Some might think they will never need a substitute for onion because it's a vegetable they won't forget to purchase and stock up. After all, it's one of the most common ingredients in many dishes.
But that was one of my mistakes when I started as a home cook, which I don't want you to make.
So, whether you're currently in need of a fresh onion or a dried onion substitute because you run out of it, you're serving someone with onion or any vegetable in the allium family, or just want to be ready when faced with this situation in the future, you can rely on my list below.
What Can I Substitute for Onions?
With my years of experience in cooking, I have found that the following are among the best red, white, and/or yellow or Spanish onion substitutes:
As a part of the onion family, leeks are definitely number one on my list. They have a texture similar to raw onions and a flavor closely resembling onion's but are less pungent and slightly sweeter.
Leeks are your best option if you can't cook a dish with the intense flavor of the onion but still need to use it. Say, a French onion soup, but you're serving it to kids.
You can use leeks as a yellow onion substitute in your paella or red sauce, a white onion substitute in your enchilada, taco, or guacamole, and a red onion substitute in your salad or pickle recipes. Leeks are also one of the best pearl onion substitutes.
Something to bear in mind too is while leeks look like green onions' bigger brother and can be used interchangeably in some recipes, they do impart different flavors and textures.
Measurement-wise, replace your minced or chopped onions with the same amount of minced or chopped leeks or one medium onion with one large leek.
Best for just about anything.
Like leeks, shallots belong to the same plant family as onions. They look similar, but shallots are smaller than onions and look like garlic cloves once peeled. It's why you will need more when you substitute shallot for onion.
Based on my experience, one cup of minced or chopped onion is equivalent to one cup of minced or chopped shallots. Approximately, that is two large shallots, three to four medium shallots, or five to six small shallots for one medium-sized onion.
In terms of flavor, shallots are less pungent and have a much sweeter flavor than regular onions. That's why it's my top choice when I need a pearl onion substitute and a substitute for yellow onions and white onions.
Best for dressings, sauces, marinades, salads, risottos, casseroles, soups, stir-fries, and bean and potato dishes.
3. Celery Stalks
If you're looking for an ideal substitute for red or yellow and white onions for someone with an onion allergy, I highly recommend celery.
While it might have a slightly different flavor and aroma from onions, its aromatic, earthy notes will give your recipes the earthiness onions are known for.
Celery is also crunchier than onions, so I prefer using it in hot or cooked dishes. You must also cook them longer than onions or add the celery a little earlier than when cooking with onions.
Like when you use shallot to substitute onion, replacing celery in your recipes won't require complicated computations. One cup of chopped onions is equivalent to one cup of chopped celery stalks (about two to three celery stalks).
But I also suggest adding a bit of sugar or any sweetener to your dish if you'll use celery stalks as a yellow or white onion substitute.
Best for stews, soups, and stocks.
Did you know that chives work well as a substitute for onion and garlic? That's all thanks to its distinct garlic taste and mild onion flavor.
I usually it raw because this herb loses its flavor the more you expose it to heat. However, you can add it to your hot dish at the end of the cooking process if you have no other available red, white, or yellow onion substitute.
Also, since chives have a milder taste, you must add more than what your recipe calls for onions. One tablespoon of minced or chopped onions is equivalent to three tablespoons of minced or chopped chives.
Best for salads, omelets, and potato and fish dishes.
Fennel is another great option when serving people with onion allergies because it has a distinct pungent aroma and flavor. While it's more anise- or licorice-like, it has a milder flavor when cooked since it becomes slightly sweet.
This flavor profile makes it a better substitute for Spanish onion and white onion when cooked, but more recommended as a substitute for red onions when used raw.
What I love most about fennel as a substitute for onion is you can use all parts of the plant. The leaves are perfect if you need fresh garnishes, toppings, or only a small amount, while you can use the fennel bulbs raw, roasted, grilled, sauteed, braised, or stewed.
Whichever part of the plant you use, follow a 1:1 ratio for chopped or minced onions and fennel.
Best for sauces, salads, stews, and soups.
6. Bell Pepper
Bell peppers might be the last vegetable that comes to mind when you think about what to substitute for onions in your recipes. However, it also has an aromatic flavor and a crunchy texture. In fact, bell peppers also start to caramelize when exposed to heat, bringing out their sweet flavor.
Just remember that you'll find different varieties of bell peppers, so make sure you choose one that works well for your recipes.
Green bell peppers are slightly bitter and grassy, making them an ideal red onion substitute. Meanwhile, yellow, red, and orange bell peppers are sweeter, so choose any of them when you need a yellow, white, or sweet onion substitute.
