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10 Good Reasons To Save Those Onion and Garlic Skins

10 Good Reasons To Save Those Onion and Garlic Skins

You have probably heard of “root-to-stem” cooking, where no part of the vegetable goes to waste. Most of us have been doing that for years, in fact, in your grandmother’s day, it would be unthinkable to toss any part of a vegetable–everything was used.

Here at Farmers’ Almanac, we’ve been sharing “waste not, want not” ideas for generations, including the benefits of saving vegetable peelings. But what about the peels of onions and garlic, which we usually toss in the trash? Can you really utilize those? Turns out, you can!

Why Save The Skins?

Onions and garlic are possibly the most widely used vegetables in all world cuisines. But most of us throw away their outer skins and peels. That papery covering may seem like just throw-away packaging, but you’ll be surprised to learn they are actually nutrient dense and have a several household uses as well.

Plants are stationary by nature, producing everything they need to defend, protect, and heal themselves. Therefore, it makes sense that plants would concentrate many of their protective properties in the outer coverings where most environmental attacks take place.

The outer skins of onion and garlic provide an excellent source of vitamins A, C, E, and numerous antioxidants. The skins of onions are also a rich source of flavonoids, particularly quercetin, a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Peeling garlic removes the phenylpropanoid antioxidants which protects the heart and helps to fight the aging process along with helping to boost immunity and lower cholesterol. Don’t be surprised when you start seeing garlic skins in health products on the market!

Important Note: To maximize health benefits of onions and garlic, use organic whenever possible to avoid ingesting pesticides sprayed on the outer layers of conventionally grown vegetables.

10 Uses For Garlic and Onion Skins:

1. Add extra nutrition to soups and stews: Onion and garlic skins can be used to add extra nutrition to soups, stews, and when making bone broth or stock.  Strain the papery skins out afterward.

2. Better roasting: Keep the skins on your garlic when you roast them. The protective layer keeps your garlic soft inside while adding the healthy nutrients listed above.

3. Nutritious rice: Mix in some onion skins when cooking rice to add extra vitamins. Make sure to let them steep as the rice cooks. Simply remove the skins after cooking.

4. Mix into bread: Add one teaspoon of ground onion skin (a mortar and pestle work well to grind) to your homemade bread dough to add mild flavor and nutrients.

5. Relieve muscle cramps: Boil onion skins for 10-20 minutes making an infusion. Drain the skins from the water and drink it as a tea before bed to help relieve muscle cramps.

6. Induce sleep: As a natural sleep aid, brew up a cup of onion skin tea. Simply pour boiling water over several onion skins, cover and let soak for fifteen minutes. Strain the tea (or use a tea ball) and enjoy.

7. Add nutrients to compost: Garlic and onion skins are great way to add nutrients to your compost pile.

8. Easter egg or wool and fabric dye: Use red onion skins to dye Easter eggs. You can also use brown or red skins to dye fabric, thread, or wool. Learn how it’s done here!

9. Hair dye: Onion skins also make a great hair dye, turning it a beautiful golden brown. Simply add onion skins to a pot of water and boil for 30-60 minutes. Let cool overnight, then strain and pour over clean hair. Leave in for 30 minutes, then rinse.

10. Alleviate itchy skin: Onion and garlic skins’ anti-fungal properties make them effective at relieving itchy skin problems, including athlete’s foot. Apply onion-infused water to your skin for relief.

Can’t use them now? Freeze them! Simply store skins in a plastic bag or freezer-safe container and freeze them for later use.

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  • Jisun says:

    Hi, my mother sent me a bag of garlic skins and told me to soak in water & white vinegar for a while before using them to make tea. Will vinegar destroy any nutrients in the skin?

  • Devayani Tirthali says:

    Onion skins generally have black mold -Aspergillus niger – how does that work when cooking?
    Do we wash it? or it dies when we boil it?

    • Susan Higgins says:

      If you see black mold on your onion skins, do you not use them for this purpose. Select skins that are clear of mold.

