Kitchen Basics: How to cut an onion easily and safely

Kitchen Basics: How to cut an onion easily and safely

Do you know how to cut an onion? Sounds simple enough, right? And for a lot of you it’s probably a no-brainer. I know there are plenty of people out there who have some impressive cooking skills. This is a good thing. I firmly believe that the biggest step you can make toward a healthier life is making real food from scratch.

Sadly, the art of cooking is disappearing as too many people rely on “convenience” food. I know because my idea of “cooking” up until a few years ago was putting a prepared “meal” in the microwave. *sigh*

That’s why today I’m giving you a simple post. A post for the people like me. You know, the people who need some basic help in the kitchen. And believe me, knowing how to cut an onion is super handy thing to know. It kind of changed my life. And it can change yours, too.

I love onions (and chopping them!)

Onions are awesome little vegetables that pack a lot of nutrition and flavor. But if you don’t know how to cut an onion it can be messy, tedious, and a tear-inducing experience. So are you ready to learn how to cut an onion? Well, too bad!

Just kidding. But first it’s important to know how NOT to cut an onion.

Three common mistakes when cutting an onion

1. Using a dull knife.

A good chef’s knife is an essential item for any kitchen. Seriously. Take some time and get some advice on purchasing the best knife within your budget (this is my favorite). Not only will it make dicing and chopping all your product so much easier, it’s much safer. While you’re at it, check out this handy article on how to properly handle a knife.

Picture tutorial: How to cut an onion easily and safely.

2. Cutting  horizontal cuts

Many cooking instructors and online tutorials teach a technique that involves making horizontal cuts in the onion. I personally don’t like this method at all. Cutting sideways through an onion toward your own fingers is just a bad idea. Especially for the home cook who may have little people pulling on their shirt while trying to chop an onion.

And there’s really no reason to cut an onion this way. The onion already has these natural horizontal cuts built into it. So let’s just avoid this, okay?

Picture tutorial: How to cut an onion easily and safely.

3. Cutting off the “ugly” end first.

This was my rookie mistake for years before I knew how to cut an onion. I’d chop off that little hairy end (also known as the root end). It was ugly. I knew I didn’t want to eat it… so it was the first thing to go. Little did I know that I was cutting off the glue that keeps the onion together.

Okay, with those little “red flags” out of the way. Let’s learn how to cut an onion.

How to cut an onion

Picture tutorial: How to cut an onion easily and safely.

1. Cut the onion in half. Cut it right through the root end. You should now have two pieces that both have some of that ugly root end still attached.

Picture tutorial: How to cut an onion easily and safely.

2. Trim off the stem end of the onion (non-hairy end).

Picture tutorial: How to cut an onion easily and safely.

3. Peel off the outer layers.

Picture tutorial: How to cut an onion easily and safely.

4. Next, begin making cuts lengthwise without cutting through the root end. Remember, this fuzzy thing is going to help us keep our onion together while we dice away.

Picture tutorial: How to cut an onion easily and safely.

For smaller pieces, bring the cuts closer together. For larger pieces, make fewer cuts so the strips are thicker.

Picture tutorial: How to cut an onion easily and safely.

5. If you want diced onions, cut the onion width-wise starting at the front and working your way back.

Picture tutorial: How to cut an onion easily and safely.

Watch as your beautifully diced pieces make their appearance!

Picture tutorial: How to cut an onion easily and safely.

Again, you can make smaller or larger pieces depending on the number of your cuts you make.

Picture tutorial: How to cut an onion easily and safely.

6. If you want long, sliced pieces of onion follow steps 1 – 4. This time just make one single width-way cut toward the root end Easy.

Picture tutorial: How to cut an onion easily and safely.

7. Separate pieces.

Picture tutorial: How to cut an onion easily and safely.


Picture tutorial: How to cut an onion easily and safely.

8. Finish by thanking that ugly root end for all it’s help. And then throw it in your compost bin.  :)

Picture tutorial: How to cut an onion easily and safely.

There you go. Now when somone asks if you know how to cut an onion you don’t have to say “maybe.” You just show them your mad chef skills.


How to cut an onion picture tutorial. This is SO useful! I've been cutting them wrong forever.



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About the author

Hi! I'm and I’m passionate about healthy living: feeling nourished, having energy, getting good sleep, and feeling strong. I believe healthy living does not have to be complicated or stressful. I’m a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist (RSMT) and a Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA). I’m also an avid researcher and love to read about nutrition, the body, and toxic-free living. Learn more.

View all articles by Robin Konie


      1. Jessica

        put it in the freezer for a little bit b4 u cut them it freezes the juices inside that make u cry

      2. Meghan

        I know it’ll seem crazy at first, but if you put a piece of bread in your mouth and let it rest in between your teeth while you cut (basically let some hang out of your mouth). YOU WON’T TEAR UP. Just trust me on this.

