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The 5 Best Substitutes for Cipollini Onions

Have you ever come across an onion that is small and flat with a sweet, mild flavor? If so, then you’ve encountered cipollini onions.

Cipollini onions are an Italian heirloom variety of onions used in many cuisines across the world.

These onions can be used in a variety of recipes— few dishes are complete without them.

Cooked in soups, sautés, pasta sauces, and more, their sweet taste adds character to a dish.

If you don’t have access to cipollini onions, there is no need to worry — substitutes for them include pearl onions, shallots, yellow onions, and more.

Let’s take a look at the five best substitutes for cipollini onions.

What is Cipollini Onion?

Cipollini Onion, also known as “Little Onions” or “Button Onions,” is a sweet Italian onion usually harvested in September and October.

Originally cultivated in Bologna, Italy, in the town of Cipolla (where it gets its name from) centuries ago, these onions have traveled across the world ever since.

They are round and flat in shape with shiny yellow or red skin and offer a deliciously sweet yet sharp taste.

The texture of Cipollini onions is firm and crunchy but without any trace of bitterness.

This type of onion is beautiful when caramelized to bring out its sweetness or served raw to add texture and flavor to salads.

While they look like miniature versions of larger traditional onions, they are much sweeter than their relatives – making them an excellent alternative for use in soups, salads, stews, and roasts.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Cipollini Onions

If you’re in a pinch and can’t find cipollini onions, don’t worry—there are plenty of alternatives that will give you similar results.

Here are the five best substitutes for cipollini onions:

1 – Pearl Onions

Pearl onions are a small, round type of onion with white, papery skin and a mild, sweet taste that appeals to many palates.

When cooked, their texture is slightly crunchy, making them a flavorful addition to salads or dishes that require quick cooking.

For those looking for an interesting twist on traditional recipes, pearl onions provide an interesting alternative to your average onion.

If you can’t find cipollini onions, pearl onions make for an excellent substitute in recipes as they share similar sweetness and texture.

Simply peel each onion and blanch them before cooking, so they are tender enough for eating.

Pearl onions are sure to be a delicious surprise when added to any recipe.

2 – Boiler Onions

Boiler onions, also known as white hull-less onions, are an under-utilized member of the Allium family.

Visually, these small treats look like a smaller version of yellow onions with creamy white skin.

When cooked, they are incredibly sweet and have a soft but firm texture.

Boiler onions get their name because they were traditionally boiled in liquids like milk to bring out their sweetness and softness.

To substitute boiler onions for cipollini onions, simply cut them into rings or halves and add them to your dish.

Boiling can enhance their sweetness, although any cooking method will bring out the tasty flavor of this hidden gem.

3 – Yellow Onions

Yellow onions are one of the most common yet overlooked ingredients in any kitchen.

They have a mild to medium flavor and a crunchy texture that breaks down into a soft sweetness when cooked.

Yellow onions come in a variety of sizes depending on the variety, with yellow granex being on the smaller side while Vidalia onions being larger; they both work equally well in recipes after a few minutes of sautéing or caramelizing, however.

Although Cipollini onions may be ideal for some dishes, yellow onions make for an excellent substitute- their sharp taste and tender texture provide plenty of balance to any dish.

4 – Shallots

Shallots have a unique and delicious flavor that sets them apart from their onion relatives.

These delicate, marbled bulbs can range in color from light brown to pale purple, and they offer a sweet yet delicate taste with a texture just a bit firmer than other onions.

While shallots may look small, they contain remarkable flavor-powering potential, making them an ideal choice for soups and stews, as well as fried dishes like tempura.

If you don’t have access to cipollini onions for your recipe, consider using finely diced shallots instead; the same natural sweetness will be present but with a milder bite.

No matter how you choose to use Shallots, you won’t be disappointed.

5 – Vidalia Onions

Vidalia onions are a type of sweet onion which is renowned for its mild and sweet flavor.

Its renowned quality stems from its low sulfur content, giving the onion its distinctive flavor.

When compared to other onions, Vidalia onions are much softer in texture, making them easy to slice or cut into cubes or rings.

In fact, due to the combination of its sweetness and soft texture, the Vidalia onion is often used as an alternative to Cipollini onions as it still has that same succulent taste without being too sharp and acidic like a regular onion.

To use it as a substitute for Cipollini onions, make sure that you cut the Vidalia onion into similar small slices and caramelize them on medium heat for about 10 minutes with some additional seasoning before using it in your cooking or salads.


In conclusion, there are a variety of onion substitutes that can be used in place of cipollini onions to give your dish the same amazing flavor.

You can choose from pearl onions, boiler onions, yellow onions, shallots, or Vidalia onions to find the perfect onion for your dish.

Each of these substitutions is sure to add a dash of sweetness and tenderness that will perfectly complement any recipe.

So don’t hesitate to experiment with different options when looking for an alternative to cipoll.

Yield: 1 Serving

The 5 Best Substitutes for Cipollini Onions

The 5 Best Substitutes for Cipollini Onions
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • Pearl Onions
  • Boiler Onions
  • Yellow Onions
  • Shallots
  • Vidalia Onions


  1. Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  2. Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
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