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The 5 Best Substitutes for Red Onions

Throughout the world, almost every country uses onions as part of their cooking.

The flavor is like no other; onions add depth and character to the dish, bringing out all the other flavors.

More than likely, you have onions in your kitchen right now.

Red onions are one of the most widespread onion varieties; you can find them on every continent.

They have an intense flavor and a sharp taste that is still pleasant.

However, your pantry may be empty of onion, or maybe you are just tired of watering eyes when cutting.

In this article are the best substitutes for red onions.

What are Red Onions?

what are red onions

Red onions are a botanical variety of the onion species, also known as purple onions in some countries.

They have flaky, purplish skin, with mixed white and purple insides.

You have probably used them in cooking yourself; they are a common ingredient worldwide.

Red onions are great for health; including them in your diet will benefit you in several ways.

They are high in antioxidants, particularly quercetin.

Studies have shown that onions also are excellent natural antibiotics, killing a wide range of harmful bacteria.

There is a multitude of ways to use red onions, such as:

  • Salads.
  • Grilled.
  • Sandwiches and burgers.
  • Curries.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Red Onions

If you can’t find red onions in your house, or you want something to make your dish a little bit different, here are the best substitutes for red onions.

1 – Onion Powder

onion powder

Here’s an ingredient that you may already have in your kitchen.

Onion powder is simply onions that have been dried and ground up.

It provides the same taste as the real thing if you are using it in a recipe that calls for finely chopped onion.

Fresh onions have a water content of about 89 percent.

This liquid is released when the onions are cooked; you can notice this especially when you fry or sauté them.

Onion powder does not have this water, so you will need to keep that in mind when using this as a substitute.

Also, note that onion powder will not give the crunch and thickness that fresh red onion will.

Suitable ratio:

  • 1 cup chopped fresh onion= 1 tablespoon onion powder. .

2 – White Onions

white onions

If you find that red onions have too strong a taste for the food you are preparing, try white onions instead.

Red onions have a sharp bite and a pronounced flavor that is hard to mistake.

White onions have a similar flavor profile, only milder.

White onions have less crunch to their texture, feeling a little more papery.

Their taste is not as pronounced but is slightly sour or bitter.

They are not as familiar worldwide as red onions, but you should have no problem finding them.

When substituting white onions for red onions, use the same measurements.

Suitable ratio:

  • 1 medium red onion= 1 medium white onion100gms red onion= 100gms white onion.

3 – Scallions/Green Onions

scallionsgreen onions

This plant is a close relative of garlic and shallot.

Being an onion itself, it should serve the same role as red onions do in most recipes.

Scallions are much smaller than regular onions because their bulbs do not fully develop.

You can use both the green leaf of the scallion and the smaller white bulb.

The green part has a very mild taste and is perfect for salads and garnishing.

The bulb will taste slightly acidic, but it is not as strong as red onions.

You can eat scallions raw or cooked, but because the leaf and bulb taste somewhat different, you may want to use them for other dishes.

The leaf tastes better than the bulb uncooked, for example.

Suitable ratio:

When substituting scallions for red onions, use the chopped measurements.

  • 1 cup chopped red onion= 1 cup chopped scallions .
  • 100gms chopped red onions= 100gms chopped scallions.

4 – Chives


This is a commonly used herb that you can find in most grocery stores.

Chives look a lot like scallions with their thin, green, leafy stalks.

Chives contain many beneficial nutrients, especially a large amount of Vitamin K.

The main part of the plant used in cooking is the green stalk, which can be eaten raw or cooked.

The flower is also edible but is not a suitable substitute for onions.

Recipes that use raw onion are the best for using chives as a substitute.

Raw chives are incredible as a garnish or when used in salads.

If you must use them in a recipe for cooked onion, throw the chives in as late as possible.

Suitable ratio:

  • 1 medium red onion= 4-6 Tbsp chopped chives.

5 – Leeks


This vegetable is a popular ingredient in its own right.

Leeks are often used in soups, stews, salads, or pasta.

They are prevalent in stews and soup because of the depth their flavor adds.

The part of the leek to eat is the white base of the leaves and the light green part of the leafy portion.

Leeks are dense, crunchy, and firm, much like onions.

Unlike the red onion, leeks have a milder taste that hints of garlic.

Suitable ratio:

  • 1 cup chopped onion= 1 cup chopped leeks.


A dish that requires onion doesn’t taste the same without it.

Onions are so wonderfully versatile and have such a unique flavor that it is hard to replace them.

All of the substitute ratios on this list are only a rough guide; you may need to adjust the amount you use according to your dish.

As with all cooking, experience is critical, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What can I use instead of red onions?

There are plenty of alternatives to red onions that can provide a similar flavor, texture and color to your dish.

These include shallots, Vidalia onions, yellow onions, white onions and scallions.

Can I substitute yellow onion for red onion?

Yes, yellow onions are a great substitute for red onions in many recipes. They have a mild flavor and can be cooked in the same way as red onions.

However, they may not provide the same level of color or sweetness that red onions do to certain dishes.

Can you use shallots instead of red onion?

Absolutely. Shallots have a mild flavor and can be cooked in the same way as red onions, making them an ideal substitute.

They also provide a similar texture, although their color may not be quite as vibrant.

Yield: 4 Servings

The 5 Best Substitutes for Red Onions

The 5 Best Substitutes for Red Onions
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • Onion Powder
  • White Onions
  • Scallions/Green Onions
  • Chives
  • Leeks


  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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