Why Onions Make You CryI’ve always been curious as to why onions make you cry whether you’re cutting a strong red onion or a mild sweet onion.

When preparing a meal and using raw onion, it’s always a race for me to see how fast I can chop them before grabbing a paper towel to mop up the tears.

Believe it or not, there’s a little science behind why onions make you cry.

You see, when the onion’s cells are disturbed by cutting or eating, it causes a chemical reaction of sorts.

Enzymes in the onion will break down amino acid sulfoxides and generate another form of acid called sulfenic acids. (Sulfenic acids are found in garlic as well.)

This sulfenic acid is then rearranged by another enzyme in the onion creating a type of gas that is then given off by the onion and this is why onions make you cry.

It’s this gas that works its way up to the eyes causing an irritation. Our body’s response to that irritation is to generate tears to flush the eyes.

Tips to Stop Crying When Cutting Onions

Everybody has an opinion on how to chop an onion and what works best in preventing the tears. One sure way is to use dried onion so you don’t need to cut one at all! Here are some interesting suggestions, some are a little out there, as to what might work for you.

  • Put a toothpick in your mouth – Not sure what this contributes other than giving you something to bite down on as the tears are streaming.
  • Wear goggles – One would need to be chopping a lot of onions to wear these.
  • Freeze the onions – This is supposed to inhibit the chemical reaction that causes the off-gassing by the onion.
  • Run the onion under cold water – This, too, is supposed to prevent the gas created from the onion enzymes from reaching your eyes.
  • Use a fan – Placing one behind you when chopping onions will blow the onion-filled air away from you supposedly keeping your eyes dry.

Chef Gordon Ramsey has his own opinion, like many others, on why onions make you cry which he speaks to in this short video on how to cut an onion below.

Ramsey Explains Why Onions Make You Cry