12 Best Onion Substitutes

Onion
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Onions are one of the most used veggies for adding flavor, texture, and wonderful aroma to dishes. This staple ingredient makes dishes taste like real food.

Thus, there is no good enough substitute for the flavor and aroma of the onion. However, there are some ingredients with similar flavors that can be a worthy onions substitute.

Since it’s very aromatic, sweet, and savory veggie which makes it a common ingredient in any recipe. When used raw, they have a spicy flavor. However, when cooked, they get soft and caramelized with a sweet flavor.

But despite all these good characteristics some people are allergic to onions or don’t want to use them in their dishes.

Therefore, there are some other ingredients and vegetables that can be a good substitute for onions including onion powder and flakes, scallions, chives, garlic, fennel, bell peppers, and some others listed below.

Let’s learn more about onion substitutes and find something to save your recipe when you don’t have onions on hand.

Best Onion Substitutes

Onions belong to the genus Allium, same as scallion, chive, garlic, Chinese onion, shallot, and leek. They’re available in three colors including yellow, white, and red and they all have a slightly different texture and flavor.

Since differently colored onions have different flavors, it depends on your recipe and taste which one you are going to use. I prefer yellow ones.

You can grill, roast, caramelize, fry, or consume onions raw in sandwiches, salads, dips, and sauces. However, raw onions contain a sulfur-based substance that irritates your eyes and makes you cry. You can also freeze, store, caramelize, and dry onions.

If you want to find the best substitute for onions in your dishes first decide what you want to achieve. Onion-like flavor or onion-like texture. Here are some of the best substitutes for onion you can use in your dishes.

1. Onion powder

Onion powder

Onion powder is made from dehydrated and grounded onions. It is used as a seasoning and an ingredient in some spice mixes. Onion powder has a similar flavor to fresh onions. However, it’s a little stronger adding savory and sweet flavor at the same time.

You should add this powder together with the other spices in the dish. Onion powder is used as a seasoning and ingredient in some foods like sauces, dressings, soups, and marinades.

Don’t use onion powder if you are allergic to onion since it contains dried onions. For one medium onion use one tablespoon of onion powder.

2. Onion flakes

Onion flakes are chopped and dehydrated pieces of onions. They are used as a substitute for fresh onions in many dishes like stews, soups, dressings, casseroles, sauces, and dips.

They have a weaker flavor than onion powder. Thus, you will have to add more to achieve the wanted flavor. Use 3 tablespoons of onion flakes as a substitute for 1 medium onion.

3. Onion salt

Made of 3 parts salt and 1 part dried and ground onion this salt is used in sauces, soups, stews, marinades, stir-fries, dressings, and many other dishes. As a substitute for 1 medium onion use 2 teaspoons onion salt, but reduce the content of the other salt added to dishes.

4. Scallions

Scallions

Scallions are a type of onions with a milder taste than other onions. They are also known as green onions or spring onions. These onions are made of white bulbs and green leaves that you can consume raw or cooked. The bulb has a mild onion flavor, whereas the leaves have both onion and grassy flavor.

Add fresh scallions to salads and sauces or cooked in stir-fries, soups, etc. For 1 medium onion use, 3 tablespoons of chopped scallions, but don’t cook them long because they burn very easily.

5. Chives

Chives

Chives are a herb with long green leaves and a mild onion flavor. They are related to both onion and garlic and have edible flowers and leaves. They are used in soups, salads, potatoes, fish, and omelets, and their flowers are also used as a garnish to dishes. Use 3 tablespoons of chives for one tablespoon chopped onion.

6. Chinese onion

Chinese onion is another type of onion cultivated in China. You can use the green stalks and white bulbs raw or cooked in grilling, marinating, stir-frying, braising, and boiling. This onion has a mild onion flavor and crispy texture. For 1 tablespoon of chopped onion use 3 tablespoons chopped Chinese onion.

7. Leeks

Leeks

Leeks have a hard crunchy texture and mild-sweet onion taste. The white bulb of the leeks and the light green leaves can be fried, sauteed, braised, roasted, or boiled. But they can be also added raw on top of salads. You can also make tasty soup, risotto, pasta, or stew. Leeks can be used as a substitute for onion in a 1:1 ratio.

8. Fennel

Fennel bulb

Fennel is a veggie consisted of green stalks white bulb and green feather-like leaves. The crispy bulb with anise-licorice flavor makes a great substitute for onion. The leaves are also used in salads, soups, and sauces, and as garnishes.

You can use the bulbs raw, sauteed, grilled, braised, roasted, and stewed. When it is cooked it is sweeter and doe not have a strong anise-licorice flavor. Use 1 cup of chopped fennel bulb as a substitute for 1 cup chopped onion.

9. Celery

Celery

Celery is a common veggie in many dishes for its crispy texture and earthy peppery flavor. You can use the long stalks in soups, sauces, or stews as a base-paired with onions, carrots, and bell peppers. They also work well in stir-fries, salads, casseroles, and stocks.

Celery leaves are with a stronger flavor and harder texture than the stalks. They add flavor to soups, salads, stocks, and stews but you can also use them as a garnish. This is one of the greatest substitutes for onion. For 1 cup chopped onion use 1 cup chopped celery.

10. Shallots

Shallots

Shallots are a type of onion with a color that varies from golden brown to grey and red, with a sweeter onion flavor and a hint of garlic. They are smaller than onions and formed in clusters same as garlic.

And because they have a milder onion flavor shallots are often used raw in salads and dressings. However, you can also add them to cooked dishes with beans and potatoes, soups, sauces, stir-fries, marinades, and casseroles. Use 3-4 medium-size shallots as a substitute for 1 medium-size onion.

11. Bell peppers

Bell Pepper

Different types of bell peppers have different colors and tastes. Green ones, for instance, have the closest grassy and slightly bitter flavor to onions.

Orange, yellow, and red peppers, on the other hand, have a sweeter flavor but if you have them at home you can also use them instead of onions.

You can roast, fry, grill, stuff, saute, or use them raw in salads. For 1 cup of chopped onions use two cups of chopped bell peppers.

12. Carrots

Carrots

Carrots are a nutritious vegetable with sweet grassy, or bitter soapy flavor depending on the type and the growing conditions. They are used together with onion and celery as a base for soups, sauces, marinades, and stews. However, you can also roast, grill, steam, stir-fry, or eat them raw in salads.

They make a good substitute for onions in most dishes. When cooked they give a sweet and lovely texture to dishes. To boost the flavor, add some celery and you will get a very similar taste and texture like when you would use onions. Add 2 cups of chopped carrots instead of 1 cup of chopped onions.

Related Questions

How do you cook without an onion?

You can use celery and carrots or bell peppers instead of onions to make a  flavor base for your dish. Then continue to prepare the dish in the same way as you would with onions. You can also add some spices and herbs that you like for better flavor.

What can I use instead of onions and garlic?

Instead of onions and garlic, you can use onion and garlic powder, or some of the substitutes mentioned in this article.

The Takeaway

Even though onions are one of the most important ingredients for cooking, some people don’t want to use them because of their strong smell and flavor. Or perhaps because they are allergic to it. Luckily, these substitutes will bring you a similar onion flavor and save your dish. If you are allergic to onions don’t use the substitutes with onions in their content.

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