by Erin Marissa Russell
Grew too many onions and looking for ways to use them all? A prolific home chef can power through pounds of onions as they’re slicing, dicing, and sauteeing their way through food prep. We’re so used to reaching for an onion to get a recipe started off the right way that you might not even need any inspiration to put lots of your homegrown onions to good use in the kitchen. However, if your family is burned out on onions (and it’s not just your eyes burning from all the chopping), we’ve curated this list of ideas to help save the day. Read on for some fresh ideas on unexpected ways you can cook with your crop of onions. We’ve also included a few tips and tricks that don’t send the onions to the kitchen table, instead using them around the house in other ways.
If onions’ seemingly magical ability to layer flavor into a dish isn’t enough to convince you that growing onions is worth your while, there’s more to consider. The health benefits of red onions are well documented and include the ability to demolish cancer cells in the body. There’s no excuse not to make use of part of your garden plots by planting some onions. The harvest will be well worth your effort.
Create Your Own Condiments With Homegrown Onions
Onions have such a complex flavor that just a little time and a few other ingredients can turn them into downright fancy condiments that can help make any meal memorable. We’ve rounded up a few recipes that will guide you through making some of our favorite onion-centric odds and ends to jazz up the plates on your table.
- Caramelized Onion Jam: If you’ve never had onion jam, you may be extremely confused right now. We’ll admit, the words “onion” and “jam” don’t seem as well matched as, for example, the “onion gravy” you see listed next. However, one taste is bound to change your mind, and onion jam brings most meats to life as well as playing well with soft cheeses.
- Onion Gravy: When it comes to home cooking, the gravy is that finishing touch that can make or break a dish. Succulent curls of onion meld silkily into a rich brown sauce to create this onion gravy, which makes an excellent addition to meats, potatoes, stroganoff, and the list goes on.
- Roasted Onion Mayonnaise (AKA roasted onion aioli): Aioli has had a major heyday, with rising popularity, but lots of people don’t know it’s really just a fancy way to say flavored mayonnaise. Another thing lots of people don’t know? Just how simple it is to make your own.
- Pickled Onion Slaw: Preserve the crispness of sliced fresh onion and add a little kick to dishes like pulled pork sandwiches, fish tacos, salads, Buddha bowls, and more with this recipe for zippy pickled onion slaw.
- Peruvian Onion Salsa: Salsa is a standby when you have too many tomatoes on your hands, but you may not have considered it as a solution for putting extra onions to work. This traditional Peruvian salsa recipe puts onions front and center in a delicious way.
- Herbed Onion Salad Dressing: You can eat onions in the salad and on the salad as part of the dressing if you make herbed onion salad dressing. The best part is how quickly the dressing comes together and that it uses ingredients you’ve probably got stocked on hand.
Preserve Onions so You Can Use Your Garden Bounty Later
As flavorful as onions are, and as versatile as they are in recipes, there is a limit to how many onions you and your family can eat. Never fear, though—there are plenty of ways you may not have thought of that will let you preserve your fresh onions to use them in recipes later on. Check out the storage and preservation methods below to get an idea of what your options are.
- Dry your onions to lengthen storage timelines: This Gardening Channel tutorial on how to dry your onions will walk you through what you need to know to keep your crop around as long as possible.
- Follow proper onion storage protocol: This piece covers tips for storing onions and outlines a few different methods to choose from to keep onions fresh in storage.
- Dehydrate onions to stock your spice rack: Follow the instructions we’ve linked here or watch this three-minute how-to video below to learn how to dehydrate onions into a seasoning that’s just like the bottle of minced onions you’ll find in the spice aisle at the grocery store. You can use them as-is or rehydrate the onions when you’re ready to cook with them.
- Freeze caramelized onions to use whenever you please: Caramelized onions make everything better, and when you portion a batch into your freezer, you’re setting yourself up for future culinary success. Not to mention, you’ll save lots of time by having the onions on hand so your food prep is already off and running. (We’ve come to terms with the fact that most recipes fudge the time it takes to caramelize a pot of onions. Might as well make the time discrepancy a non-issue by getting ahead of the curve.) Make sure the container where you store your onions is meant to be used in the freezer. You can freeze your silky, melty sauteed onions in an ice tray for perfectly sized portions to cook with, then move the cubes into a freezer-safe container—or you can follow the instructions here to freeze raw or quickly blanched onions and worry about the cooking later.
- Make homemade onion powder to preserve the flavor of your onion crop: You’ll be able to use your batch of onions time and time again if you take just a little time now to turn the fresh bulbs into onion powder. Use the finished product to season meats, roasted vegetables, stews, and more.
Make Onions Into Useful Household Products
Okay, we’ll admit it—there comes a time when you just can’t eat any more onions. If your crop of alliums was such a success that you have more onions than you can possibly eat, you’ll be glad to learn that there are plenty of ways to use up onions without them ending up in your belly. Take a look at these practical ways to put onions to work around the house to get an idea of the possibilities.
- Make onions into a spray to keep bugs out of the garden: Onions are naturally bug repellent and can be made into a pesticidal spray to prevent insect infestations in your garden. See the video tutorials below on you how to make an onion garden spray with the help of garlic and a juicer and instructions for cayenne onion garlic spray. The final video tutorial covers if insects aren’t a problem in your garden, how to use the peels to fertilize your plants.
- Another surprising way to use onion spray is to combat hair loss: Yep, you read that right. A small study showed promising results in using onions to stimulate hair growth for those whose hair is thinning or balding. Of course, you may need something else to combat your hair smell after the onion spray treatment.
- Put onions to work on the cleanup crew: You may not have yet realized the cleaning power of the humble onion, but it’s substantial to say the least. Scrub silver with sliced onion (or mix crushed onions with water to make a paste) to make it shine. Cut an onion in half, and use the cut side to scrub any especially stubborn dishes, then let them soak to make them easier to wash. Stab a halved onion with a fork and use it to clean (and season) your grill before or after use.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of ways to capitalize on a bumper crop of onions from your garden. We hope these unexpected ways to use onions will help you make the most of the harvest you worked hard for.
Want to learn more about using your onion harvest?
Michigan State University Simple steps to harvesting and preserving onions
University of Nebraska–Lincoln covers Freezing Onions
HGTV covers Freezing Onions
houselogic covers 7 Clever Uses for Onions
Hungry Harvest covers 26 Ways to Use Up Onions
TIPHERO covers 6 Creative Ways You Never Thought to Use Onions