To use an onion substitute in cooking, you really need to know why someone is avoiding onions. Take a look at the list of onion substitutes presented here, and incorporate the one that suits your recipe the best.
Did You Know?
People avoid eating raw onion and garlic because they cause bad breath. Eating fresh parsley, apples, cardamom, fennel seeds, or mint-flavored candies can help get rid of onion or garlic breath.
Onion, one of the most widely cultivated vegetables, is consumed in various ways in almost all parts of the world. The leaves and bulbs of the onion plant are used in soups, snacks, salads, vegetables, pulaos, pickles, chutneys, etc. They impart a unique flavor to the dish. Finely cut onions are used as a thickening agent for curries and gravies. Onion (Allium cepa) is an invariable part of spicy savory dishes.
However, some people do not like onions as they are very pungent. Some avoid cutting them as the chemical present in onions irritates their eyes. Some are allergic to onions. Jains don’t eat any underground vegetables. They eschew root vegetables, garlic, and onions. Those who are diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) need to avoid onions as well as garlic. Thus, the reason of not eating onions may vary from person to person. Although nothing can equal the effect of onions, you can certainly use some other pungent foods and spices in place of onions. Use of onion substitutes depends on what type of recipe you are using them in.
Onion Juice / Powder / Flakes
If you don’t have enough fresh onions, or if you want to avoid cutting onions, or if you don’t like the crunch and texture of onions in a particular dish, you can use onion juice or onion powder or dried onion flakes. The juice and powder are commonly used as chopped onion substitutes. But if you don’t like the flavor of onions, then you should replace onions with something else.
Finely chopped leeks can be a good substitute for onions in recipes. Leeks are firmer and denser than scallions, and they impart a milder flavor to the dish. They are best in cooked preparations.
If the person you’re cooking for is not allergic to all vegetables belonging to the genus Allium, you can try using leeks, chives, or shallots. Scallions (also known as green onions or spring onions) are milder than common onions. Scallions have thicker leaves, you can use both bulbs and stalks of scallions.
Chives come with a small hint of garlic. They have violet flowers and weakly developed bulbs. The flowers can be used for garnishing salads. Discarding the bulbs, you can use only the thin green stalks of chives. They would impart onion flavor to the dish. You can use them raw to garnish salads.
If you are eliminating onions, you can use garlic. You may have to add more garlic to compensate the onion flavor. Besides improving the flavor of the dish, garlic can improve your health too. Garlic also belongs to the genus Allium. If you want, you can use garlic greens in soups, salads, or in other cooked dishes.
Carrots and Tomatoes
For thickening gravies, curries, or soups, you can use carrots and tomatoes instead of onions.
This spice is commonly used in the Indian cuisine. It is so pungent that you should add only a pinch or two to a dish (depending on the quantity of food you’re making). You may sauté it briefly as you would sauté onion or garlic. Cooking makes asafetida palatable.
Black salt is a type of rock salt. It is salty like the common table salt. This pungent salt (it resembles the smell of a boiled egg yolk) is extensively used in South Asian cuisines. It can be used to season tofu. You can sprinkle a pinch of black salt over salads, yogurts, cool drinks, and fruits. The salt helps relieve the symptoms of indigestion, gas, bloating, and heartburn.
It is a highly aromatic and flavorful herb. It comes with a mild anise-like flavor. The bulb, foliage, and seeds of the plant are used in various ways. Dried fennel seeds are used as a spice. It exhibits medicinal properties too.
Melon / Cumin Seeds with Coconut Paste
Add some finely ground melon seeds (substitute for cashews) and a few cumin seeds to plain yogurt, and use this mixture for thickening a curry. If you like, you can mix suitable spices and coconut paste / milk, and use it as a gravy thickener.
In some recipes, you can replace onions with fresh ginger. If you like, you can use fresh ginger and garlic paste.
In certain dishes, you can replace onions with grated bottle gourd. It also carries medicinal properties. Chopped or grated bottle gourd is often used in royal Mughlai dishes, mainly in koftas, mixed vegetables, curries, gravies, desserts, and soups.
Finely chopped bell peppers can replace onion in certain dishes.
You can fry thinly sliced cabbage instead of onions.
For people who don’t eat onions, you can serve barbecued or grilled chicken / fish and roasted meat. They don’t require onions and are healthy too. Thus, you can resort to recipes that don’t require onion at all. Avoid using onion in a conventional dish, and if you think that something is missing, then experiment with the onion substitutes mentioned above.
People are so used to some tastes and flavors that they hesitate to experiment with the ingredients of a dish. With some trial and error, you should be able to serve tasty flavorful dishes without onions. You may experiment with different herbs, spices, and flavored oils. Avoiding onions can prove to be an opportunity to explore different flavors and ingredients.