Substitute for Onion: 12 Alternatives Worth Knowing

Onions are one of the gold standard ingredients that adds aroma and rich flavor to dishes. You can use onions raw, cooked, or caramelized to get your desired state and flavor profile for your recipe. However, you need to have a standby substitute for onion in case you run out of it while cooking. 

There are several food ingredients available in your kitchen you can use as substitutes for an onion that you probably don’t even know. 

This article contains 12 different alternatives that you can use in place of onion in your recipe. The alternatives will save the day when you don’t have onions available around you. 

SEE: Amazing Benefits of Using Onion Juice for Hair

What Is an Onion?

Onions are round vegetables that grow underground. It has brown skin and inner white layers that has a sharp smell and taste. Onions are a potent ingredient that can change the taste and flavor profile of a dish. 

Onions contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties that can help to improve health. Eating foods that contain onion can help to reduce cholesterol levels and decrease triglycerides. This will help to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and blood clots. 

Asides from its health benefits, the purpose of using onion in a recipe is to heighten the flavor of your dish. You can use it in any dish as they are versatile and can be used in many ways. You can grill, roast pickles, caramelize, batter, and deep-fry your onions, depending on the taste you want. 

For a rich flavor and subtle taste, cooked onions will give you that. Caramelized onions give the sweetest taste to your dish. 

Onion Substitutes

1. Shallot 

Shallots are referred to as small onions. There are one of the best available substitutes for onions. You can use them raw or cooked in your recipe. The flavor of shallots is delicate and subtle, making it ideal for soups, sauces, and even risotto. 

To use shallot in your recipe as a substitute for onion, use 1 large shallot, 2 medium shallots, or 3 small shallots in place of ½ cup of a medium onion. 

SEE: Can You Freeze Green Onions to Use Later?

2. Leek

Cooked leek is another onion substitute you can use in the preparation of your favorite dish. You can also use chopped leek if your recipe requires chopped onions. 

The flavor profile of leek is better than that of onion as it has a mild mixture of onion and garlic flavor. This makes it an even better option against onion. Use 1 large leek in place of 1 medium onion in your recipe.

3. Scallions

Here’s another onion substitute that you can use raw or cooked. Scallions are also referred to as “green onions”, as they have a mild onion-like flavor. As with shallots, they are much smaller than onions and will require more for proper replacement with onion. 

You will get a similar flavor to onions when you use a bunch ‌in your recipe. To use scallions in place of onion in your recipe, use 6 of them for every cup of medium onion replaced. 

SEE: What Is a Bunch of Scallions & How to Use It

4. Fennel

This is a great substitute for you if you have an onion allergy. Fennel looks a lot like onion but has a different flavor. Rather than the strong, sharp aroma of onion, fennel has a strong black licorice flavor when it’s raw. 

You can use it in place of onion in your soup, or stew for an irresistible rich flavor. Use 1 fennel bulb to replace 1 medium onion in your recipe.

5. Celery

Got onion allergy problems? Celery has got you. You can use cooked or raw onion as a substitute for onion in your recipe. Celery has a different flavor and taste but has a similar texture to an onion. When used raw, it has a crunchy texture just like onions. 

You can use it as a substitute for onion in soups and other dishes. Use 3 medium celery stalks to replace a cup of chopped onions in your recipe.

6. Chive

You can add a complex flavor profile to your dishes with the help of chives. This makes it a great alternative in place of onion. 

Add a handful of chopped chives to replace a cup of chopped onions in your recipe. You can use it for dishes like frittatas, quiches, Bolognese sauce, and many more.

7. Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are quite popular in Latin American, Creole, and Asian cuisines. Although it doesn’t have the strong aroma of an onion, it is quite sturdy and aromatic. 

To use it as an onion substitute in your recipe, you can saute, grill, steam, or chop them. You will get the same flavor and consistency no matter how you decide to use them.

8. Ginger

Ginger is another one of the worthy substitutes you can use to replace onion in your recipe. The roots are known to add a complex flavor profile to dishes, which is why you need to use the ingredient with caution. 

Just like onions, the ginger flavor can be aromatic, yet spicy. Use only a little in your recipe at first, then add more depending on your taste. 

9. Carrots

Like celery, you can use carrots instead of onion if you have an onion allergy. While they have different flavors and tastes, carrots are hard and fibrous vegetables that you can use to replace onion in any dish. 

Carrots contain high levels of vitamin A, an antioxidant known to be beneficial to health. This makes carrot a healthier option for you if you have an onion allergy. You can use it in soups, stocks, and many more dishes. 

10. Cabbage

You must be surprised to see cabbage make it to the list of onion substitutes. Cabbage is a vegetable that has a crunchy texture similar to onion and can be used in several ways. It also had a subtle flavor that won’t overpower the aroma of your dish. 

You can use cabbage as a substitute for onion if you need the texture more than the flavor. Use a cup of diced cabbage in place of onion in your recipe. 

11. Garlic

Like ginger, garlic has a potent flavor that is different from onions. But it can serve the purpose of onion in your recipe as it will help to add flavor to your dishes. This may not be a good substitute for you if you have an onion allergy as garlic also belongs to the allium family. 

You can mash or even roast garlic cloves if you want a crunch. Use equal parts of garlic in place of onion in your recipe. 

12. Simply Skip It

Leave onion out of your recipe if you can’t get your hands on onion or any of the recommended substitutes. If your recipe includes other flavors, you probably won’t even notice the lack of onions in it. 

However, dishes like French onion soup or even an onion tart can’t be made without onions. 

SEE: Do Onions Go Bad or Not?

Why Does Onion Need Substitutes?

Despite the good characteristics and numerous benefits of eating onion, it still needs substitutes in cases of onion allergy. You can’t have onions as part of your recipe if you are allergic to onions. 

Likewise, onion can trigger stomach aches when you use it in your meal, and it’s the same for some other people. Avoiding onions altogether is the best option. 

Additionally, if you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), it is best to stay away from garlic, onions, and other potent veggies in the allium family. Eating onion with this condition can cost discomfort and other health concern. 

Another reason why an onion needs a substitute is the strong smell you get on your breath after eating onions.  

SEE: How to Tell if an Onion Is Bad


Are there various kinds of onion? 

Yes, there are. Onions are available in over 20 kinds with different sizes, colors, and tastes. The popular kind of onions includes white onion, red onion, Vidalia onion, Spanish onion and so much more.

How does onion affect food?

The way you use onion in your meal determines how it affects it. 

Using sauteed onion in your recipe will give your dish mild flavors. Using caramelized onions will give your dishes a more delightful taste. Meanwhile, pickled onions will change the flavor of your dishes while keeping things crunchy.

What happens when you eat too many onions?

Eating too much onion can cause gastrointestinal distress such as acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, and so on. However, consuming the right amount of onion is safe and will not harm you. 


It is important to know the wide range of onion substitutes that you can use for your dish when you don’t have them available. If you are allergic to onions, have zero tolerance for onions, or simply don’t like the smell and taste, use any of the recommended alternatives.

There are also times when you don’t need to use onion or its substitute for your dish to have a delightful taste. If your recipe includes ingredients with various flavors, you can skip onions. 

Thanks for reading.

Read more onion and other food-related articles on Cheffist.