Can Onions Go Bad? [Pickled, Green, White, Yellow, Etc.]

Onions kept in the kitchen

Onions are one of those vegetables that we buy in bulk because they have a remarkably long shelf-life. When stored properly, they outlive most vegetables. But can onions go bad?

Yes, onions can go bad. You can prolong their shelf life by storing them in a dark, dry, and cool place. Nonetheless, they will not hold up forever. Raw onions will rot or sprout over time. Processed versions like pickled and caramelized onions also have a finite lifespan, after which they go bad.

Let’s dig deeper into this now.

How Long Do Onions Last?

Most varieties of whole, unpeeled onions will last on the countertop at room temperature for six weeks.

Storing them in a dry and dark space like the pantry will extend their shelf life. They can last for up to two months in such spaces, where they’re not exposed to moisture or light.

Other vegetables will rarely last as long unless you refrigerate them. Hence, it’s very convenient to buy and store onions in bulk.

How long an onion lasts depends on the type of onion, whether it’s cut or whole, and how you store it.

Onions do best when stored in a dry basket or bin with proper air circulation. Exposure to moisture can cause mold formation on the surface and lead to spoiling.

However, peeling and cutting an onion drastically reduces its shelf life.

Whole, peeled onions dry out and become unsuitable for consumption in just a few hours of being left out. However, they will last for up to two weeks in the fridge.

Cut onions also deteriorate rapidly. So you should either use them up quickly or store the excess in the refrigerator.

Even if you refrigerate cut onions, you should use them in two to three days.

How Do You Know If An Onion Has Gone Bad?

Good onions are ripe, firm, and free of spots and bruises. They have dry and papery skin. You will find fresh and moist flesh beneath the petals.

Onions with cuts and bruises are prone to rotting. They may produce moldy patches or become soft.

Leaving such rotting onions with the rest of the batch increases their chances of spoiling too. So discard or separate such onions from the rest of the stock.

The onions you store in your pantry or countertop have a long shelf life but will not last forever. Unless you use them up quickly, they will start spoiling.

As onions spoil, their skin becomes soft and mushy. It will yield to your touch and may even have moldy patches on the surface. The onion may also show signs of sprouting.

If the onion’s roots and shoots are still small and the skin hasn’t become soft, you can quickly use it. However, if you wait for too long, the onion will lose its crunch and flavor.

Once rotting sets in, onions turn slimy and emit foul odors that stink up the entire kitchen. They will also release smelly liquids that stain surfaces. Get rid of the onion before it reaches this stage.

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Can Onions Go Bad In The Fridge?

The best way to store onions is at room temperature in a dry and dark space away from moisture and air.

Unlike other vegetables, onions don’t do well in the refrigerator. This is because their dry papery skin absorbs moisture.

When you place them in the refrigerator, excess moisture can make them spoil or sprout.

However, if you have no other option, you can store onions in the refrigerator after removing their outer papery skin. This reduces their chances of absorbing moisture and going bad.

It’s also important to store onions in airtight containers or bags to prevent them from coming in contact with moisture.

Since onions have strong smells, storing them in airtight bags will prevent their odor from spreading inside the refrigerator compartment.

Storing onions in open containers or bags in the fridge will change their texture. They will lose their firmness and crunch and become dry.

When stored properly, onions can last for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Sliced or cut onions will hold up for seven to ten days when you store them in an airtight container. If you wish to keep them for much longer, freeze them in an airtight bag or container.

Can Pickled Onions Go Bad?

Pickled onions

Pickled onions generally hold up longer than raw and cut onions because they contain preservative agents like vinegar and salt. However, their shelf life will depend on the technique used to preserve them.

Vacuum-sealed pickled onions will last for up to two years in the pantry. After opening them, you should store them in the refrigerator and use them up within a month.

Quickly pickled onions don’t last as long. You should store them in the refrigerator and use them in two to four weeks.

Store-bought pickled onions will usually last longer because of the preservatives in them. Nevertheless, it’s always best to consume them before the use-by date on the packaging to avoid any risk.

Can Green Onions Go Bad?

Green onions don’t last as long as other varieties of onions. The green leafy bits spoil quickly, so you should store these onions in the refrigerator.

Properly stored green onions will hold up for one to two weeks in the refrigerator. To extend their lifespan, wrap the green onions in a kitchen towel or paper and store them inside an airtight bag or container.

The leaves of green onions become soft and discolored once they start spoiling. If you leave them in the refrigerator beyond this stage, they become slimy and smelly.

They will also expel a foul-smelling liquid that will stain your refrigerator compartment or the bag in which you placed them.

Can White Onions Go Bad?

Although white onions have a long shelf life, they will ultimately go bad. The ideal storage condition for these onions is in a cool and dry space, away from moisture and light.

They will hold up for more than a month when stored in this manner.

When white onions start spoiling, they become soft. The skin will also become discolored at different places. You may notice the presence of mold. Left untouched, they will start smelling and release a sticky liquid.

Some white onions begin sprouting when left untouched for too long. Their shoots and roots can grow at a rapid pace. It’s best to discard such onions.

Can Yellow Onions Go Bad?

Like white onions and red onions, yellow onions also have a long shelf life. When stored properly, whole and unpeeled yellow onions last several weeks.

Their ideal storage conditions are in a dry and dark space, like a pantry, where they will easily keep for at least a month.

Nevertheless, yellow onions will eventually spoil. Their skin will become soft, and they will develop mold or sprouts when left unused for a very long time.

Exposure to moisture will increase the rate at which they will spoil.

It’s important to discard a yellow onion as soon as it begins to show signs of spoilage. Left untouched, it will become very smelly.

The onion will also release foul-smelling liquids that can stink up your pantry or kitchen.

Although the best way to store yellow onions is at room temperature, you can consider refrigerating them to prolong their lifespan.

However, before storing onions in the refrigerator, you should remove the outer papery skin. Keep them in airtight bags to prevent the cold air inside the compartment from drying them out.

Whole peeled onions hold up in the refrigerator for up to two months. However, they can lose their original texture and crunch and become soft.

Can Fried Onions Go Bad?

Bacteria grow rapidly in fried and cooked onions left out at room temperature. They are unsafe to consume if you leave them out for more than two hours.

However, these onions will hold up better when they’re stored in the refrigerator.

Crispy fried onions will last for three to five days in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight bag or container.

Beyond this duration, they will start showing signs of spoiling. You can store them in the freezer for up to three months.

Store-bought fried onions will usually last longer than those made at home because of how they are packed and the preservatives in them.

However, you will usually have to refrigerate or freeze them after opening. Check the packaging for the use-by date and recommended storage instructions.

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Can Caramelized Onions Go Bad?

Caramelized onions will not hold up for more than a few hours at room temperature. Hence, it’s important to refrigerate them as soon as possible.

These onions will last in the fridge for three to five days when stored properly in an airtight container or bag. Improper storage can affect the texture and also make them spoil faster.

You can also freeze caramelized onions in a good airtight container or bag to prolong their lifespan. Caramelized onions will last for three to five months in the freezer.