Onion, also known as the bulb onion, is a well-known root vegetable cultivated all around the world. The vegetable consists of green leaves and a bulb plant made of thick, juicy layers.
Onion has a strong smell and taste when eaten raw but, when cooked, gives food a soft fragrance and sweetness. These vegetables are used in a broad variety of dishes, from salads and pasta to soups and stews.
Some of the best replacements for onions are shallots, leeks, onion powder, and onion flakes. Other non-onion vegetables like fennel and celery can also be used as a substitute for onion.
Best Substitute for Onion: Shallots
The best substitute for onions is shallots because shallots have a similar texture, taste, and smell. Shallots are a smaller variety of onions that have a milder taste and are often used raw in salads and dips. This small vegetable works well as a substitute for onions in most dishes, including pasta sauces, casseroles, marinades, and soups.
Substitute 3–4 shallots for one medium-sized onion when cooking.
Apart from shallots, there are many great onion-based substitutes one can use in place of onions.
Onion powder is made from onions that have been dehydrated and ground into fine powder. This powder has a similar taste and smell to a fresh onion but is more concentrated.
The powder is typically used as a seasoning or added to a spice mix with garlic powder, black pepper, paprika, and other dry spices. Onion powder can be used as a replacement for onion in most dishes, including sauces, stews, casseroles, grilled meats and fish, and others.
Use 1 tablespoon of onion powder to replace one medium onion.
Like onion powder, onion flakes are made from dehydrated onions that have been coarsely chopped. These flakes are slightly sweet and crunchy, making them a great substitute for onion in most dishes.
Onion flakes work particularly well as a seasoning because of their crunch, but they can also be added to various foods instead of onion. The flakes can be used in recipes like sauces, dressings, dips, soups, stews, and curries.
Substitute 3 tablespoons of onion flakes for one medium-sized onion when cooking.
Onion salt is a mixture of three parts salt and one part onion powder, used as flavored salt in many dishes.
This salt can be used as a substitute for onion in recipes that require only a small amount of onion, like sauces, dressings, and dips.
Onion salt has an intense onion flavor, so use 2 teaspoons to replace one onion, but make sure to reduce the amount of regular salt in the recipe accordingly.
Leeks belong to the same family as onions and make a good substitute for onions in many dishes. These vegetables are crunchy, with a sweet and mild taste reminiscent of onion.
Leeks work especially well in recipes like risotto, stir-fries, noodles, and clear soups. When sautéed, leeks add a sweet flavor to food.
Substitute leeks for onion at a 1:1 ratio, or use one large leek for one medium onion.
Scallions, or green onions, are a variety of young onions. The small bulb of a green onion has a taste similar to a regular onion, while the green leaves have a fresh and grassy taste.
Scallions can be used as a substitute for onion in fresh salads, or in dishes that require frying and sautéing, like stir-frys, fried rice, sauces, and soups. This ingredient should not be fried for long, and it’s best to add scallions to the dish last, as they burn quickly.
Substitute 3 tablespoons of chopped green onions for one medium onion.
Chives are related to onions but come from different families. Chives are green, grass-like vegetables with a mild onion flavor, which makes them a good substitute for onions in many dishes.
Fresh chives work especially well in creamy dips, omelets, roasted potatoes, and salads.
Substitute 3 tablespoons of chopped chives for one medium-sized onion.
Some other ingredients that are not related to the onion family can also be used as substitutes for onions.
Fennel is a vegetable with a large white bulb and feather-like green stalks. Fennel has an aroma of anise and a sweet taste, which makes this vegetable a good substitute for onion in some dishes.
The fennel bulb can be used to replace onion in dishes like stews, soups, and thick sauces. The chopped bulb can be sauttéed or fried on low heat to extract the sweet undertones of the vegetable.
Substitute fennel for onion using a 1:1 ratio.
Garlic is a fragrant vegetable that introduces a strong taste and flavor to any food, which makes this vegetable a great substitute for onion.
Garlic can be substituted for onion in dishes that require sautéing, like pasta sauces and soups. However, fresh garlic doesn’t replace fresh onion well because fresh garlic has a very strong smell that can be overpowering.
Use 1 garlic clove to substitute ⅓ of a medium onion.
Celery is an aromatic green vegetable made of long hard stalks. Celery tastes different than onion but is still a good substitute for onion in many dishes because celery is crunchy and flavorful.
Celery can be used to substitute onion in vegetable mixes, where this replacement pairs well with carrots, bell peppers, and cabbage. Celery also works great in soups, veggie-based pasta sauces, stir-fries, and casseroles.
Substitute celery for onion using a 1:1 ratio.
Carrot is an orange root vegetable with a soft texture and sweet taste when cooked, and a great crunch when fresh. These vegetables can be a good substitute for onions because of their sweetness and softness.
Carrot works best in dishes that require sautéing and simmering, allowing the vegetable to soften. Such dishes include stews, casseroles, soups, and sauces.
Substitute 2 cups of carrots for 1 cup of onions (2:1 ratio).
Cabbage is a leafy green vegetable that makes a great replacement for onion because of this replacement’s sweet taste and crunchiness. Shredded cabbage makes the best substitute for onion in many dishes.
Cabbage has a much milder taste than onion. This replacement works well in dishes that have many different flavors and don’t rely too much on onion flavors, such as thick and hearty soups, vegetable stews, or flavorful stir-frys.
Substitute 2 cups of cabbage for 1 cup of onions (2:1 ratio).
Bell peppers are colorful vegetables with a lot of flavor and crunch that can replace onions in many dishes. Different-colored peppers have various tastes, but the best substitute for onion is the green bell pepper.
Bell pepper brings sweetness and crunch to the food and can be substituted for onion in a variety of recipes, from fresh salads to stews and sauces.
Use 2 cups of chopped bell peppers to replace 1 cup of onions (2:1 ratio).
Asafetida powder is a staple in South Asian cuisine. Asafetida is a dry spice made from a ground root vegetable and has a characteristic onion-like smell and taste, which makes this powder a perfect onion replacement.
Asafetida powder works best in south Asian dishes, like curry, boiled lentils, and dal, but the powder can also be used to replace onion in other recipes, like soup, stir-fry, and marinade.
Substitute 1 teaspoon of Asafetida powder for one and a half onions.
Ginger is a flavorful plant commonly used as a spice or added to food fresh. Ginger tastes different from onion but adds a new dimension of flavor to recipes.
As a substitute for onion, ginger works great in stir-frys, clear Asian-style soups, and curries. Ginger also works well in spice mixes with thyme and garlic powder.
Substitute 2 teaspoons of fresh or ground ginger for one medium-sized onion.