Whatever variety you might need, adding more bell peppers than what your recipe requires for onions is advisable because of their milder flavor. I suggest replacing one cup of chopped onions with one and a half cups of chopped bell peppers.
Best for just about anything.
7. Onion Flakes
Grab the onion flakes in your pantry or grocery if you're looking for a dried minced onion substitute. It's also one of the best options if you need a fresh minced onion substitute but want to save time from slicing and mincing.
This affordable ingredient has a stronger aroma and flavor than fresh onions, so a little goes a long way. You only need to add three tablespoons of onion flakes if your recipe lists one cup or one medium fresh onion.
Best for dressings, dips, sauces, casseroles, soups, and stews.
8. Onion Powder
Another excellent substitute for dried minced onion or fresh red, white or yellow onions is onion powder. It has a stronger aroma and flavor than fresh onions and onion flakes.
While it won't give your dish the raw onion crunch, you surely will serve something flavorful. Plus, onion powder goes well with several spices and herbs, so you won't have to worry about the balance of flavor.
To replace onions in your recipe, you will need to add one tablespoon of onion powder for every medium onion (approximately one cup of chopped onion) listed.
Best for dressings, sauces, marinades, soups, nuggets, and hamburgers.
9. Onion Salt
Onion salt is an easily accessible fresh or dried minced onion substitute if you only want an ingredient with a similar onion flavor and don't mind the missing crunch in your cooked dish.
However, as the name implies, this ingredient isn't pure onion. It contains three parts salt and one part onion powder. Thus, when replacing onions with onion salt, it's best to reduce the salt in your recipe or even completely omit it to avoid serving overly seasoned food.
In terms of ratio, substitute one medium onion (one cup of minced or chopped onion) with two teaspoons of onion salt.
Best for casseroles, soups, and stews.
4 Best Vidalia Onion Substitutes
This sweet onion variety is most popularly used for onion rings and caramelization and as a garnish. But it can also be added to soups, stews, and more.
The problem is, you might not easily find it in your local grocery store, so here are the best alternatives to it:
1. White Onion
Compared to yellow and red onions, white onions have a milder flavor and don't usually have an aftertaste. It's also the sweetest among the three; in fact, it's even sweeter than Vidalia onion.
It's why I and most chefs and home cooks love using it in recipes that don't require cooking. After all, white onions don't hold up to heat as well as the Vidalia variety.
To use white onions as a Vidalia onion substitute, simply follow a 1:1 ratio when your recipe requires minced or chopped onion. But for one whole Vidalia onion, you will only need ⅓ of a medium-sized white onion.
Best for onion rings, dips, salsas, guacamole, salads, tacos, and sandwiches.
2. Yellow Onion
This onion variety has lesser sugar content than Vidalia and white onions. However, you can tone down the distinct onion flavor and the aftertaste through cooking, as it becomes sweeter when exposed to heat.
For this reason, it's a great substitute for Vidalia onion for your cooked dishes. To replace your sweet onion with yellow onions, add half the amount indicated in your recipe.
Best for savory dishes.
3. Potato Onion
This root vegetable is more versatile than the last two sweet onion substitutes. Its mild onion flavor and a bit of sweetness ensure you can use it raw or cooked.
To use it as a substitute for sweet onion, add the same amount of chopped potato onions as what your recipe calls for one medium chopped onion. For one bulb of a medium onion, substitute it with one and a half or two Vidalias.
Best for stews, soups, vegetable dishes, salads, and pickles.
Like onions, carrots have a grassy flavor and an undeniable distinct sweet flavor that makes you, even some kids, don't mind eating them raw. They even become sweeter once cooked.
Take advantage of this sweetness and use it as a substitute for Vidalia onion when serving those with allergies to plants belonging to the allium family.
To replace onions with this vegetable, follow a 1:2 ratio, or for every cup of your chopped onion, replace it with two cups of chopped carrots.
Best for soups, stews, and stir fries.
Substituting Onions Without Hassles
Whether you need a substitute for white onions, a red onion substitute, a Spanish onion substitute, or a Vidalia onion substitute, the list I shared has the ideal option for your recipe requiring raw or cooked onions.
It has ingredient substitutes for when you need to cook for people with allergies, those who don't prefer the pungent onion flavor and aroma, and any other reasons you may have for needing to substitute chopped onions.
Best Onion Substitutes
- 1 cup leeks
- 1½ tablespoon onion flakes
- 1 cup white onions
Best Onion Substitute
- Add one cup of chopped leeks to your recipes that require one cup of chopped onions.
Best Dried Minced Onion Substitute
- Add 1.5 tablespoon of your dried onion flakes to your recipe requiring half a cup of dried onions.
Best Sweet Onion Substitute
- Add one cup of white onions to your recipe that lists one cup of Vidalia onions.
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