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How can I tell if a red onion is bad?

Updated February 21, 2017

Fresh red onions are sweet, flavourful and delicious when eaten raw or cooked in your favourite recipe. Red onions are easily distinguishable from white or yellow onions by the deep red colour of their skins and the red colouring throughout their flesh. Red onions are sweet when eaten raw, in contrast to yellow and some white onions that have a sharp acidic flavour. Knowing how to select and store red onions correctly is critical in keeping them fresh. The indicators of a bad red onion are obvious when you know what to look for.

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  1. Hold the red onion in your hand. A fresh onion is heavy and uniformly firm to the touch.

  2. Smell the onion to determine if it has a strong unappealing odour. Fresh red onions have a neutral smell with just a hint of sweet red onion flavouring the aroma.

  3. Visually examine the onion. Do not use red onions that have soft wet spots or blemishes on the skin. Bad onions also have thick woody sprouts growing from the tops. Bright shiny skin is a good indicator of a fresh onion.

  4. Tip

    Onions should be stored in a cool, dark place.

    Avoid red onions developing soft spots by storing them in a mesh bag or container that allows the air to circulate.

    Fresh raw red onions are good in salads.


    Potatoes emit a gas that causes onions to rot. Red onions should be stored in a separate location from potatoes.

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About the Author

Freelance writing since 2009, Tom Ross has over 30 years of corporate management and hands-on experience in the supermarket industry. Ross was featured on the cover of "Instore Buyer" magazine and his articles have appeared on various websites.

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