Can’t find onions or working around an allergy? There are a few options if you’re in a pinch. Here’s the best onion substitute.

Onion substitute

Making a recipe that calls for an onion and don’t have it on hand? Or working around an allergy? The onion is a root vegetable and part of the Allium family, along with garlic, leeks, shallot, scallion, and chives. It’s used widely across cuisines of the world and adds a savory flavor to everything from soups to stir fries. There are many common types of onions used in cooking: most often you’ll see yellow onion, white onion, sweet onion, and red onion.

Can’t find onions? It’s especially important to use the real thing recipes with the word onion in the title, like Roasted Onions or Pickled Onions. But if you’re using it as a backup ingredient and you’re all out…here’s the best onion substitute!

How many cups is 1 onion chopped?

Before we start: you can use this substitution ratio for chopped onion. Here’s the ratio:
1 medium onion = about 1 cup chopped
1 large onion = about 1 ½ to 2 cups chopped

Best onion substitute

1. Shallot (raw or cooked)

The best onion substitute? Shallots! Shallots are a small onion with a delicate, mild flavor. The flavor works particularly well as a substitute. It’s great for soups, sautés, or risottos. Because shallots are so much smaller, you’ll need to use more shallots to equal one onion.

Use the following substitution ratio: 1 medium onion (1 cup chopped) = 2 large shallots, 4 medium shallots or 6 small shallots

2. Leek (cooked)

A cooked onion substitute? Leeks. You can use chopped leeks to substitute to chopped onion. The flavor will likely be even better! Leeks have a mild, onion-y garlic flavor that’s much more nuanced and sophisticate than an onion.

Use this substitution ratio: 1 medium onion (1 cup chopped) = 1 large leek

3. Green onion / scallions (raw or cooked)

Another onion substitute? Green onions, also known as scallions! Green onions have a mild oniony flavor and work in both raw and cooked applications. Like shallots, they’re much smaller so it takes more green onions to equal an onion. But if you have a bunch, the flavor will be closer than that of an onion.

Use the following substitution ratio: 1 medium onion (1 cup chopped) = 6 to 8 medium green onions

4. Fennel (cooked; for allergy)

Another onion substitute? Fennel! Fennel looks like an onion, but it has a strong black licorice flavor when it’s raw. But cooked, it can stand in for onion! In fact, it adds a nuance to soups and stews that is absolutely irresistible. It works for people with an onion allergy. Try this Tuscan White Bean Soup.

Use the following substitution ratio: 1 fennel bulb (1 to 1 ½ cups chopped) = 1 medium to large onion

5. Celery (cooked or raw; for allergy)

Another onion substitute that works for raw onion? Celery. Celery doesn’t taste like onion, but it has a similar crunchy texture when its raw. It also works cooked in soups. This is another good option for working around an onion allergy.

Use the following substitution ratio: 1 medium onion (1 cup chopped) = 2 to 3 medium celery stalks

Here are some of our favorite onion recipes:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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2 Comments

  1. I cant eat onion cause it upsets my tummy. I love spagetti bolonaise and like to make curry. All recipes have onion and garlic in. What substitute can I use instead of onions
    Thankyou
    Regards Linda.