy with my method. Sometimes I think things, like cutting an onion, are obvious but just don’t know that there is an easier way. Thanks for the videos.

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  3. Thank you! Seriously! The way I learned to cut onions is so much more complicated and frustrating. Now I want to make something with onions in it today, just to try the new method.

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  4. Thank you so much! The way I learned to cut onions is so much more complicated and frustrating. Now I want to make something with onions just to try the new method. This is a real time saver!

    Reply
  5. lol – these kinds of posts are fun! I enjoyed watching your method, I’ll have to try comparing it with mine (also learned from a chef, while working at a restaurant):

    Basically what I do is cut the onion in halves, just as you did. But then I make thin cuts perpedicular to the cut face, working toward the end. If I want a fine dice, then I make many cuts. This leaves the onion half “in tact” – and then I just cut across the other direction – viola! A tiny dice

    :-)

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    • Hi Peter! I think I know exactly how you do it — it works beautifully, too, and is probably safer/easier leaving the end in tact. Hope you are enjoying a nice long weekend with your fam. Did you prepare a vegetarian feast for your daughter?

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  6. With all the onions I have cut in my life, I’ve never done it this way, which looks like the easiest!!
    Thanks for the tutorial. That was really helpful.

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  7. Thank you for these clear instructions! I’ve been struggling with chopping and slicing onions for about 30 years – you’d think I’d have worked out a nice, tidy method for myself by now, but yes! the secret is 90 degrees to the curve! Of course!!

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  8. My momma taught me early to chop onions in a wooden bowl. That was such a chore. My mother-in-law taught me her method and it was an improvement and eye-opening. I think your method is safer and prettier. Thanks for all your posts!

    Diana

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