I have been making a pretty standard Mediterranean-style potato salad but replacing the standard vinegar with lemon juice, which I like better. However, I noticed that, when used, red wine vinegar does more to soften the uncooked union and seems to release the pungent juices from it so they spread to other ingredients. Lemon juice tastes better but I don't think it treats the onion as well.

Because I would rather not mix vinegar and lemon juice, I was wondering if there are any way other than using vinegar to treat raw onion so that it releases more juice and also make the onion more palatable?


3 Answers 3


Marinate the onions in acid for a longer time.

I have a recipe that mixes thinly-sliced red onions with lemon juice and feta cheese, and the mixture sits on the counter for 4 or more hours, until the onions are very soft and translucent, are much less pungent, and they have expressed a lot of liquid.


A simple way is to, upon cutting, place your chopped onions into a bowl of ice water for 10-15 minutes before tossing into your salad (sans water, of course). I find this takes the 'spicy bite' and pungency out of them and leaves the crunch - whereas acid seems to affect the texture of the onion.

  • 1
    This is, IMHO, the correct answer to the question. Longer vinegar-soak makes for pickled onion, which is a different, though nice tasting, product than the OP wants.
    – Ron
    Dec 20, 2016 at 5:25
  • I disagree. I'm reading this as OP wants the softened onions without having to use vinegar and lemon. Marinating for a longer time in lemon is the correct answer.
    – Caleb
    Dec 20, 2016 at 9:36
  • This is how Mexican Chef Rick Bayless does it, he rinses out the freshly cut onions in water, and then shakes out the excess.
    – JG sd
    Dec 22, 2016 at 4:32
  • Mismatched question title ("I can haz mild onion") and content ("I can haz soft mild onion")? Apr 23, 2018 at 11:59

What I personally do is cut the onions half and put them in a bowl of cold water and then after chopping them, marinate them with lemon juice for a longer period of time. It helps remove pungency out of them and are crunchy as well.

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