10 Good Reasons To Save Those Onion and Garlic Skins
Before you toss those papery onion and garlic skins, see all the things they can do: from hair dye to an athlete's foot remedy, this list will surprise you!
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 Onion and Garlic 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 have anti-fungal properties that 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.
Natalie LaVolpe is a freelance writer and former special education teacher. She is dedicated to healthy living through body and mind. She currently resides on Long Island, New York, with her husband, children, and dog.
When using non-organic onions, should skins be washed before peeling for adding to broth & other uses?
Yes, wash skins and I love this going to start tonight with the tea will post results in a month 🙌 also I make what is called ash with my onion and garlic skins, you bake in oven on 300 to 350 for 2hrs or until they are done will turn dark almost black, let cool grind in grinder to powder store in jar or shaker jar gives soup,salad,stew basically a smokey ❤️ 😋 really looks like ashes 😆 but taste great in dishes
I have used yellow onion skins to dye hand spun wool yarn. Every time I peeled an onion, I put the skin in a wide mouth mason jar on my counter. Left it uncovered so any moisture could escape. Freezing was not needed.
That’s fantastic Judy! Thanks for sharing that.
It was a very comprehensive and excellent research I used your source Thank
We’re glad you found the story helpful!!
Thank you from here on out I’m started saving the outer skin of my onions and garlic ect.
Thanks so much for this information, is it safe to drink while breastfeeding.
Hi Wisconsia March, please check with your doctor, but it should be no different than eating onions.
Very effective and resilient home remedy..
Thanks very much for this vital information about onions and garlic skin
Gonna start using this from today. Thanks for educating me and my family members. God bless us all ????
We’re glad you found it helpful, Keisha!
Thanks for sharing, this info. was very helpful.
Yellow onion skin tea has been a go-to family remedy for menstrual cramps for generations. I recall my sister and I hating the flavor and using honey and a bit of ginger to make it more palatable, but we kept going back to it despite the flavor because it worked.
Onion skins are great to color hard boiled eggs and also give them a nice flavor.
They come out purple, it’s pretty cool! I had a friend who did her eggs every year with onion skins.
Yes, it’s a great trick, isn’t it!
It is! Lots of thanks to You Susan!
can you keep garlic skin tea in the fridge for a couple of days and can you freeze garlic skin tea?
Angela, you probably won’t get the same benefits. Best to make a fresh (small) batch each time.
I love drinking a cup
Of onion skin tea at night- helps me stay asleep. I’ve been drinking this tea for 3 or 4 months now. It has no taste , just like water . I’m hooked on this tea!
Wish the US sold bags of onion skins in the market so I can buy them instead of buying onions and storing the skins in the freezer .
Onion skin tea is available in 100 gram bags on Amazon. The product is produced in and shipped from Japan. I use it regularly when I don’t have enough onion skins, which is often.
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?
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?
If you see black mold on your onion skins, do you not use them for this purpose. Select skins that are clear of mold.
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!
The site is very educative!
Thank you so much for the enlightenment. So please tell me how to use them for cold and cough
Hi Batoul, many people swear by onions as a treatment for colds and flu, simply by eating them raw.
garlic and lemon are both anti viral, great for fighting off colds, even covid
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
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.
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.
Does anyone know why my grandparents saved the onion skins and burned them? I don’t know how often or what time of year. Abt 60 yrs ago
I am glad tonight for this great information on Onion skin and its usefulness. It is great.
We’re glad you found the information helpful, Ososanya!
I love this article it really make my day, thank you so much
Thanks for your excellent messages for our well being
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
Glad you found the information helpful, Rose.
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
Can I ask, how do you use the onion skins?
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?
Thanks for the information on the onion skins and garlic skins. I will gladly try it.
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.
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!!!!
Hi! Can I wash the onion skin before boiling them? Some onion skins are pretty muddy… pls. advise. Thank you.
it is wonderful
Thanks, have started using it already.
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.
Thank you, Dianne, we’re glad you enjoyed the article!
Thank you for all the great suggestions. I had no idea of any of these. However it makes perfect sense. Thank you again.
As a tea infusion for sleep or muscle cramps, how many onion skins?
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.
How do get in on this group?
Hi Teresa, we have groups on Facebook, not the website. We no longer support forums. But you’re welcome to comment here any time!
i’m interest with skin garlic use article, thak you
I don’t peel garlic or onion anymore when I lacto-fermente it.when you throw the skin away you’re throwing away bacteria you’re trying to create when you lacto ferment. After lacto-fermentation if you take a garlic clove and pinched it the skin slides off making it easier I’m trying to peel it. Now you’re not standing there trying to peel a half pint or a quart or 5 gallon of garlic.if a piece of garlic floats up to the top of the liquid and exposes itself to air bacteria won’t grow because you have the damp skin on the garlic being exposed to the air inside the jar. The skin acts like a wick to keep the exposed portion moist to prevent bacteria from growing.and I know my garlic is fermenting because I see some of them that have turned green with the skin still on so put your paring knife away and have some fun…
I love both onion and garlic. Im trying all of these