We Put 'Tearless' Onions to the Test
Look, there's no shortage of things in the world that will make you cry. But what if onions, and the requisite chopping of them engaged in by virtually every chef, no longer had to be among them? This, this is the promise of Sunions, the self-proclaimed "Tearless and Sweet" onion, a newly available line of produce which, through decades of onion crossbreeding, claims to have eliminated the vegetable's trademark eye-watering reaction entirely.
Food & Wine recently received a box of Sunions and put them to the test. Included in the package was a breakdown of the science behind this innovation: normally, slicing an onion released releases volatile internal compounds that irritate the eyes as a self-defense mechanism (that, it must be noted, is not a very effective one). In order to tackle this, Sunions first began crossbreeding different onions in the 1980s, and, as technology advanced started using gas chromatography to identify the least volatile, eye-irritating onions, bred them even further into mildness.
This lengthy process, says Sunions, not only makes the onions tearless, but sweeter. Plus, unlike other onions, which grow more pungent and tear-inducing over time, Sunions get less so. But is it true? Fortunately, it was fairly simple to test: we sliced them up, with the help of Food & Wine Test Kitchen manager Kelsey Youngman—who says she is highly susceptible to full on crying while chopping most onions—and, well, stood there.
Upon first slicing into the whole Sunion though? Nothing. Dicing the whole thing up, my eyes didn't feel a thing, aside from a very small reaction when I tried leaning close into the sliced pile that wasn't enough to provoke any watering for me (who has a pretty average response). While Kelsey didn't quite have no reaction, she did report an 80 to 90 percent reduction in her normal response, which is a pretty major accomplishment.
As for the sweetness, it's true as well. Sauteeing Sunions made for a slightly sweeter and milder taste than your usual yellow onion, though the difference was pretty subtle. It actually stood out more when trying a small raw piece, whose extra sweetness made it taste a bit like it had already been cooked. The taste, though, is less of a big deal than Sunions' tearlessness, a promise they deliver on in a way that will, if they do make you cry, will only make you do it out of joy.
Sunions are available at select grocery stores now.