Skip to main content

Onions are the versatile star of the kitchen. Here are 5 creative uses

Onions aren’t only helpful for cooking and making you cry — you can use them in many different ways. If you happen to have a bountiful yield this year, you can take advantage of your homegrown onion plants in ways that go beyond tossing them in a soup or salad. After cooking all of your favorite dishes, here are creative hacks for onion uses around your home.

Sliced red onion

Polish metal to clean a grill

Sure, you can grill onions for your weekend barbecue, but what about sprucing up your grill with onions? Onions can be used for culinary housekeeping purposes that don’t directly involve cooking. Yes, you can use an onion to clean your grill, which is bound to be grimy from time to time. It’s a great supplement to deep cleaning your grill with just plain soap and water, and it’s gentler than using a metal brush. All you have to do is cut an onion in half, turn the temperature on high, and rub the grill with the cut part of the onion facing downwards. The released steam from the heat will produce onion juices that help you get rid of residual charred bits. To eliminate that onion odor, wash your grill after polishing it up.

Repel insects

One of the best uses for onion is pest control. Onions have sulfur components that garden pests detest. Instead of relying on potentially toxic chemicals, you can use onions as a natural insect repellent on your plants. There are two ways to go about it: liquifying your onions in a blender or making tea from them by steeping them in hot water. In either case, spritz the solution onto your pest-impacted plant every week until your foliage is in the clear. For an extra boost, some people will add garlic to their onion solution, which also contains sulfur components. You can, additionally, grow onions as companion plants alongside carrots, lettuce, beets, and cabbage to deter garden pests from the get-go.

Ice scrape
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Keep frost from forming on your car windshield and windows

Using onion to prevent frost from forming on your car is one of those strange hacks that works. Onions produce natural oils that create a barrier and keep ice and frost from forming on your car windows. While you could use a scraper every morning, you may not want to spend a few extra minutes doing so before your commute. Save time by cutting an onion in half and rubbing it on your windshield the night before freezing temperatures hit.

Preserve avocados

We all know how a cut avocado can quickly turn brown in the blink of an eye. While you can use lime or oil to keep your avocado from turning brown, it’s also possible to keep it looking fresh without changing its texture. How? By, of course, storing your cut avocados with cut onions. The sulfur in the onion slows down the oxidation process that turns your avocado brown. All you need for this hack to work is an avocado and an onion. Place your cut avocado with the flesh and pit side facing up next to a wedge of onion in a sealed container. Since the avocado is next to as opposed to on the onion, it won’t take to an onion flavor. And hey, you’ll have two ingredients for guacamole the following day!

Chopping onion with knife
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Clean rust

In addition to polishing your grill, you can use onion to spruce up other metal surfaces as well. Steel and iron objects can rust easily due to direct moisture or moisture in the air. No one likes to see that crusty, reddish-brown buildup, but luckily, you can tackle it with onions on hand. Essentially, enzymes in the onion create something called sulfenic acid that breaks down rust to reveal the metal underneath. Circling back to uses in the kitchen, this trick is excellent for cleaning up rusty knives. It’s relatively easy: Rub an onion slice on your dull, rusted knife repeatedly to get rid of unwanted buildup. An onion slice can tackle a modest amount of rust, but you may need more onions to deal with more rust-crusted items.

Onions are versatile not only for your favorite recipes but also for miscellaneous uses in your garden, car, patio, and other non-cooking culinary needs, too. Even half an onion can go a long way when it comes to keeping ice off of your car windscreen or cleaning your grill. And if you still have leftover onions after trying out all of these hacks, you can always make room for onion soup when you’re meal prepping!

Editors' Recommendations

Stacey Nguyen
Stacey's work has appeared on sites such as POPSUGAR, HelloGiggles, Buzzfeed, The Balance, TripSavvy, and more. When she's…
Grow these herbs for Halloween to make your celebration even spookier
Spook up your Halloween with these easy-to-grow herbs
A bundle of fresh mugwort

Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve, is a night that means many things to many people. For kids and their parents, it’s a night to dress up in fun or scary costumes, walk around town, and get candy. For others, it can mean haunted houses and scary movie marathons. For the superstitious, it’s a night to be wary of and to be careful not to cause disturbances between that which we see and that which we feel. And for the powers that be — the witches, the warlocks, and the gardeners — it’s a time to head out to our Halloween outdoor herb gardens and celebrate the bountiful harvest that awaits us.

If you’re new to it all, you may wonder how to choose herbs for Halloween. It all has to do with a mixture of how much care these herbs need, how well they grow in colder conditions, and what they've meant and symbolized throughout history. So grab your witch's broom (and your protective gardening gloves) as we look at a few of the most Halloween-appropriate herbs you can grow this season.

Read more
Coriander vs. cilantro: Here’s how these herbs differ
Tips on telling these herbs apart and harvesting them from your garden
Coriander seeds and cilantro leaves

Cilantro and coriander are both popular kitchen herbs. Cilantro features bright green, flat leaves (that somewhat resemble Italian parsley) and is known to many as “the herb that tastes like soap.” Coriander seeds come from the same plant as cilantro, which is scientifically known as Coriandrum sativum. What we call cilantro is actually the coriander plant, and to many, the dual-purpose of this herb can cause a bit of confusion. Here's everything you need to know about coriander vs. cilantro for the next time you're cooking in the kitchen or harvesting them from your garden.

How do cilantro and coriander differ?
Because they come from the same plant, it’s very easy to be confused about why these herbs aren’t called the same thing. But here's the difference: Cilantro is not only the leaves of the plant but the stems as well, and coriander comes from the seeds. Why are the stems and seeds called cilantro instead of coriander if it’s a coriander plant?

Read more
5 tips for starting an amazing basement garden
While intimidating, setting up a DIY basement garden is definitely possible
A person potting plants

A basement garden, though not thought of often, can be a wonderful addition to your home — especially during the winter. A basement greenhouse is a great way to overwinter your plants, as it ensures that all of your work won't go to waste just because the weather's cooling down.

Whether you have a furnished or unfurnished basement, it’s possible to designate a specific area for growing plants indoors. Though potentially costly, it can be a good alternative if you aren’t ready to commit to (or don’t have the space for) a regular outdoor greenhouse.

Read more