Red Onions in Quantities Less Than One Onion

I keep find recipes that call for quantities like “1/4 cup red onion” or “2T red onion”. I don’t cook a lot, and am loathe to buy a red onion and then waste most of it. And no, we don’t eat a lot of salads.
So what can I either 1) substitute for red onion (even yellow onions are not used very much here, but I could try cooking something freezable that uses them if need be), or 2) use the extra red onion for that will keep/freeze?
Or can one find dried red onions? :slight_smile:

All the red onion leftovers Pieces we pickle and use in sandwiches. Pickling mellows the onion. Once pickled we freeze in amts to pull as we like. I like all onions.

As for a sub, reds have a sweet bite so I’d buy the smallest sweet onion I could find. Vidalia onion


Just use a shallot. The ones I buy tend to be red in color and are small enough that you can maybe get by with one small one. I have a half of one sitting on my counter at the moment. Give me your address I’ll send it to you :yum:


Like @Scubadoo97 I use a shallot in such situations, I think of them as “personal size” onions. But pickling any remainders is also a great idea.


For red onions, I often substitute shallots as well. But for onions in general, I do just deal with the leftovers. I will often saute it with garlic, whether the recipe calls for it or not, just to use up whatever may be left over. If I’m roasting anything, I’ll put leftover chunks next to whatever I’m roasting too for added flavor or aroma. Stock is great! If you find yourself making stock out of leftover chicken or other bits, I will throw it in too.

In the summer time, I will bury some vegetable scraps in my garden to give some extra nutrients to the soil.

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Just throw the remnants in a jar of pickles.
Both will be better.


Use a 1/4 c. Or a few chopped tbsp. and throw the rest out if you can’t the find the small ones. How much does an onion cost. anyway. Shallots are a bit different. A sharp edgy garlic onion flavor if you ask me.

Freezing doesn’t work well texturize wise and chopping up and putting in containers in the fridge just makes the smell stronger.

Another vote for shallots, although that’s in no small part due to my growing them. There are a few varieties of shallots out there, but they aren’t as easy as onions to find. I keep leftover pieces of 1/2 white, red, and yellow onions as well, and usually end up using them in some recipe within a week ( I make the serious eats puffy taco filling weekly), but will toss them if they aren’t “right” .

I love an old article from Saveur about alliums. I think this is it.

Types of Onion Guide A Guide to 33 Varieties

Many have suggested shallots, but can you buy a single shallot? I only see them in bags of a dozen or so, probably much more costly and wasteful than a single RO? Wrapping half an onion tightly in clingfilm (sarin?) gives it a fridge life of about 5 days, I find.

IMO dried onions are a completely different animal, and unless you need their particular presence (onion soup, maybe?) you would be better just to omit onion from the recipe.

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You can buy them as singles most of time here in N Cal, especially in Asian markets. They come by the 1/2 pound bag from my CSA, and if they are okay when you get them (no mold), they seem to keep at room temp or in the fridge for awhile. I don’t keep them in the fridge, but I’ve read about it.

I also compost a LOT of “not right” veg.


I did just the other day, some stores have them loose by the pound


Grate leftover onions with garlic. Add to (lamb) mince with parsley and (Middle Eastern) spices. Form balls or sausages and you have köfte/koftas.

Or add them to stir-fries, sauces. Onions and garlic are the basic flavour builder of so many dishes in many cuisines.


In addition to what others say about substituting shallots, I often just use the whole (small to medium sized) red onion in a dish if doing so wouldn’t throw the recipe out of proportion. We like onions and I find that extra onion in cooked dishes can be a happy thing. In longer cooked dishes I find that onion melts away.

I stick with the recipe’s recommended amount if the onion is to be left uncooked because raw ones pack a punch.


Freeze the leftover is you won’t use within a week. Texture won’t be crisp but flavor is okay. Or buy granulated onion. In such small quantities red vs yellow onion isn’t a big deal.

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When I need a small amount of produce I often check the salad bar if the store has one. While it’s much more expensive pound for pound, you may be able to purchase the amount you need.


Good thought on the salad bar!
(I appreciate all the suggestions, but many people missed the part where I said I don’t cook very much. Basically, if I cook once a week, that’s about it. Pickling the remainder seems doable too.)


I’ll dig out the red onion pickle that I really liked. I was tossing it in everything!


Super easy:


Nobody likes waste, but pickling half a red onion? The toss it option looks good to me.

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I get single shallots at several supermarkets in the Boston area. And for @eleeper, if you use a Ziploc vacuum seal bag, the red onion can stay fresh for a long time in the fridge after chopping off what you need. I don’t have the electric sealer, but the hand pump, and it works quite well (although I couldn’t find the bags anymore in the supermarket, so bought a large batch from Amazon).

An alternative is to caramelize the rest of the red onion and freeze in Tbsp. quantities on parchment paper, then peel them off and pop them into a freezer bag for use as you need them.