It can be frustrating to try a new recipe and not understand how much of an ingredient to purchase at the store. Sometimes they give you a quantity of onions in volume (2 cups), sometimes as a weight (4 ounces) and still others the onion is given as a produce description (2 medium Bermuda onions). But what are they really talking about? So how much is in an onion? In order to help make cooking easier we did some experiments to help tell you exactly how many onions you need to buy.

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To answer How many onions in a cup we went to the grocery store to check out the different common types of onions in the produce section. After surveying the selection we realized that there are a lot of different onions to choose from. Here"s a quick look at 4 that can be found in about the same size bulb:
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Yellow onions are the most common spicy and bold type of onion used in the United States. If a recipe just calls for "an onion", this is a safe one to select. Therefore, for our test sample, we selected 1 medium yellow onion with a 2" to 3.25" diameter. White onions have a sharper and tangier flavor; they are commonly found in Latin American and Mexican dishes. Red onions have a strong yet slightly sweet flavor and are a favorite raw ingredient in salads. As their name indicates, the makeup of sweet onions allows the sugar content to shine, making them the sweetest, mildest onions to eat. Well known varieties found in the store are Bermuda and Vidalia, just to name a few. In addition, shallots look more like large garlic cloves but are really small onions that form in clusters. Its flavor is milder than basic onions and is often used in French and southeast Asian cuisine. Another onion choice is the pearl onion. It has a very small onion bulb with a sweet, delicate flavor; the pearl onion is usually served as an accompaniment.

There are 6 small onions (about 2.5 ounces each), 4 to 5 medium onions (about 3 to 3.5 ounces each), or 3 large onions in 1 pound.

Like most fruits and vegetables, the number of onions needed to measure 1 cup depends on how coarsely you chop it. If the recipe calls for 1 cup of finely minced onion then it will take about 3 whole medium onions and if a larger chopped size is desired then about 2 will do the trick. On the other hand, 1 medium shallot only weighs about 1 ounce and will yield about 1/4 cup of minced onions. In a recipe you can replace 1 medium onion with 3 to 4 shallots.

Did you know that when cutting an onion its sulfuric compounds stimulate a painful sensation and causes our eyes to produce tears to eliminate it? To minimize this feeling, you can try to chill the onion first and cut into the root end of it last. Ancient Egyptians worshipped the onion; they believed its spherical shape and concentric rings symbolized eternity. Yellow onions make up more than 75% of the world"s production of onions.


Next time your recipe calls for a cup of chopped onions you"ll feel confident knowing how many of the different types of onions you need. You can also use our conversion tool below for any custom how many onions in a... measurements you need.

Custom Conversions for Onion

One Onion Equals

There is ⅔ Cup (158 mls) of Chopped Onion in a OnionThere is ¾ Cup (177 mls) of Sliced Onion in a Onion I need:¼½¾11 ½22 ½33 ½44 ½5678910Teaspoon(s)Tablespoon(s)Fluid Ounce(s) in VolumeCup(s)Pint(s)Quart(s)Gallon(s)Milliliter(s)Liter(s)ofChopped OnionSliced Onion You need1.5Onions

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There are more than six hundred types of "onions" but the most common varieties are yellow / brown onions, red / purple onions, white onions (these are all "dry" onions), and green / spring onions.

Dry onions remain in the ground until they mature into large round bulbs with dried leaves, while green onions are harvested when the bulbs are small, and the leaves are still green.


Brown, or yellow onions, have a strong flavor compared to other varieties, and can be used in most dishes. They are round, with a thin layer of papery brown skin. Under the skin is the multi layered, white-ish flesh.

Red, or purple onions, have dark red, almost purple skin and their layered flesh is white with a touch of red. Their taste is quite pleasant and not as strong as the brown/yellow variety, making them popular in salads.

White onions are softer and milder than brown and red onions. They still have the distinct onion taste, but they don"t leave a lingering aftertaste, which also makes them popular in "raw ingredient" dishes like salads.

You can remove some of an onion"s strong taste by soaking them in cold water before adding them to any dishes.

Spring onions, also known as green onions, are unripe, immature onions that are harvested early. They have small, white bulbs with long, soft green stems and are much sweeter tasting than the other varieties.

Shallots and leeks are also part of the onion family. Shallots look like elongated and stretched onions, taste slightly sweeter, but when peeled, you"ll find cloves in clusters (like garlic), and not multi-layered rings. While leeks are long, green vegetables; resembling green onions, only much bigger with a milder taste. Onions, shallots and leeks all have their own, very distinct taste, and it"s not advised to replace one with the other when cooking; only use what your recipe calls for.


There are very few ingredients as versatile as onions. They can be cooked (roasted, grilled, caramelized, deep-fried), pickled, even served raw (thinly sliced or chopped) in salads, sandwiches, dips, as burger toppings etc. Chopped onions are used to thicken sauces and gravies.

When served whole, spring onions make great crudités, while their stalks can be used in salads and dips. They"re also very common in cooked dishes because of their sweet, mild flavour.

Onions were so sought after that, during the middle ages, they were used as currency and even given as gifts!


Onion juice, powder and onion flakes are great substitutes if you don’t have onions on hand.

If you’re not particularly fond of their taste, you can replace onions with leeks, which are sweeter and milder, or even chives, which have a more garlicky taste.

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Green onions (spring onions) are also a good substitute. If you’re allergic to onions, celery is a good substitute. Although they don’t taste like onions at all, they do have the crunch. You can also use carrots and tomatoes to thicken gravies, curries, and soups instead of onions.

Nibbling on fresh parsley, apples, cardamom and fennel seeds will prevent onion breath if it’s a concern!