How to make Sweet Onion Shreds

Sweet Onion Shreds

Use this technique to remove the harsh taste from onion, leaving lovely sweet shreds to use in salads, sandwiches, and many other dishes.

Raw onion can often have an unpleasantly harsh ‘bite’ to them, but if you use the following technique, you can produce delightfully sweet onion shreds that can be used in all sorts of ways. They are a wonderful addition to salads, make a great condiment on burgers or sandwiches, and they can even be used as attractive, and edible garnish for appetizers or sushi plates

Peeled onions ready for slicing
Peeled onions ready for slicing

You can use any type of onion you like for this technique. Spanish Onions are the ones I most commonly use, but sometimes I use the white onions pictured here.

First peel the onions, slice them in half from top to bottom, and then cut each half cross-wise allowing you to then slice thin ‘half-moons’ from the cut faces.

Onions thinly sliced in ‘half-moons’
Onions thinly sliced in ‘half-moons’

The idea is to slice the onion using a sharp knife, or a mandoline, so as to produce sections that are thin enough to be translucent, but still thick enough to survive being vigorously presses without falling apart.

For uses, such as garnishes, where the visual appeal of the onion shreds are paramount, it is best if you remove the entire central core of the onion, and only cut from the center, large face of each half, leaving good two centimeters or so at the end (Reserving the remaining pieces for other uses, of course).

Here, the whole of the onion is being sliced. The resultant onion shreds will not be uniform, but for using them in sandwiches, or as burger condiments, for instance, this is not really issue.

The Technique…

Salting and soaking the onion slices
Salting and soaking the onion slices

And, now for the trick…

Separate your onion rings into individual shreds and toss them in a large bowl with a good sprinkling of salt. The actual amount isn’t all that critical as it will largely all be washed away anyway, but a half teaspoon or so for a large Spanish Onion would be fine.

Next massage the shreds with the salt, causing them to soften, and then cover them generously with cold water. Continue to knead and squeeze the onion under water until the shred exude their juice and turn the water a milky color as seen above.

Now, pour off the water and replace it with fresh, repeating the operation all over again. This time, the water will become less milky and, after two, or three repetitions, it will remain clear and you are finished.

Using Sweet Onion Shreds

Sweet Onion Shreds used as a garnish

Drain the onions and taste … Do you see how the harsh onion bit has gone and that the shreds now have a mild, sweet taste?

They are now ready for immediate use, or you can package and store them for a few days in the fridge. As mentioned, they are extremely useful for salads where the usual raw onion taste would not be desirable, but another great use is as a plate garnish, much the same way as Japanese presentations often include a pile of finely shredded daikon.

The most common use I have for this technique is to make a condiment, particularly for sandwiches and, in this case, I sometimes like to add just a few drops of vinegar, or a sprinkle of sugar (or both) before using. Try them instead of sauerkraut on German Sausages in a bun!

Comments, questions or suggestions most welcome!