        1. Mike

          Yep, in the same way, you can take a wet wooden spoon between your teeth. The onions vapors would react with the water on the spoon before that on your eyes 😉 (it creates acid, that’s why it hurts)

  1. Ashley @ Ashley's Green Life

    Very helpful! Loved the visuals of this and how you changed from black and white pictures to color when it was time to cut it correctly…I love details like that in a blog post. Going to be using this tip for dinner tonight, so thanks! ( :

  2. Jennifer Lind

    This is great! I cut it similar, but never have left the root end on before. One tip for after you’re done is instead of throwing the end in the compost bin, put it in a bag in the freezer (along with scraps from cutting celery and carrots), and pretty soon you will have enough to throw in when making chicken or vegetable stock!

  3. Yolanda

    Oh, you just made my day! Brilliant! (uh… maybe my life is boring or something, but really, this gave me a thrill. I use a lot of onions!)

  4. kristy @ Gastronomical Sovereignty

    i LOVE this post! it’s very clever and i think cutting an onion properly really does affect the quality/flavor/feel of a dish. this is a skill that actually does need to be learned.

    p.s. also adore the black&white/color pictures. flows very nicely.

    thank you for sharing your post with us at the Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up! I hope to see you again this week with more seasonal and fresh/real food posts :) xo, kristy

  5. Linda

    The chefs cut them horizontally to show off. And it really is important if you are trying to mince. Mincing is essential for eating raw onions on your three way.

    Before, when I had more counter space and a cuisinart, I lef tit on the counter at all times and used it often for mincing my standard base, onions, garlic, ginger.

    1. Post author

      It’s true that it helps with mincing. Good point. Although I’d probably advise it only for people who are really good with a knife. :)

  6. Laurent

    This is a great tutorial, but I’d object to just one point — I find that you definitely _do_ want to cut the hairy stalk roots off, just nowhere near as deep as you’re implying you have to. If you carefully trim the hairy parts off before you start, but _without_ slicing off the core that holds the whole thing together, you still have all the advantages of keeping the onion together while you’re slicing it, without having to deal with little hairy bits getting into your chop.

  7. Mary Rose

    I love this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been dicing an onion and desperately holding on trying to get the onion to stay together as I reach the last few slices. Thank you for this beautifully simple advice.

  8. Susie

    You can cut the little hairy roots off and out of the way while still leaving the part that holds it togther.

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  10. thefarnz

    Very good post. I’ve been cutting onions this way for years, with one difference. I flip-flop #1 & #2, that way I have a stable onion to cut down thru the root end.

  11. Rachel M

    Ha! I really can’t believe that we were all taught to cut an onion the wrong way. I swear this new “ugly root end” info has changed my life. Thank you!

  12. Kim

    I’m sure our group that makes freezer meals for a month at a time would have loved this our first month when we had about 40 onions to cut. Now we each cut our own onions at home before we arrive at the Hostess’ house. I will share with them how to do this proper method thanks.

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  14. Karen

    TV chefs, like Rachel Ray, always make this look so easy, but I would still forget which way to make the first cut (through the middle or through the ends). Your explanation is right on!

    Just one thing, any advice for the crying part of cutting onions?

    1. Post author

      You know, I used to have a major problem with tears when cutting an onion, but I don’t have that issue anymore. I think a sharp knife and a quick cut are the best secrets to keeping the tears at bay. :)

  15. Samantha Stiles

    I have a completely unrelated question, but dont know where to ask it!
    Help needed please….

  16. Diana

    Such a simple, useful, brilliant method. Wish I had kmown it all those years when I was cooking for my family everyday!

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  18. Holly W

    Somewhat tangential, but related, what to you know/think about the suggestion of not eating leftover raw onion (say you’re only using half of it in a recipe) b/c it sucks up molds, etc in the air. I was told this by someone who works for an allergist.

    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Hmmmm… I’ve never heard of that, but it’s something to look up for sure. Thanks!

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  20. Kathleen McCarroll

    I’ve been cutting them all wrong too!! We use onions a lot . . . almost every meal there’s either red or yellow onions. Now if I can only figure out how cut them without crying. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Ha ha! I actually find that cutting them this way helps with the crying issue as you cut it faster. 😉

  21. Jeanmarie

    So it turns out I’ve been cutting onions wrong my whole life. Who knew? This looks great. Can’t wait to try it!


    Brilliant! I’ve never heard of doing it this way. Can’t wait to try it! I’ve found that the only thing that keeps me from crying when cutting an onion is to wear sunglasses or clear safety glasses. I also buy the yellow onions, not the white onions, which I think are a little less strong.

  23. Kitty

    Thank you so much for this post! Please do more like it :) I’m now learning to cook and I need this information in my life instead of taking the route of buying onion powder cuz I don’t know how to handle real onions o_o”

    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Glad you like it. If you ever have suggestions for post ideas feel free to share them. :)

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