  • Arundhati Kumar says:

    This is fabulous!! Thanks for putting out this information on the net. We definitely need it in today’s world. Pls keep giving us such gems of info so we can go ‘back to nature’ so to say. Thank you once again!

  • Bilquees Adekoya says:

    The site is very educative!

  • Batoul says:

    Thank you so much for the enlightenment. So please tell me how to use them for cold and cough

    • Susan Higgins says:

      Hi Batoul, many people swear by onions as a treatment for colds and flu, simply by eating them raw.

    • M k Byrapur says:

      Dry roast garlic with skin lightly and crush/paste in pounding pot add honey lightly eat raw after half an hour within 9pm or earlier in night drink mild hot milk or water see good results assured do this alternative days you win with cough cold fever hypertension severe paltipation etc thanks

  • Doris says:

    Hi Susan, how long does the onion leave dye takes on ones hair. Do you rinse with warm water or cold. Also is it advisable to use when you have black hair, is it not going to give 2 colours, or may be when hair is black it turns it to black? My question is because i read that it turn the hair to nice golden brown.

    • Susan Higgins says:

      Hi Doris, it depends on the porosity of your hair. Think of it as a gentle rinse. I have gray roots and I used light brown onion skins and blotted the mixture on my temples with a cotton ball. I let it dry and the color was nice and subtle. But it was in the spot where there was no hair dye. If you have dyed black hair it’s not recommended on chemically dyed hair. I’d test it on a small section first before rinsing your whole head.

  • Ososanya Adebowale Mrs. says:

    I am glad tonight for this great information on Onion skin and its usefulness. It is great.

  • Bisi says:

    I love this article it really make my day, thank you so much

  • Gabriel Kinga says:

    Thanks for your excellent messages for our well being

  • Rose says:

    Thanks for the information, the onion skins color my gray hair, keep away the ants in my kitchen, keep my garden looking good.

    Thank God for his creation

  • Clandestein Colebrooke says:

    In April 2019 had a mild stroke. doctors place me on 5 different BP pills, they couldn’t find none to regulate it. Untill I learned about onions skin.h ere is my testimonialI,I used onion skins for 4 months now and my body feels new no more bad feeling in my head,sleep like a baby,m post of all pressure under control

  • Carl Dworman says:

    Great article.
    Stores in the USA sell the onions with the skins.
    Stores in Mexico sell only peeled onions. Makes a great display.
    Now I know what they do with the skins.

    Onion tea anybody?

  • Eddie Blash says:

    Thanks for the information on the onion skins and garlic skins. I will gladly try it.

  • Adrien says:

    Terrific information. Thank you so much. I collect my onion skins for dying fabric and homemade paper. May I ask, is there any particular reason to freeze them? I just keep them in a bag or jar.

  • dagmar kern says:

    I have been using my“onion tea“ every morning In cup with hot herbal tea and fresh lemon as anti-oxidant! I am a medical Esthetician and discovered :
    it might be the best anti-oxidant when used 2 times a day as a toner before using peptides or cream!!!!

  • barb says:

    Hi! Can I wash the onion skin before boiling them? Some onion skins are pretty muddy… pls. advise. Thank you.

  • maher says:

    it is wonderful

  • UCHECHI says:

    Thanks, have started using it already.

  • Dianne Hardison says:

    Thank you for the information. So, so helpful. I looked this up due to talking with a Native American co-worker this morning. She is the one that peaked my interest. You actually verified exactly what she had said. Her grandmother lived until the young age of 99 (deceased now) is the one that passed it to her. Thank you again. Awesome information.

  • Moonshinephilly says:

    Thank you for all the great suggestions. I had no idea of any of these. However it makes perfect sense. Thank you again.

  • Ellen says:

    As a tea infusion for sleep or muscle cramps, how many onion skins?

    • Susan Higgins says:

      Hi Ellen, you really can’t over do it, so any amount is fine. If you’re cooking with onions, just save a few skins and make the tea from that.

  • mochtar says:


    i’m interest with skin garlic use article, thak you

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