How to counteract too much onion in a recipe? (5 ways)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “How to counteract too much onion in a recipe?”. We will also elaborate on some ways to help you counteract too much onion in a recipe.

How to counteract too much onion in a recipe?

To counteract too much onion in a recipe, you have many options. The simplest way is to dilute the recipe by adding more ingredients or doubling the recipe. Other options are:

  • Add potatoes or cornstarch
  • Add something acidic
  • Add dairy 

Add potatoes

Potatoes consist of starch with a mild flavour. Boiled or cooked cubes of potatoes can be added to the recipe to counteract too much onion.

The ability of starch to reduce the intensity of onions in the dish are due to the property of interactions between starch chains and phenolic compounds of onions, which are also the flavour compounds (2). 

Non-covalent bondings, including hydrogen bonding and hydrophobic force are some binding interactions that trap the polyphenols to both gelatinized and raw starch. 

After cooking the potatoes in the dish, remove them, cool and store them in the refrigerator.

Similarly, adding cornstarch will reduce the flavour intensity of onions in the dish. Solubilize cornstarch in cold water and add to the food (cornstarch does not solubilize in hot water).

Add something acidic

Adding acidic ingredients to a dish with too much onion will help to distract the taste buds and alter the flavour. Among the acidic ingredients, you can add lemon juice, lime juice, and wine vinegar. Adding these ingredients will add another dimension of flavour distracting your taste buds from the unpleasant taste of too many onions. 

Several acids have been used in the pharmaceutical industry to mask unpleasant tastes of medications. The enhancement of one specific taste caused by a compound that characterises the taste is able to mask other tastes in the food. For example, by adding citrus flavour in a bitter formulation, the bitterness is reduced (3).

Add dairy 

Another option that may work is to add dairy products to your dish. Among the dairy products, you can add some amount of cottage cheese, yoghurt, sour cream or other non-dairy alternatives. The fat in these dairy products will absorb some of the excess onion flavours and give a more well-balanced taste to your dish. 

The ability of dairy to reduce the intensity of onion flavour is due to the presence of casein, the milk protein. Chemical compounds characterising the onion flavour, such as the organosulfur and phenolics are trapped by the casein micelles. Milk and dairy has been also used as taste masking foods for the development of drugs (4).

What can we do to tone down onion flavour in the first place?

There are a variety of ways that you can try to tone down onion flavour in your recipe in the first place. 

In a cooked meal, do not place raw onion directly in the pan with other ingredients. Rather, cook the onion separately before adding the other ingredients to the preparation. 

Even if you cook the onions at low flame for a few mins, it will considerably help to reduce the onion flavour. 

Cooking can partially destroy the chemical compounds responsible for the flavour in onions, as well as other compounds and nutrients in vegetables. 

Water can help further tone down the onion flavour. Put the minced onion in a strainer and wash it under the tap water. 

Also, if you soak sliced onion in ice water for at least thirty mins, it will further help you to tone down the onions’ flavour considerably. Soaking or boiling onions in water causes the organosulfur compounds and the phenolic compounds of onions to migrate into the water (5).

As soon as the onions are cut, the enzyme alliinase is released and comes in contact with the sulphur compounds, resulting in an increase of the pungency and the flavour of onions.

However, this effect is caused in the food to which the cut onions are added. If they are previously added to water instead of being added to the dish, it releases its flavour compounds in the water. 

After being soaked in water, drain the cut onions and dry them before you add them to your recipes, and you will have lots of onion flavour without that sharp taste.

However, the onions will not have the same health benefits as the sharp onions, as the intensity of the taste is related to the concentrations of the compounds which favours health (1).

Why should you counteract too much onion in a recipe?

You should counteract too much onion in a recipe because the excess of onions may be indesirable, in addition to possibly causing negative effects to sensitive individuals.

Onions in excess are not appreciated in a recipe, because it can cause bad breath and heartburn, especially in people suffering from gastrointestinal reflux disease (1).

The organosulfur compounds of onions, which are desirable due to their antioxidant activity, are responsible for such less desirable effects. 

In addition, eating a large amount of onions can cause alterations in the taste of breastmilk, resulting in the bad flavour due to the presence of sulphur compounds in the milk. Women who are breastfeeding would want to counteract too much onion in a recipe.


In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “How to counteract too much onion in a recipe?”. We have also elaborated on some ways to help you counteract too much onion in a recipe.


  1. Block, Eric. The organosulfur chemistry of the genus Allium–implications for the organic chemistry of sulfur. Angew Chemie Inter Ed English, 1992, 31, 1135-1178.
  2. Takahama, Umeo, and Sachiko Hirota. Interactions of flavonoids with α-amylase and starch slowing down its digestion. Food Funct, 2018, 9, 677-687..
  3. Abraham, Jijo, and Flowerlet Mathew. Taste masking of paediatric formulation: a review on technologies, recent trends and regulatory aspects. Int J Pharm Pharm Sci, 2014, 6, 12-19.  
  4. Kamal, Sukhmeet Singh, et al. An investigative and explanatory review on use of milk as a broad-spectrum drug carrier for improvement of bioavailability and patient compliance. J Young Pharmac, 2016, 8, 72.
  5. Fabbri, Adriana DT, and Guy A. Crosby. A review of the impact of preparation and cooking on the nutritional quality of vegetables and legumes. Int J Gastron Food Sci, 2016, 3, 2-11.

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